Field Hockey Seeks Return to Championship Game as Campaign Opens Saturday

MEDFORD - After advancing to last year's national championship game where they lost on penalty strokes, the 2017 Jumbo field hockey team is even more motivated to return to the biggest stage for the second straight year in hopes of hoisting the national championship trophy. In the National Field Hockey Coaches Association preseason national poll, the Jumbos were ranked No. 2 and received four first place votes.

Ellexa Thomas will lead the Jumbo defense 

Head Coach Tina Mattera knows that getting back to the title game won't be easy and says that their goal is to play one game at a time and not get ahead of themselves. She said the team needs to remember that they start the season with a record of 0-0 and that nothing is given to them.

During the 2016 season the Jumbos finished 19-3 with an 8-2 record in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), giving them the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC tournament.

"The NESCAC is an unreal conference," Coach Mattera said. "We have to respect every team we play, and not just those who are in our conference, but also the out-of-conference match-ups as well."

Coach knows that coming out as the champion of the NESCAC is always a tall task.

Last year Tufts opened a brand new facility, Daniel Ounjian Field, featuring an astroturf playing surface that is ideal for field hockey. The Jumbos went on to host the conference semi-finals and final at the field, as well as an NCAA Regional. However, they weren't able to practice on the field prior to the start of the season and doing so this year is an advantage.

"This is our first full season on the new turf," says Coach Mattera. "Being able to use it for preseason has really shown an elevation in everyone's games."

Tufts graduated three seniors including leading scorer and second team All-American forward Annie Artz, along with forward Dominique Zarrella and defender Nicole Arata.

KEY RETURNERS - Coach Mattera is returning nine starters from the very successful 2016 team including two All-NESCAC First Team selections in Ellexa Thomas and Mary Travers, who racked up 26 points (nine goals, eight assists) in her junior season. Assisting Travers on the forward line is junior Gigi Tutoni and senior Mary Kate Patton. Last season they scored nine and seven goals respectively. In addition to this talented forward group is sophomore Rachel Hamilton who scored three goals and had three assists for the Jumbos as a freshman.

Returning at midfield for the Jumbos are seniors Celia Lewis who posted 15 points in her junior season and Erin Sanders who had 12 points, along with sophomore Marguerite Salamone who netted two goals and two assists during her freshman campaign. Also look for junior Fallon Shaughnessy who "has elevated her game this offseason," says Coach Mattera.

Assisting Thomas on the backline is another 22-game starter for Tufts, Issy Del Priore, and returning in goal is 19-game winner Emily Polinski. She led the NESCAC Conference in save percentage (.803), shutouts (11) and wins (18). She also ranked No. 2 among all goalkeepers from Division III institutions in goals-against average (0.59).

"This team has lots of depth, looking at it I could see this person starting or that person starting," Coach Mattera said. "There's no practice players on this team."

SCHEDULE - Tufts opens up their season in conference play at home on September 9 at 1 p.m. against Colby. Along with the Jumbos' 10 conference games, they will play five non-conference games against Babson (9/12), MIT (9/20), Mary Washington (9/23), Gordon (10/11), and Wellesley (10/19). The rematch of last years NESCAC championship between Tufts and Middlebury will take place at home on October 7 at 1 p.m. The Jumbos will wrap up their schedule at home on October 25 against Bowdoin at 6 p.m.

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Written by Will Ferreira, Athletic Communications Intern