Liz DiCesare’s time at Mount Holyoke has coincided with perhaps the greatest two-season stretch in the history of the school’s field hockey program, a span in which the Lyons transformed from a sub-.500 non-contender to a team that ranked 13th in the Division 3 n
ational polls at the end of last fall, their highest ranking ever.
DiCesare, while just a piece to the puzzle, has been a significant one in goal. The 20-year-old Westford resident, a former field hockey, alpine ski, and tennis standout at Bishop Guertin, posted a 1.16 goals-against average and .820 save percentage last fall en route to first team all-conference and third team All-America honors. Those numbers, among the best in the league, in effect mirrored her freshman season, when she was the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year and made the all-conference second team.
Both of those seasons followed remarkably similar tracks for Mount Holyoke. The Lyons were 18-3 in 2013, 17-4 in ’14. They lost 1-0 overtime decisions to Wellesley in the NEWMAC title game both years. They also fell in the second round of the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons.
For DiCesare, who chose field hockey over tennis in college despite compiling a 107-1 high school record in the latter, this time of year brings as much hope as it does change.
Q. What’s the biggest difference between the beginning of this season and the beginning of last season?
A. We lost a lot of seniors last year, and now we have a lot of first-years coming in who are taking their places, a lot of underclassmen who are stepping up into different roles. We had a senior team and now we’re a very new team — we’re just getting to know each other and getting back into a rhythm.
Q. After coming so close against Wellesley the last two years, what would a NEWMAC championship mean to the team?
A. That would mean the world to us. We’ve been right there, especially taking them to overtime — you’re right there and you want it so badly. If we could get it, that would mean the world to us. It would prove all of our hard work, all the dedication we’ve put in so far.
Q. You were all-conference second team as a freshman, all-conference first team as a sophomore. How do you top that in year three?
A. I’m striving to keep up, stay in the All-America [range] and keep my record up, which is really based on the defenders. The last two years, I’ve had great defenders who made my job really easy. If they can stop the ball before it gets to me and I get easy shots, that’s really what helps me. I’m working mostly on my communication with new defenders, getting that going so hopefully I can have a good season.
Q. What’s your favorite college field hockey memory so far?
A. My first year, [a double overtime loss in the national tournament against] Montclair State was by far the best memory I’ve had — everything that went into that game and everything our team put into it. I had one of my best games, and our team really came together at the end of the season. Even in a loss — just the rah-rah, everything around it, the NCAA tournament. It was amazing.
Q. How did you end up picking field hockey over tennis for colle ge?
A. At a couple of colleges you could play both of them, but being here, when I came to look at both tennis and field hockey, I had to pick one or the other. And it was really just the whole atmosphere around the field hockey team and how excited everyone would get. It’s a very different sport. In tennis, it’s all individual and it’s all about what you are doing on the court by yourself.
When I came here, I really enjoyed how close the field hockey team was — with each other, with the coaches, the whole environment.
Q. What do you hope to do with your economics major after college?
A. This summer I interned at a pharmaceutical company [Alnylam] in Cambridge, so hopefully I can stick with them for another summer. I really enjoyed the biotech side of it — saving lives, helping other people. Even on the business side, you’re connected to all the science of it, which I enjoyed being a part of, even though I’m not a scientist.
Q. What class are you most looking forward to this semester?
A. I’m most excited for Logical Thought, which is a philosophy class. I love logic. I think it’ll be extremely interesting. It’s something different — even though I’m an econ major, I’m hoping to minor in philosophy and do a five-class certificate in coastal and marine sciences. So I’m really all over the place [laughs].
Q. What show are you binge-watching right now, if any?
A. I just finished watching “Grace and Frankie,” which is a Netflix original series. It’s only one season, so I went through it fairly quickly. I watched all of “Prison Break,” which was great. That one was eight seasons, so that was most of the summer.
Tim Healey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@timbhealey.