Hartford stunned many observers last season by upending Stony Brook in the America East Tournament final and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
The unanimous preseason favorite to repeat as league champions, the No. 19 Hawks – who open the season Saturday at No. 10 Maryland – are expected by many to repeat that path in 2012. Contrary to conventional wisdom, coach Peter Lawrence said the team accepts that expectation.
“I think we should [repeat],” he said. “We return a lot of talent, and we’re a good team this year. So I think that’s OK with us.”
The anticipation isn’t that far-fetched. Hartford graduated just four major contributors from last year’s squad and returns more than 88 percent of its offensive output, including its entire starting attack and midfield.
The enthusiasm around the program is building and palpable, but so is the accompanying pressure. But that doesn’t compare to the expectations from the players and coaches, according to Lawrence.
“I think we put more pressure on us than anybody else would put on us,” he said. “We’re trying to hold ourselves to higher standards. We have clearly defined goals, but I think that’s more internal than external.”
Memories of last year’s 11-7 record and a 12-5 loss to second-seeded Cornell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament still resonate with the players, but Lawrence said the focus should shift to the present.
“I hope that’s a fond memory, but we’ve moved on,” he said. “We’re a different team. Guys from that team that helped us win that championship have graduated. Now we have new rookies who weren’t a part of that experience, and I think that’s one of the great things about college athletics. Maryland probably feels the same way. They’re a new team this year. That was great for their program – just like it was great for ours. But I think we’ve moved on and now we need to find a new identity for ourselves here in the 2012 season.”