Field Hockey Faces Rematch with Bowdoin Heading into NESCAC Championship Weekend
MEDFORD - The Tufts University field hockey team is back where they expect to be, playing in the "final four" of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) this weekend at Middlebury. The #2 seed Jumbos play #3 Bowdoin on Saturday at 1:30 pm in the semi-finals.
Head coach Tina McDavitt's team lost in the quarterfinal round last year to Trinity in heart-breaking fashion, 2-1 in double overtime. It marked the first time since 2005 that the Jumbos did not play in a conference semi-final. However, they responded this fall with a 9-1 record in the league (14-1 overall) to earn the #2 seed. They defeated Wesleyan in the quarterfinals last Saturday on the Bello turf, 2-0.
Also this weekend, the host Panthers and #4 seed Amherst will play in the other semi-final on Saturday at 11 am. Saturday's winners will play for the NESCAC title at noon on Sunday.
FIELD HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP
Semi-finals on Saturday (Nov. 3)
#1 Middlebury vs. #4 Amherst, 11 am
#2 Tufts vs. #3 Bowdoin, 1:30 pm
Championship Game on Sunday (Nov. 4) at noon
The Jumbos defeated Bowdoin 3-1 on October 24 to earn the second seed in NESCAC. There's a lot of history between the teams in recent years, starting in 2008 when they met in both the conference championship game and in the NCAA Championship game. The Polar Bears won both, and have a 3-0 record in the post-season 2008.
The 2012 Jumbos will look to end that streak on Saturday. This is the first time the teams have met in the conference semi-finals during that span. With 14 consecutive wins following an opening-day loss to #1 NESCAC seed Middlebury, the team is looking to carry its momentum into the weekend.
"We are approaching this weekend like we would any other game," senior co-captain Rachel Gerhardt (Worcester, MA) said. "Obviously we know it's playoffs and the stakes are high, but we have to focus on playing the best hockey that we know we can. Every game is a battle and coming out strong is essential. We need to focus on our game and do the little things right. Trusting in ourselves, our teammates, and the system is never more important than right now."
For the fifth time in the last six years, Tufts earned at least the #2 seed in the conference. They were #1 and host in 2010, second in 2009, #1 and host in 2008, and second in 2007. They have played in three of the last four conference championship games (2008-10), and won the NESCAC crown in 2009.
Though they were 4-1 at the time, the turning point of the 2012 season was a 2-1 overtime win against Trinity. After opening with a 5-2 loss at Middlebury, the Jumbos had a series of one-goal victories against teams they defeated by a combined score of 15-1 last fall. Defeating a Trinity team which ended their season in overtime last year seemed to kick-start the Jumbos into a higher gear.
The current 14-game winning streak is approaching the team record of 16 during the 2008 season. The Jumbos would need to win the conference title to tie the record. With the team coming together over the course of the season, they are expecting to play their best field hockey this weekend.
"I think our greatest asset this season has been the heart of our team," said senior co-captain Lia Sagerman (LaJolla, CA). "Each day we have come out excited to play and ready to work hard. We have found a way to win in almost every kind of situation because all 22 players have so much heart and trust in both ourselves and the system we play."
Win or lose this weekend, the Jumbos are very likely to make the NCAA Tournament field for the seventh time in program history. Currently ranked eighth nationally, Tufts would start NCAA play either next Wednesday (Nov. 7) or the following weekend (Nov. 10-11).