|Tournament Most Outstanding Player Hannah Park scored both goals in the final
GENEVA, NY - First-year Hannah Park (Baltimore, MD) scored twice as the Tufts field hockey team won 2-1 over Montclair State University on Sunday to capture the 2012 NCAA Division III Championship at William Smith College's McCooey Field. It's the first NCAA women's team title in Tufts history.
Park's pair of first-half goals helped Tufts overcome a 1-0 deficit in the game. She also had an assist in the team's 2-0 semi-final win against DePauw and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. First-year players scored all four goals and had two of the team's three assists for the weekend.
"This is definitely a dream come true," Park said. "I remember this summer thinking how awesome it would be just to make it to the national championship. It's been awesome."
Watch the post-game press conference here!
View a slide show of photos from the NCAA final here!
The Red Hawks (22-2) opened the scoring, earning a penalty corner in the 11th minute. Junior Sierra Rauchbach sent a cross from the left side of the cage to senior Frances Schaefer on the right side. Her first offering was turned back by Tufts goalie Brianna Keenan (Greenland, NY), but Schaefer collected her own rebound and sticked home her 18th goal of the year.
Down by a goal wasn't unfamiliar territory for the Jumbos, and head coach Tina McDavitt was confident that her team wouldn't panic.
"This season we had a lot of challenging games playing in the NESCAC," she said. "In a lot of games we'd been tied 0-0 or down by a goal. This team has had to work through that and has been able to get goals later in the game or come back from a deficit. I had confidence in them that they would do that. We talked about playing our game plan, working the ball to the outside, and shutting down their key players."
In the 16th minute, the Jumbos (19-2) pulled even on a penalty corner of their own. The insertion went to the top of the circle where Dakota Sikes-Keilp (Montclair, NJ) unleashed a blast that senior Megan Bosland kicked to her right. The ricochet landed on the stick of Park, who fired it home for her fourth goal of the season.
Tufts took the lead with 6:34 left in the opening half. First-year Alexandra Jamison (Gaithersburg, MD) rifled a pass from outside the circle into the middle, where Park redirected it for her second goal of the afternoon.
The Red Hawks had a chance to pull even just before halftime. On a scramble in front of the Jumbo goal, Keenan saved a screaming shot from her left. The rebound was stopped by senior co-captain Rachel Gerhardt's (Worcester, MA) defensive save, but the third MSU attempt was kept out of the goal by a body ball, resulting in a penalty stroke. With 4:24 left in the half, junior Stephanie Lewis missed the shot wide left.
In the second half, Montclair State earned several quality scoring opportunities early, earning four corners in the first 11 minutes. The Red Hawks briefly celebrated what they thought was a game-tying goal off a corner, but one of the MSU players entered the circle too early and the goal was waived off.
Over the final 24 minutes, the Jumbos played superb defense, limiting the Red Hawks to just a single shot. Keenan earned the win with five saves. Bosland made four stops at the other end of the field.
"It was just an attitude back there," McDavitt said. "Liza Wetzel (North Granby, CT) and Rachel Gerhardt and Bri Keenan are so solid in the backfield. They were just determined to keep it out. Even when they had that stroke against us, we were doing everything we could to keep them off the board. It was just a total team effort."
Like the final score, shots and penalty corners were nearly even. MSU had a 12-11 edge in shots, while Tufts enjoyed an 8-7 advantage in corners.
"To win a national championship has been a dream for of all of us and is a testament to what a great team this is," senior co-captain Lia Sagerman (LaJolla, CA) said. "It has truly been the definition of a total team effort and perseverance. We had to earn every win this season and to get to this final game and come away with the W was the perfect ending."
"We couldn't be more proud of this team and our coaching staff and appreciate all the love and support we've receive this season from everyone at Tufts," Gerhardt said. "We are so excited to bring this home for the Jumbos."
Sagerman, junior Emily Cannon (Atkinson, NH) and Gerhardt joined Park on the All-Tournament Team. Sophomore Abby Erler, junior Stephanie Lewis, and Bosland represented the Red Hawks on the All-Tournament Team. National semiifinalists Caitlin Baker (Mary Washington), Lisa Charney (Mary Washington), Margaret Ellis (DePauw), and Bridgette Shamleffer (DePauw) also received All-Tournament honors.
The championship is the culmination of a season that started with uncertainty for Tufts. The Jumbos trailed at Middlebury College 5-0 in the season-opener on September 8 and eventually lost 5-2. One-goal wins over Babson, Wesleyan, UMass Dartmouth, and Colby put Tufts on a winning streak, but the Jumbos didn't seem to be the dominant team that they had been in recent years.
A turning point came on September 23 at Trinity when Tufts defeated their rivals 2-1 in overtime on a goal by Cannon A week later they won in overtime again at home against Amherst, 4-3, with Sagerman scoring the game-winner. A third overtime victory came at Connecticut College on October 6 as senior Kelsey Perkins (Barrington, RI) scored to run the Jumbo winning streak to eight games.
Tufts would finish its regular-season with an excellent 3-1 victory against Bowdoin to earn the #2 seed in the conference. With a 2-0 victory over Wesleyan in the quarterfinal round of the conference championship, Tufts had a 14-game winning streak heading into a rematch against Bowdoin in the NESCAC semi-finals. However, Bowdoin dominated 4-1 to extend a post-season winning streak over the Jumbos to five games.
That would be the last game the Jumbos would lose.
After earning the seventh NCAA berth in team history, and the fourth in the last five years, Tufts' tournament opener was mostly memorable because of the weather. Playing in a snow/ice mix that covered Bello Field, the Jumbos defeated Castleton 8-0. In the second round, Tufts eliminated William Smith 4-2 to set up another rematch against Bowdoin in the third round. This time, the Jumbos overcame a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 and earn their first playoff victory against the Polar Bears since 1996.
The victory punched the team's ticket into the NCAA semi-finals for the third time in team history, including 2008 and 2009. In the semi-finals on Saturday, they faced an upstart DePauw Tigers team which had upset NESCAC champion and national #1 seed Middlebury in the third round. Tufts won 2-0 to advance to the NCAA final for the second time in team history.
The first NCAA final in 2008 was agonizing, as Bowdoin defeated the Jumbos 3-2 in the second overtime. However, with today's win over Montclair State, capping a season in which the team had to overcome the early uncertainty, Tufts has reached the pinnacle of success that the program has been challenging for during the past five years under head coach Tina McDavitt.
"I can't believe it," McDavitt said. "We've been to the "final four" before, this is the third time. Losing in double overtime was devastating and in 2009 I had my appendix out and wasn't there. I knew we could do it, but getting here has been a battle. Every game we had to really earn it and we did."
Above Photos by Kevin Colton/William Smith College
More Photos by Michael Okoniewski