Busy weekend for Big Green sports

by Ben Zimmerman | 10/29/04 5:00am

Homecoming weekend has arrived, and for any self-respecting, green-blooded sports fan from this or several other planets, that means football.

However, for the true sports connoisseur, the man or woman blessed with an athletic palette capable of appreciating those contests of strength and speed lying just outside mainstream America, like hockey, Homecoming offers far more than 40 or so very big people tossing around a broken volleyball. From sailing to tennis, Dartmouth teams from a variety of athletic disciplines -- some of which boast more than zero wins -- plan on competing over the next several days.

Kicking off Homecoming festivities, women's ice hockey opens its season against Boston College Friday at 5 p.m. A perennial national power, the Big Green women, coming off their record eighth Ivy League title and third Frozen Four appearance in the past four years, have already been pegged as the top team in the ECAC.

On Saturday, Big Green action leaps into full Homecoming mode, as Dartmouth plays host to women's tennis, field hockey, men's ice hockey and equestrian -- that's right, equestrian. The women's tennis team, which thoroughly dominated Connecticut, Colgate, Brown, Rutgers, and Boston University earlier this month in Providence, hopes to continue its early-season success throughout the three-day Big Green Invitational. Armed with the ever-dangerous doubles team of senior co-captains Sarah McNally '05 and Jayme Ahmed '05, as well as talented newcomer Margaret Fitchet '08, the Big Green have the firepower and depth to compete with anyone in the Ivy League.

Field hockey, 6-8 overall and 3-2 in the Ivy League, takes on Harvard at noon. Though the Crimson boast a 4-1 record among their Ancient Eight rivals, the Big Green are less than two weeks removed from their stunning 3-1 upset of Syracuse University, which, at the time, was ranked 17th in the nation. Following the Harvard game, Big Green field hockey is scheduled to host Holy Cross on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Men's ice hockey, like its female counterpart, also opens the season with high expectations on Saturday. Favored by many to win the ECAC and make a run at national prominence, the Big Green start competition against Quinnipiac University at 7 p.m., followed by a Sunday match-up at the same time and place with Connecticut. Led by superstars Lee Stempniak '05 and Hugh Jessiman '06, both weekend games should translate into a pair of victories.

Perhaps the most anticipated contest this weekend, the Big Green equestrian team will hold the annual Dartmouth Show at Hanover's Morton Farm. With two first-place finishes, one second and one third in only four events this fall, Dartmouth riding comes into Saturday's competition red-hot and hungry for a win.

On Sunday, Dartmouth and Harvard clash in a once-in-a-lifetime Homecoming soccer doubleheader. The women (5-6-3 overall, 1-3-1 Ivy) open the action at 11 a.m. against a Harvard team fresh off a loss to the league-leading Princeton Tigers. Though the Big Green women fought deep into the NCAA Tournament last season, this year has been marred with disappointment. Hopefully, victory against a game Harvard team can propel Dartmouth back into the win column for good.

Though their female counterparts are struggling, the Big Green men (4-1-6 overall, 2-0-2 Ivy) are undefeated in their last 10 matches and currently stand in a three-way tie for first place in the Ancient Eight. Of course, one of those other two Ivy League-leading teams is Harvard. A win Sunday could mean a championship.

In conclusion: seven teams, 11 home events and a whole lot more to Homecoming than football. Still not convinced? The Big Green football team kicks off Saturday at 12:30 p.m.