Competition is the name of the game for Wayne State this year.
When few women’s teams carry more than 23 players, the Warriors will start the season with 28 players on the roster, a move head coach Tom O’Malley hopes will improve his team.
“It’s created some interesting competition in training camp,” he said. “When we only had 18 or 19 players, everyone knew they were going to play. Now there’s competition to get in the lineup and stay there.
“Some kids sat in our exhibition game that dressed every game last year. It’s tough to do but people are working harder and it will make the team better.”
In goal, junior Anna VanderMarliere and sophomore Tina Thibideau both saw playing time last year. Thibideau got the bulk of the action, starting 17 games, posting a 3.63 goals against average and an .893 save percentage. In 12 starts, VanderMarliere had a 3.78 GAA and an .886 save percentage as well as the team’s lone shutout.
Freshmen Kristina Putek and Katrina Hodgeson give WSU four goalies and will force O’Malley to make decisions at the position every week.
“We return our top two goalies,” O’Malley said. “Right now we’ll split them, but the freshmen are creating competition.”
On defense, O’Malley said he has a solid group of six defensemen, including 5-10 junior Joanie Denby and 5-7 sophomore Krissy Langley. Denby brings size to the blue line while Langley was the team’s top scoring defenseman with 10 points last season. Three freshmen, Kristi Thome, Rachael Benninger and Peyton Patterson, are expected to step into the lineup.
“We’ve got good balance back there,” O’Malley said of his defensive unit. “I’m happy with our combination of size, speed and skill.”
Sophomore Kelly Zamora led the team with 11 goals and 23 points as a rookie last season and leads a group of 10 returning forwards, all underclassmen a year ago. O’Malley has added a pair of British Columbia natives in Jessica Haydahl and Emily McGrath-Agg up front and said they add something his team needs.
“They bring and instant influx of scoring,” he said. “Both kids move the puck well and can put it in the net.”
The duo has already shown that ability, combining for three goals in three exhibition games and tallying five points in a 6-1 win Oct. 11 over Guelph.
The Warriors will need their scoring as well as an upgrade in production from returning players to improve on their 49-goal output last season.
With three exhibition games under its belt, in which it has posted a 2-0-1 record, Wayne State opens its regular season at home Oct. 18-19 by hosting Colgate. The Warriors’ first CHA game is an Oct. 26 matchup with Niagara.