School is back in session for the 2023-2024 school year, and that can mean only one thing. It is field hockey time!
The Montclair State University field hockey team is back on Sprague Field and are getting back into the swing of things through both their practices and preseason games for this upcoming season.
Head Coach Eileen O’Reilly, who is now in her ninth season being in charge, reflected on what she has liked the most from this team so far.
“Yeah, it’s hard to pick one thing. Something that stood out to me during our preseason and first couple practices, I’d say is our grit, mental toughness,” O’Reilly said. “We’ve really challenged this group with some different things throughout preseason. Mental challenges, physical challenges, emotional challenges, and they’re rising to the occasion day-after-day and pushing their limits in different ways. Which tells me we are a team that’s ready to compete, ready to fight, and it’s exciting. We’re looking forward to our first game.”
Montclair State had a rough start to last season and coach O’Reilly is looking to ensure that her team gets going early.
“I think we’re talking about our first couple of games with a different mindset, a mindset of confidence,” says Coach O’Reilly. “Today, we had, [a] season strategy meeting with the team, talking about our overarching goals. Our first game against Cortland is a big game, they’re a team that’s coming off of a run in the NCAA tournament in 2022. They’re a team that’s regionally ranked. They’re a team with one of the best strengths of schedules, you know, similar to us. So it’s a must-win game for us this year and the mindset is we play challenging non-conference teams to get us ready for our NJAC conference games. So we’re just taking it one game at a time, eyes looking forward, one step at a time and I’m confident that we should have some better outcomes earlier in the season.”
Despite starting sluggish last year, the Red Hawks were able to turn the season around in a positive way. Montclair State went on to win six straight games and finished with a final record of 10-9 for the 2022 season.
The Red Hawks opened the season at home against SUNY Cortland on Friday, Sept. 1. SUNY Cortland left Sprague with the victory however, Montclair State showed their grit after falling down 3-0 in the first half and eventually lost 4-2.
Senior forward Carlie Van Tassel and junior midfielder/forward Gab Maisto both got on the score sheet in the game.
Luckily, Montclair State has many returning players, including those who had a large impact on the team during last season.
Van Tassel is returning for her final season after leading the Red Hawks in goals, points and shots. In addition, junior midfielder Tori Sutera is also back after achieving the most assists out of anybody on the team with a total of five. Many players are also returning who received distinct honors, during the 2022 season.
Although the team brought back a lot of its players from a season ago, there are still some big shoes to fill with a handful of key losses.
Graduated players such as midfielders Lindsey Bicher and Linsey Champa along with keeper Lauren Pickul all contributed greatly to the Red Hawk’s success last season. It may take some time for the team to gel together and for O’Reilly to put the puzzle together.
The Red Hawks bounced back in a huge way the following day. Montclair State got their first victory of the new season against Gwynedd Mercy University with a final score of 4-0.
Van Tassel stood out once again as she scored twice and made it her fourth multi-goal game of her career. The Red Hawks dominated much of the game as they outshot Gwynedd Mercy 26-3.
It is always a big accomplishment to get your first victory in such a young season, and Montclair State is hoping to keep the momentum going forward.
Next up for the Red Hawks is a matchup against DeSales University on Wednesday, Sept. 6.