LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Bucknell field hockey team was back at Graham Field on Wednesday as it opened preseason practice for the 2017-18 season. The Bison, led by head coach Jeremy Cook and assisted by a pair of young coaches in Sam Carlino (second season) and Anna Wills ’17 (first season), enter the season with a chance to qualify for a 10th straight Patriot League Tournament.

Cook was excited to get the team back on the field for the preseason, but the layoff between practice/game time wasn’t as long as in recent years thanks to an overseas trip in late May.

“We had an amazing opportunity to extend our spring season with four additional games over in Holland, which had a great impact on us from a developmental standpoint,” said Cook, who enters his 10th season at Bucknell. “I am very confident in our team leadership and our ability as a group to be competitive. I know we'll rise to the challenge of the increasingly competitive league and our incredibly difficult schedule this fall.”

Bucknell went 9-9 overall and 3-3 in the Patriot League last season. The Bison faced six nationally-ranked opponents in 2016, including a huge 3-2 upset over No. 12 Albany. They figure to face a similar amount of ranked opponents this season. Included on the schedule are five teams – Monmouth, Syracuse, Penn State, Maryland, and Boston University – that played in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

Wednesday’s practice was the beginning of what Cook hopes will be solid progress for a relatively young team.

“With only three returning seniors, we're quite a bit younger than we've been in quite some time,” Cook said. The positive about the younger group is that many of them saw a lot of playing time last year, and we're returning all three of our starting strikers among some other key contributors.”

Bucknell opens the season at home against Monmouth on Friday, Aug. 25, at 4 p.m.