Thunder from down under: Colonials look to capture NEC title with help of Australian players

RMU Athletics

Audrey Gardner, Staff Writer

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After having a record-setting season in 2011 in which the team won a club-best eight victories, the Robert Morris women’s field hockey program is looking to repeat its successful season with the help of eight international players.

“We’ve had a few girls from Belgium in the past and Holland is a big place for hockey, but we absolutely look around and look at all these different areas but, in this case, we just brought in some Australians,” explained head coach and Sydney native Olivia Netzler.

Last season, the squad consisted of 19 players, four of which were Australia natives. Jamie Hartley set the single season record for goals in 2011 and along with midfielder Taleah Scott, the Colonials are primed to make a run at the NEC playoffs.

Returning alongside Scott and Hartley is team veterans and fellow Australians Michelle Lewthwaite and goalie Erin McKenzie. With the addition of freshmen Sophie Watt, Jess Martin- Brown, and Lianna Watkins, the Colonials now have seven players who are all from the land down under.

Netzler, who will be entering her sixth season as the Robert Morris field hockey coach, is a big reason some of the ladies chose to play venture to Moon Township to play their collegiate careers.

According to Scott, a sophomore, Netzler was part of the key reason she found out about RMU’s program. “I was actually recruited from coach Netzler, who is also Australian. I found out about RMU through her.”

Because the game is so different overseas, Netzler believes that her girls are better prepared when transitioning to the college game.

“Obviously, the standards of play are much higher over there so I’ve always kept an international roster and had international players on the team,” added the skipper “It’s nice to have a bit of diversity on the team and having girls come in from different countries sort of brings a part of their game and they can mix that with the game over here and makes us really well rounded.”

Although the Colonials are coming off of a record of 8-12-0 last season, they were ranked fifth overall out of eight teams in the Northeast Conference coaches’ preseason poll. “I don’t think its [being ranked fifth in the NEC] going to affect us at all, I think it’s going to work in our favor,” stated Netzler. “I think we’re sort of use to being the underdog.”

Despite the fact that RMU knocked off Ohio State, a nationally ranked opponent, last season the Colonials still have a long way to go to make it to the conference playoffs.

“Obviously last year we were more of the underdog, and we wanted to prove a point that we have nothing to lose,” said Taleah Scott. “This year I think we are going out just as hard and strong and hopefully we can improve that ranking and make playoffs.”