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SU freshman class provides depth sooner than anticipated

first_img Comments Four years ago, Ange Bradley began building a winning field hockey program from the ground up. Her first recruiting class consisted of current team anchors Maggie Befort, Lindsey Conrad and Shelby Schraden. The trio now serves as leaders of a Top 10 program at Syracuse. But with the impending graduation of a number of starters and her first core group of players, Bradley was facing an overhaul. She had to hope her younger, inexperienced players would be able to make the transition and eventually step into more prominent roles. She didn’t expect it to happen so soon. To SU’s benefit, Bradley’s latest recruiting class has already begun to make a major presence felt on the field. Bradley recently emphasized her newcomers have played a big part in the team’s improvement. That group has been a key factor in salvaging the season for No. 9 Syracuse (7-4, 3-0 Big East) as the Orange looks to get back to the NCAA tournament. On a squad that relies so heavily on experienced seniors and returning starters, the freshmen have become an unexpected driving force behind the Orange.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text ‘Our freshman group has a lot of character together, and they work really, really hard,’ Conrad said. ‘They’re stepping up and they’re pushing the upperclassmen, and they understand that without them, this team would be nothing.’ The main role of SU’s freshman class is to work hard in practice and help make the team better, and many of the newcomers excel in that facet of the game. And despite the steep learning curve that comes with playing for a Top 10 program, there are a few players who have stepped up immediately. Forward Ashtin Klingler has appeared in every game this season, while midfielder Leonie Geyer and back Laura Hahnefeldt have both already cemented their spots in the lineup. Geyer’s influence has been the biggest of any of Bradley’s freshmen to this point in the season, as she is currently second on the team in points (13) and leads the team in assists (seven). Bradley has used terms like ‘world class athlete’ and ‘dominating player’ to describe her, but Geyer said her contribution to the team is a result of an increased opportunity after coming over from Germany. ‘I have quite a different role here on the team,’ Geyer said. ‘In Germany, I’m not the person who changes the game, and my role there is not as important as it is here. I have many more chances to take, and I can score more goals.’ While Geyer isn’t quick to acknowledge the rare talent Bradley attributes to her, Hahnefeldt hasn’t received much acknowledgement at all as she has emerged as one of SU’s defensive anchors. But since the tall defender shut down three of the country’s leading scorers in Virginia’s Paige Selenski, Princeton’s Kathleen Sharkey and Louisville’s Nicole Youman, Bradley knows she has something special. ‘Laura is incredibly smart,’ Bradley said. ‘She’s very quiet, and I don’t think people realize how good she is. I think she’s one of the most underrated players that we have on our team.’ Though Geyer, Hahnefeldt and the rest of the freshman class unquestionably have the skill to play well at this level, the question is whether they have the confidence and adaptability to endure the challenge of the Big East and the rest of SU’s tough schedule. The Orange still has three conference games remaining, including a home matchup with No. 5 Connecticut, and then has to prepare for the important Big East tournament. Bradley said there is still work to be done to get her freshmen physically and mentally ready, and there is no one better to help than her seniors. As her first recruiting class is playing out the final games of their collegiate careers, Bradley needs them to play a part in ushering in a new era of Syracuse field hockey that could make its mark in the final stretch of the season. And in the process, the younger players will have to bridge the gap between Bradley’s first recruiting class and the future for Syracuse. ‘You can’t expect freshmen to be able to handle everything right away, so we need our older kids to help school them,’ Bradley said. ‘The freshmen are still trying to figure themselves out and figure things out, even though they’re very good players.’ [email protected] Published on October 5, 2010 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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