MOUNT PLEASANT - The 2011 season was one of vast improvement for the Central Michigan field hockey program.
The Chippewas finished 9-11 overall and 5-5 in the Mid-American Conference, tying for second with Kent State and advancing to their fifth-straight MAC Tournament semifinal.
"We took a big step forward and overall in terms of our goals from a year ago, we accomplished a lot," 26th-year head coach Cristy Freese said. "We needed to improve across the board. I wanted us to finish in the top two in offense, defense and goalkeeping and we were able to get two of the three, just narrowly being edged in total goals."
It was evident from the opening weekend that the Chippewas would have an improved offense in 2011 as they opened the season with two-straight wins at the CMU Field Hockey Complex, outscoring their opponents, 10-1. They would go on to score 46 goals in 2011, a 21 goal improvement from 2010, while dishing out 45 assists, 23 more than they had a year ago.
A large key to the success of the Maroon and Gold offense was the play of three All-MAC selections, including their first MAC Freshman of the Year since 2006, Cayleigh Immelman The South Africa native finished with 12 goals and nine assists in her rookie campaign to lead the Chippewas, earning All-MAC first-team honors. Junior Erin Dye and senior Paulina Lee were named to the All-MAC second team after finishing second and third on the team in points respectively. Dye recorded her first double-digit goal season of her career with 10, while Lee tallied a team-high 10 assists.
"After the first two games, we were still struggling with working together, bringing in so many new players," Freese said. "The last third of the season we really surged again offensively and Erin always finishes strong. Cayleigh and Erin are certainly going to be very important to us next year. As well as Cayleigh played in her freshman season, she knows that she can improve and could have played better."
All-MAC selections, sophomore Simone Lazar and junior goalkeeper Anastasia Netto anchored the Chippewas' defense, which allowed just 37 goals in 2011 compared to 60 in 2010. Lazar earned first-team honors at the midfield position, scoring two goals and tallying three assists on the season. Netto was the second-team goalkeeper after becoming one of the most formidable goalkeepers in the country. After allowing 2.68 goals per contest in her first season as a starter a year ago, the Trinidad & Tobago native allowed 1.83 a game in 2011, ranking 23rd in the nation and second in the MAC.
The Chippewas lose just two seniors from their 2011 squad, but will return nine starters and an additional six players that appeared in at least 10 contests.
"I feel really good about our future," said Freese. "The fact that we have a returning goalkeeper in her third year as a starter will be huge for us. The defense around her helps and we have three of the four returning with the loss of Brooke Sihota. The next step is to continue to work on our depth. We want to get to the point in our program where its established and we don't have a drop off in production when we have players graduate."
With a potent offensive attack and veteran defense in 2012, the Chippewas may just claim their first MAC Championship in 10 years.