MEDFORD - The Tufts University Field Hockey team won its second NESCAC championship with a 3-1 victory over Middlebury College in the conference final at Ounjian Field on Sunday.
Head coach Tina McDavitt Mattera's team adds the 2016 conference crown to the first league title won by the program in 2009. The Jumbos (16-2), led by two goals from senior Annie Artz and two assists from classmate Nicole Arata today, receive NESCAC's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament which starts next weekend.
Middlebury (14-4) will await a possible at-large berth into the NCAA field, which will be announced tonight at 10:30 pm ET.
Tufts went ahead quickly today after earning a penalty corner opportunity just one minute into the game. They executed it perfectly, with the insert by junior Mary Travers going to junior Celia Lewis. She passed to Arata, who sent the ball to Artz in front and her shot was deflected by a Middlebury defender into the goal just 1:28 into the game.
The Panthers' first good scoring opportunity came in the fifth minute when a shot by sophomore Grace Jennings was saved by Tufts sophomore keeper Emily Polinski, and then seconds later Jennings took an aerial shot that was just wide left of the cage.
The Jumbos would receive another corner with 25 minutes on the clock and scored again on a similar play. With Travers inserting, her pass to Lewis was sent to Arata who found Travers at the right post for a 2-0 Tufts lead at 10:30 of the first half.
Middlebury senior goalie Emily Miller kept the margin at 2-0 with a trio of saves on strong attempts by Tufts junior Mary Kate Patton, Lewis and Travers in a matter of seconds late in the first half.
The Panthers earned their only corner of the first half as time expired, but could not put a shot on goal.
Shots were 6-3 in favor of Tufts in the first half, while the Jumbos had three corners to Middlebury's one. Miller made three saves in the opening 35 minutes compared to two by Polinski.
Middlebury cut the lead in half 11:32 into the second period. Sophomore Molly Freeman found Jennings open in the left side of the circle. Polinski was screened and Jennings' shot slipped past her into the right side of the cage making it 2-1.
The Jumbos responded immediately by earning a corner, but Arata's shot was saved nicely by Miller.
The Panthers would play most of the remaining 18 minutes short-handed due to cards. They were whistled for four in the second half and five overall.
A great individual effort by Travers set up Tufts' insurance goal with 5:34 to go in the second half. With strong stickwork, she created her own shot and sent one that was deflected into the air where Artz knocked it home for the 3-1 Jumbo advantage.
Neither team had another shot from that point on and the Jumbos soon rushed the field to celebrate their first conference crown in seven seasons.
Tufts finished with a 13-4 advantage in shots and 7-1 on corners (4-0 in second half). Polinski finished wtih two saves in the win while her counterpart Miller recorded five.
The Jumbos will make their ninth NCAA appearance this fall, and the first since 2013.
Watch Jumbo Highlights
Jumbos (l-r) head coach Tina McDavitt Mattera, Director of Athletics John Morris, co-captains Nicole Arata and Dominique Zarrella and Senior Woman Administrator Branwen Smith-King with the NESCAC championshp plaque