Haley McDougall’s rapid development into one of the best goalkeepers in the country was no surprise, even though she was a late bloomer in the sport of field hockey.
The daughter of former Union College goalie Wayne McDougall (1983-86), a member of the Dutchmen’s Hall of Fame, McDougall’s mother was a Skidmore graduate who excelled as a figure skater in high school.
It’s no wonder that after tinkering with several other sports, like lacrosse and figure skating, as a youngster, McDougall finally settled on being a field hockey goalkeeper, and a great one at that. She could be the difference today when the Thoroughbreds take on top-seeded Middlebury in the second round of the NCAA field hockey tournament in Middlebury, Vt. Middlebury slipped past the Thoroughbreds, 2-1, in their earlier meeting in September.
“My dad worked with me when I was a kid. He really wanted me to be a goalie,” said the sophomore keeper. “My dad always helped me out and showed me what to do, even though I hate to admit it. He wanted me to be very good, and he pushed me to be my best.”
McDougall also gained plenty of knowledge about the sport on her club team, coached by UAlbany field hockey coach Phil Sykes and his wife.
So despite the fact that she didn’t play varsity field hockey until her sophomore year in high school and didn’t start until she was a senior, McDougall has quickly become a dominating player in the cage at the collegiate level.
This year, McDougall has a solid 1.68 goals-against average to go along with a .793 save percentage for the 14-5 Thoroughbreds, but those numbers pale in comparison to her freshman campaign, when she led the Liberty League in both goals-against average (0.80), good for seventh in the country, and save percentage (.833), 10th-best in the nation.
“We have a very young team this year, and this year’s group in front of Haley is a little bit different than last year,” said Skidmore coach Beth Hallenbeck. “But Haley is still having a fantastic year.”
Hallenbeck, who recruited McDougall out of Saratoga Springs High School, said the 5-foot-3 dynamo has all of the tools.
“She is fearless,” said Hallenbeck. “Haley lives for the one-on-one matchups, and she takes full control of the circle. She is also a good communicator with incredible reflexes and the ability to make quick decisions. I think that even though she didn’t really play field hockey in high school until she was a junior, she has very good natural ability.”
Hallenbeck said she recruited McDougall based on that athletic skill set.
“I could see that she had tons of potential, and she’s still living up to all that hype. She’s been a rock for us, even though it’s been a little different for her this year compared to last year statistically,” Hallenbeck said.
“Haley plays her best when we play the best competition, as is evidenced by the way she played against Middlebury back in September. We are fortunate to be where we are, and I think we are a much better team, overall, than we were back then.”
“We’re finally starting to come around, and our offense is playing great right now That takes some pressure off me, but it also gets me a little nervous, because I like to have a lot of work in goal to keep me loose,” McDougall said.
“Our team is finally connecting now. Obviously, I take every goal that is scored against us very personally. I’ve been working on my timing and when to flop down for a shot and when to stand up. I think we will give Middlebury a good game, because we almost beat them last time.”