Smeltzer, Cross earn top ODAC honors for SU field hockey

Posted: November 14, 2013

Ashley Cross
Ashley Smeltzer

WINCHESTER — After taking a year off from field hockey, senior Ashley Cross’s return to the sport this year was more than just successful — it was historic.

The Old Dominion Athletic Conference named Cross its Field Hockey Player of the Year Wednesday, making Cross the first Shenandoah University female or male in school history to earn an ODAC POY award in any sport.

Cross recorded 14 goals and 31 points to lead the ODAC in both categories during the regular season this year. Her final tally of 16 goals is a program-record for a year and her 34 points are the second-best total in school history.

SU — which became a full-time member of the ODAC in the 2012-13 school year — also won ODAC Field Hockey Coach of the Year honors for the second straight year.

Ashley Smeltzer received that award after leading SU to a 10-10 record and 6-2 ODAC mark, good for second place in the league and the most conference wins in school history. Former SU coach Kim Iman-Bianchi went 11-8 overall and 4-3 in the ODAC to win the award last year.

Given Cross’s background, Wednesday’s award for the forward from Agawam, Mass., was truly a remarkable achievement. Though she’s been a standout goalkeeper for the women’s lacrosse team, she’d never experienced much success in field hockey during her time at SU.

“My first two years I didn’t really get playing time, and I didn’t play last year,” Cross said. “[This award] is a huge surprise.”

Since it was her senior year, Cross figured she’d give field hockey one more chance before she finished her collegiate career.

“I had nothing to lose,” she said.

With Cross on the field, the Hornets gained plenty. Cross said she mostly played in the midfield as freshman and sophomore, but playing up front this year clicked with her.

“She won many games for us this year, and that alone was awesome,” Smeltzer said. “Just her excitement and her motivation for her teammates was key as well.”

Cross said Smeltzer did an incredible job guiding SU, whose season came to a difficult end with a 3-2 overtime loss to Randolph-Macon in the ODAC semifinals.

“She completely reworked our entire program,” Cross said. “She is probably the best thing to happen to Shenandoah field hockey in a long time. She’s a great coach and we’re so lucky to have her. She definitely deserves [this award].”

Smeltzer said she couldn’t be happier for the program as a whole. The Hornets also had two other players named to the ODAC first team and one player each to the second and third team.

“[These honors are] a huge deal,” Smeltzer said. “It means we’re going in the right direction, and it means we’re doing everything right I suppose. The girls worked hard all year, so they certainly deserved it.”

Other SU players named to the ODAC first team were senior goalkeeper Sarah Clare and sophomore midfielder Presha Merritt.

Clare finished the year second in the league in save percentage and third in saves, and she had five shutouts.

Merritt led the SU with six assists and finished fourth in points with 10.

Sophomores Kelani Bailey and Sarah Brock were named to the second and third teams, respectively, with Bailey picked as a forward and Brock on defense.

Bailey had nine goals and three assists for 21 points on the year with Brock posting five goals and four assists for 14 points.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at  rniedzwiecki@winchesterstar.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1