Even the heels of the winningest season in school history and second-place finish in the Ivy League, , the Yale field hockey team has rallied around the motto, “Raise the Bar.”

“From last spring through this preseason, we’ve all pushed ourselves harder than ever before,” said forward Mia Rosati ’12, who tallied six goals and an assist in 2009. “We aren’t focused on duplicating last year. We’re trying to make this year even better.”

They’ll have to do so without their three All-Ivy selections,: all-time leading goal-scorer Ashley MacCauley ’10, all-time assist leader Katie Cantore ’10, and last season’s captain, Julia Weiser ’10. But as they head into their challenging 17-game schedule, starting next Friday against Sacred Heart at Johnson Field, the Bulldogs are focused less on what was lost in 2009, and more on what they found.

That was a youthful offensive attack, led by Rosati and classmates Erin Carter ’12 (who tallied eight goals and one assist), midfielder Chelsey Locarno ’12 (who started all 17 games in 2009) and midfielder Dinah Landshut ’12 (who notched four goals and assists). Mary Beth Barham ’13 (who started 16 of 17 games in 2009) also emerged as an offensive force for the Bulldogs and will be one of four returning players to have earned all-Ivy recognition last season, along with Carter, Landshut, and Rosati.

In addition to bolstering what was a prolific offensive attack, Carter and fellow back Marissa Waldemore ’11 (five goals, five assists) combined to provide a stifling defense in front of returning goalie and 2011 captain Katie Bolling ’11, who posted a 1.51 goals against average in 648 minutes last season.

Bolling and Waldemore are joined by back Erica Cullum ’11 and forward Johna Paolino ’11 as the four seniors who hope to raise the Bulldogs’ level to one not reached even by last year’s decorated senior class. To do that, they and head coach Pam Stuper (37-48 in five years at Yale) will rely heavily on the contributions of a promising freshman class.

Emily Cain ’14, afive-foot-seven goalie ofrom Laytonsville, Md. ,will join Ona McConnell ’13 and Bolling between the pipes this season. Cain was selectedfor the U.S. Junior National Camp in 2008 and 2009, and was a member of the Olympic Development and Futures Elite Select squad for the 2009-’10 season. Also at the U.S. Junior National Camp in 2008 was Georgia Holland ’14, a five-foot-eight back from Stony Brook, N.Y., who was a member of the U-19 National Team for a tour earlier this year. Fellow New Yorkers, backs Brooke Gogel ’14, an All-State selection her senior season, and Gabrielle Garcia ’14, also an All-State honoree, will deepen Stuper’s defense, while forwards Erica Borgo ’14, a five-time national champion with her club team, and Emily Schuckert ’14, a five-time member of the U.S. Futures program, will join Yale’s already prominent offensive corps.

“The freshmen have really integrated themselves into the group seamlessly,” Bolling said. “We have a great team chemistry and they are just an amazing group of talented players.”

Even with the potential of the six newcomers, the Bulldogs will have their work cut out for them if they hope to raise the bar on their second-place finish in the Ancient Eight. Perennial powerhouse and 2009 Ivy League champion Princeton, which finished with a No. 4 national ranking in the NFCHA Coaches’ Poll, will battle for the title yet again, and third-place finishers Cornell and Dartmouth, which each finished just one game behind Yale last year, should also provide challenging tests.

“We take each practice … and make the best of it, knowing that with each drill we get that much better at our sport,” Bolling said “Our confidence really builds off of the preparation we have put in … and we have taken the necessary steps to get where we need to be.”