En route to a Colonial Athletic Association title, the University of Delaware Field Hockey team kicks off its 2013 campaign this weekend at Boston University as the Blue Hens take on Ohio University Sunday, followed by a match with the No. 16 Terriers on Monday. 

“Our program is very excited to open the season as we have worked hard, developed well and became more solidified as one team in addition to having fun along the way during the preseason,” remarked third-year head coach Rolf van de Kerkhof.  “It is a big compliment to our squad that I can say it was clearly visible from day one of preseason that all of them truly committed to their summer training and allowed us to start off at a higher level and make more progress throughout camp.”

The Blue Hens, who reached the CAA semifinals in 2012, return eight starters, including the team’s top four scorers, while welcoming nine newcomers to the squad.  Delaware is predicted to finished fourth in the CAA Coaches Poll, which was released earlier this month.

“This past spring, the team set its 2013 goal in winning the CAA,” commented Van de Kerkhof.  “After the goal was set, every single team member, including newcomers, has done everything she could to put our program in a position to be confident and competitive at this point.”

The CAA coaches also selected three Blue Hens for preseason honors in junior Kelsey McKee (Gap, Pa.), sophomore Michaela Patzner (Rosenheim, Germany) and senior Kasey Prettyman (Newark, Del.).

McKee, a two-time All-CAA honoree, led the 2012 squad with 11 goals and 24 points in her sophomore campaign.  She is expected to make an immediate impact on the team’s midfield line.

Other projected players for the midfield include junior Rebecca Pepper (Lewes, Del.), sophomore Morgan Hudson (Wilmington, Del.) and freshmen Taylor Meily (State College, Pa.), Esmée Peet (Zeewolde, The Netherlands), Meghan Winesett (Centreville, Va.) and Maura Zarkoski (Eagleville, Pa.).

“Although our midfield will have many new faces, it is an exciting and talented group of players that will have a positive impact on our possession and attack generating opportunities in addition to strengthening our team defense,” Van de Kerkhof stated.  “We have a lot of speed and field hockey understanding which allows us to further develop our midfield involvement on both the attack and defense.”

Patzner, a 2012 All-CAA Second Team and All-Rookie selection, and Prettyman will highlight the forward position in addition to senior Toni Popinko (Oxford, N.J.), sophomore Jacki Coveleski (Lewes, Del.), redshirt freshmen Maddie O’Beirne (Vienna, Va.) and Alexa Branco (Mullica Hill, N.J.) and freshman Erica DiPascale (Delran, N.J.).

Patzner was second on the team last season with seven goals and two assists while Prettyman and Popinko combined for seven goals and 22 points.

“I believe that with this year’s forward line and rotation opportunities, our offensive output will further improve,” commented Van de Kerkhof.  “We have been working hard on attacking patterns, scoring positions, scoring skills, position interchanging and off-ball movement.  Our preseason scrimmages against American and Columbia showed us that we can score off open and set plays.”

Fifth-year senior Sarah Scher (Pocomoke City, Md.) will anchor the Delaware defense in 2013 as the team’s projected starting goalie.  Scher placed fifth in the CAA and 34th nationally last season with 5.47 saves per game while finishing with 82 saves and a 65.6 save percentage.

Scher is joined in the backfield by seniors Clare O’Malley (Summit, N.J.) and Heather Hartman (Fredericksburg, Va.), sophomores Allie Mikelson (Macungie, Pa.) and Janell Holmes (Harrisburg, Pa.) and freshmen Emily Arnot (redshirt; Medford, N.J.), Kayla Devlin (Annapolis, Md.), Fran Orella (goalie; Whitehouse Station, N.J.) and Marjelle Scheffers (Amersfoort, The Netherlands).

“Our most established line will be our backfield with most positions filled by returning players,” Van de Kerkhof exclaimed.  “Based on their performances in 2012, I am excited to see how another number of months playing and working together will positively impact their ability to play defense, defend our goal-cage and start our build-up opportunities from the back.”

Delaware will face a difficult slate this season as the Blue Hens will take on five NCAA Tournament teams, including hosting defending champion Princeton University.

“A well-balanced, but also challenging, schedule will allow our program to further develop, execute and be tested in the regular season early on,” said Van de Kerkhof.  “I expect with the growth and experiences from these games, the team will be in a great position to do very well in the CAA.”

Tomorrow’s contest against the Bobcats and Monday’s game against Boston are both slated to begin at 1 p.m. at BU’s New Balance Field.

Fans attending either or both of the contests should be aware that due to Boston University’s ‘Move-In Week” activities, the New Balance Field parking garage on Babcock Street will be closed throughout the weekend.  Fans are encouraged to use the Agganis Arena parking garage.  The entrance to the garage is located behind the arena and is accessible from either side on Agganis Way and Buick Street.

Delaware opens its home schedule next Friday with a 3 p.m. match against Central Michigan at Rullo Stadium.  The Blue Hens will then host Lafayette at noon next Sunday.

Admittance to all home Delaware field hockey games is free and open to the public.