University of Louisville field hockey coach Justine Sowry has made some major changes during her first 18 months on the job.
Sowry not only has a new staff and a lot of new faces in the program, but she's change the culture of the program heading into her second season.
"The last 18 months has been a massive time of transition from figuring out what student athletes wanted to remain part of the squad because we have upped the tempo in everything we are doing," Sowry said. "We are finally at a point where, yes we have a smaller squad, but we have a lot more depth than this time last year.
"It will be a different looking team. We have a lot of young, exciting players. The future looks really good. But we have to remain patient because we are still very young. There's going to be ups and downs that we just have to stay patient with the process. I'll keep saying that and hope by the end of the year playing good hockey."
The No. 23 ranked Cardinals open the new season on Friday night in the Sherrill Brakmeier Classic against Northeastern at 6 p.m. in Trager Stadium. Miami (Ohio) and Northwestern meet on Saturday with the final and consolation game on Sunday.
"We're excited for the new season and the future," Sowry said. "We are given the facilities and all the resources to be successful here and there's an expectation to be the best that you can be. I believe we have been underperforming and our motto is to raise the bar. We must raise the bar in every aspect."
And Sowry said that has to begin this season.
The Cardinals have seven starters returning and have added eight newcomers, including two newcomers that enrolled in January. U of L finished 10-9 last season and beat Indiana 3-0 last weekend in an exhibition game.
"Just watching these young kids on the field, a whole bunch of them were better than some of our returning players," Sowry said. "So, they made the returning players work a lot harder and that's help everybody."
Three returning players - senior Erin Conrad and sophomores Dominique Pasqualichio and Alyssa Voelmle – are All-Big East Conference selections.
Conrad is the goalkeeper and finished with six shutouts last season. She is a fifth-year senior and a captain of the squad.
"Erin had a tough time when I came on board because she showed us some real tough love," Sowry said. "We didn't see eye-to-eye initially but through that, she has come out a strong leader. She's one of the hardest workers and best leaders."
Erin Schneidtmiller is a junior from Mercy Academy and had 13 points last season. Sowry said she's also a "really good leader."
Pasqualichio, Voelmle and Mallory Mason are part of what Sowry called a "very, very talented sophomore class, and some of those kids have to step up."
Freshman Kendall Weedling scored one goal, while freshman Victoria Stratton added a pair of goals in the preseason game. Those two players along with Megan Anstotz, who played on the U-19 USA Squad, are the top newcomers.
"We had a lot of competition for starting spots," Sowry said. "We have a lot of talented young kids but they are still young."
*The event this weekend is named for Mrs. Sherrill Brakmeier, who will celebrate her 90th birthday. She has been a member of the U of L athletic family since 1940 when she played all four sports offered to women – field hockey, basketball, softball and volleyball. She served as U of L's field hockey coach for 30 years.