WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williams College women's ice hockey team enters this season "fit and focused" according to second-year head coach Meghan Gillis. With an emphasis placed on conditioning, the team is now ready to play and looking to build on their 2011-2012 season.
Williams finished 11-14 overall last season (7-9 NESCAC) after going 4-17-1 (3-12-1 NESCAC) in the 2010-2011 season. The 2011-12 Ephs made it to the New England Small College Athletic Conference quarterfinals before being ousted by Bowdoin 3-2 in overtime.
With a year of recruiting under her belt and a year's worth of experience with most of the players on the current roster, Gillis can continue to reinforce her coaching style and system.
Leading this year's team will be senior captains Aimee Dennett and Sam Weinstein. Both are strong leaders, and Gillis praised their, "tireless work ethics." Dennett had five goals and three assists as a junior. Weinstein scored nine goals and added six assists. Weinstein was also a Second Team All-NESCAC selection. Dennett and Weinstein will lead alongside junior assistant captain, Cristina Bravi.
Williams will have to overcome the loss of six players from last year's roster, including Kristen Tubbs who was second on the team with 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists). However, the Ephs return two of their top three scorers from last season. Bravi led the Ephs in points last season with 10 goals and 16 assists. Gabrielle Vukasin, a junior, had 13 goals and eight assists.
Other key returners are goalies Rachel Nguyen (junior) and Chloe Billadeau (sophomore). Gillis expects Nguyen and Billadeau to compete for playing time between the pipes this season. Billadeau played in 20 games as a first-year, posting a 9-11 record. She tallied 471 saves for a save percentage of .902 and compiled a goals against average of 2.51. Nguyen played in 5 games, posting a save percentage of .855 and registering a goals against average of 3.37.
With only two seniors, Williams will also have to rely heavily on the junior class. In addition to Vukasin, Bravi, and Nguyen, the junior class is comprised of Haena Lee (forward), and Ally Ensor (defense). Ensor will be instrumental in helping Weinstein anchor a young blue line crew.
Seven first-years look to bring depth to the Ephs' roster. "All seven incoming first years have had a great start to practice and have been a welcome addition to the program," said Gillis. "We look forward to watching them continue to grow and develop in the years ahead."
The Ephs will have their work cut out for them in one of the toughest conferences in the country. Perpetual powerhouses Amherst and Middlebury have won eight of the last eleven NESCAC championships, and played in six of the last eleven national championship games. However, this Williams team has worked very hard, and they are hoping that will pay off in their grueling conference schedule.
Williams will open their season against Little Three rival Wesleyan in Middletown, Conn., on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. Wesleyan posted a record of 4-20 last season, but one of their wins was a 5-3 victory over the Ephs in the season opener.
The first home game for the young Eph squad will be against the University of New England on Nov. 24 at 3 p.m.