MEDFORD - For the third time in the last five seasons, the Tufts field hockey team has advanced to the NCAA Division III Championship semi-finals. Head coach Tina McDavitt's team (17-2) will play DePauw University (21-1) in the semis on Saturday at William Smith College's McCooey Field. Game time is 11 am.
In Saturday's other semi-final at 2 pm, Mary Washington University (20-1) will face Montclair State University (21-1). The winners will play for the national championship on Sunday at 1 pm.
Tufts made previous appearances in the "final four" in 2008 and 2009. They defeated Messiah 5-2 in the 2008 semis to earn a berth into the NCAA final. They lost 3-2 in the second overtime against conference rival Bowdoin. In 2009, with Coach McDavitt in the hospital due to an illness, the team lost 1-0 to Salisbury in the semi-finals.
However, the Jumbos failed to earn an NCAA berth last season and weren't considered one of the top teams in the nation at the outset of 2012. They trailed 5-0 early in the second half against Middlebury in the season opener before losing 5-2. As the season progressed, the Jumbos were winning but not with the authority which they had in the past.
The wins continued to pile up though, including key overtime victories against NESCAC rivals Trinity and Amherst. The Jumbos continued to progress and late in the regular season they seemed to be playing their best field hockey. In the regular-season finale, they defeated rival Bowdoin 3-1 to take the #2 seed in the conference. After a 2-0 win over Wesleyan in the conference championship quarterfinals, Tufts had a 14-game winning streak.
That streak came to an end unceremoniously as the Jumbos continued to struggle against Bowdoin in the post-season, losing 4-1 to the Polar Bears in the NESCAC semi-finals. At the time, it was the fifth straight Tufts loss to Bowdoin in the playoffs. However, that monkey would soon be off their backs.
After earning the program's seventh NCAA berth, the Jumbos had a memorable 8-0 win over Castleton in the snow during the first round. At William Smith last weekend, Tufts defeated the host Herons 4-2 in the second round. Facing Bowdoin in third round, the Jumbos rallied from a 1-0 deficit with two goals in the final 20 minutes to earn their third national semi-finals berth. It was Tufts' first post-season win over Bowdoin since the 1996 team defeated the Polar Bears 1-0 in the 1996 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ESCAC) championship game.
On Saturday, Tufts will face a DePauw Tigers squad which stunned national #1 seed Middlebury in the third round last Sunday, 2-1 in overtime. North Coast Athletic Conference champions, DePauw is playing in the national semi-finals for the first time in school history. The NCAA berth was the program's first since 1999. DePauw is first in the country with a 0.54 goals against average.
The Jumbos are the only team among the four remaining to advance with three victories, and they are the only squad which did not win its league title. DePauw, Mary Washington, and Monclair all received first-round byes. The University of Mary Washington is the 2012 Capital Athletic Conference champion. Montclair State is the New Jersey Athletic Conference champion.
With its 3-0 record in the 2012 NCAA's, Tufts has a 9-6 overall record in the tournament.
For those traveling to the NCAA Div. III Field Hockey Championship at William Smith College in Geneva, NY, tickets are $7 for general admission, $4 for students and senior citizens, and $3 for children ages 3-12. All-session adult tickets are also available for $10, and all-session tickets for students and senior citizens are $6.
Fans unable to make it to McCooey Field can follow the action online with Live Stats and Live Video on NCAA.com:
These links will be updated if Tufts advances to the NCAA final.