Messiah Edges Field Hockey In Shootout For Program's First National Championship

GENEVA, N.Y. – On a cold and snowy day both No. 1 Messiah and No. 2 Tufts field hockey team were not able to score in 100 minutes of play and the NCAA Final was decided by a shootout at McCooey Field on the campus of William Smith College.  Messiah won the shootout, 2-1, to win the 2016 NCAA Field Hockey national championship, their first in program history.

Messiah, 22-1, entered Sunday's game with the highest scoring offense in the country and had not been held scoreless since their 1-0 season-opening loss to Shippensburg, a Division II team that played for the national championship today as well.  Today was their eighth appearance in the NCAA Final but they were not able to win, bringing home their first national championship today.  The Jumbos see their season come to and end with a 19-3 record as they were chasing their second national championship in program history.  

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It was the Jumbos that were able to get offensive pressure going early. Tufts drew four penalty corners in the first half of the first half but were not able to put the ball in the goal as the Messiah defense was strong.

With about 13 minutes left in the first half, junior Ellexa Thomas received a green card, and Messiah was able to use that to their advantage.  They got the ball down on the Tufts end of the field and drew their first penalty corner.  Off the corner the Falcons created some chaos in front of the goal, but a defensive save by sophomore Issy Del Priore along with some strong Jumbo defense kept the Falcons off the board.

A little while later Messiah drew another penalty corner, but sophomore Emily Polinski used her glove to stop the bouncing shot from going in the goal.  

On the Jumbos fifth penalty corner of the half, junior Erin Sanders got off a shot, but it sailed just wide of the goal.  The Jumbos had the advantage in penalty corners in the first half, 5-3, but each team got three shots on goal during the first 35 minutes of play.  The score was tied at zero at the half.

The wind and the snow picked up at the start of the second half but both the Falcons and the Jumbos battled the cold conditions. With about 26 minutes on the clock the Jumbos drew their first penalty corner of the second half but they weren't able to get a shot off.

As the snow started to stick on the field, the ball moved faster and both teams had to battle the conditions and the change of pace of the game. With 12 minutes left on the clock each team had just one penalty corner each in the second half.  

With about ten minutes left on the clock, sophomore Gigi Tutoni was given a green card and the Falcons quickly drew a penalty corner, but the Jumbo defense remained strong and kept them off the board.

Jumbos Erin Sanders (pictured), Celia Lewis and Issy Del Priore made the NCAA Finals All-Tournament Team 

The Jumbos got down to the Messiah end of the field with about five minutes remaining in the game, and they were able to get off a few shots, but the Messiah defense was relentless and the Jumbos were not able to score.

With under a minute left Messiah got down to the Tufts end of the field and into the circle, but the shot sailed just wide and the score remained locked at zero.  With 16 seconds left in the game Jumbo junior Celia Lewis got a green card, but Messiah wasn't able to make anything happen with so little time on the clock and the game went to overtime.

The Jumbos started with five field players in overtime, as field hockey plays seven-on-seven in overtime, and Celia Lewis was still in the penalty box.  The Jumbos had the ball first, but turned it over and Messiah's Kristin Donohue rifled a shot that went just wide of the net, so close to ending the game.  The Jumbos were able to hold the Falcons off until the penalty was released and they were back to even numbers.   

With 9:18 left in the overtime period, the Jumbos drew a penalty corner and junior Mary Travers inserted to senior co-captain Nicole Arata who rifled a shot at the goal, but it went just wide and Travers who was in front of the goal wasn't able to deflect it into the net, keeping the game scorless.

Carissa Gehman got a break away opportunity for the Falcons and got past Del Priore, but Polinski kicked her shot away to keep the Falcons scoreless.  Gehman then got another shot off but that one sailed just wide.  With just over 6:30 remaining on the overtime clock, the Falcons drew a penalty corner, but Polinski made a diving save to keep the game going.

Gehman had another breakaway opportunity and Polinski came out of the goal, and with a wide open goal Gehman's shot went wide.  With just under 3:30 on the clock, the Falcons drew another penalty corner, but on the insert the ball skipped out of the circle and Messiah wasn't able to get a shot off.  

One overtime period wasn't enough, and both teams headed to the second overtime scoreless.  The Falcons looked like they were going to score when Lindsay Bower had a breakaway opportunity and Polinski came out to challenge her.  Bower passed the ball to Gehman who had an open goal but wasn't able to get a stick on the pass.  

With about 13:30 on the clock the Jumbos drew a penalty corner, and junior Mary Kate Patton inserted to Arata who dished it off to Sanders, but Sander's shot was blocked.  

With just over seven minutes on the clock the Jumbos drew another penalty corner but, Lewis' shot was blocked by Messiah, who cleared the ball out of their circle. Just about a minute later Patton would receive the Jumbos fourth green card of the game and the Jumbos were once again a player down.  

Senior Annie Artz dribbled the ball down the field and into the Falcon circle, and drew a man down penalty corner with just over five minutes remaining, but the Jumbos weren't able to get a shot off.  On the play Messiah's Bower received a green card, and the Falcons and the Jumbos would play five-on-five field players for a little over a minute. With 2:47 remaining in the game, both teams returned to even strength.

There was a longer delay between the second overtime period and the shootout as the facilities crew was needed on the field to plow the field of the snow in front of the goal.  

The Jumbos shot first in the shootout as senior Dominique Zarrella was the first shooter and approached Messiah goalie, Shelby Landes in goal, but was not able to get a shot off.  Up first for the Falcons was Gehman, whose first shot was stopped by Polinski.  But, Gehman got her own rebound and was able to get it past a diving Polinski to put the Falcons up, 1-0.  

Del Priore shot second for the Jumbos and on her first attempt was fouled by the goalie and was awarded another attempt.  But, she was also not able to get a shot off to even the score.  Shayna Landis was up for the Falcons and she went right to the right side to make it 2-0 Falcons.  

The third shooter for the Jumbos was Arata, and her shot was saved by Landes.  Donohue came up for the Falcons but a foul was called on Donohue to keep the Jumbos hopes alive.

In a must hit situation, sophomore Fallon Shaughnessy was up next for the Jumbos and she went right to the right, let Landes make the first move, and then fired a shot right past her to keep the Jumbos hopes alive.  Kezia Loht was the next shooter for the Falcons, and as she air dribbled it appeared she was going to try to go over Polinski, but she didn't and Polinski came out to challenge her and Loht's shot went wide to give the Jumbos another chance.

Artz was the shooter in the next must hit, and as she dribbled to the right Landes came out and pushed the ball away, making the save and securing the Falcons first ever national title.

Messiah finished with the advantage in shots, 7-5, while Tufts had the advantage in penalty corners, 10-7.  Landes made five saves on the day, while Polinski totaled seven.  

The Falcons finish off their first national championship season with a 22-1 mark, while the Jumbos finish second for the second time in program history with a 19-3 record this season.