Following a disappointing end to last season, the Tufts University field hockey team is eager to get started in 2018. The Jumbos, who are ranked #13 in the preseason National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll, begin their campaign with a New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) road trip to Colby College on Saturday.
The 2017 season sort of ended with a thud, as Tufts lost in the conference quarterfinals and was not selected for an NCAA Tournament berth. Led by six seniors this fall, including co-captains Gigi Tutoni and Fallon Shaughnessy, head coach Tina Mattera's Jumbos are determined to not let that happen again.
"We have an amazing team dynamic already and everyone is engaged and working hard," Mattera said.
|Emily Polinski, returning for her fourth season as the starting goalie, and Fallon Shaughnessy are senior leaders on Tufts' defense|
The 15th-year coach said that the team's strength is its deep bench. That will allow the Jumbos to be able to substitute on the fly, adding a lot of depth to each line.
Tufts graduated a six-member Class of 2018 which had contributed largely to the program's NESCAC title and run to the NCAA Championship game in 2016. However, the younger players on that conference championship team are now ready to make their mark as leaders of the Jumbos.
One player who has already made her mark is senior defender Issy Del Priore. Voted NESCAC's Defensive Player of the Year and a first team All-American last season, Del Priore and the Jumbo defense led the league with a 0.80 goals against average last fall.
Emily Polinski, who has started in goal for the Jumbos since her freshman season, is another key returnee in back. Her .776 save percentage last season was second-best in NESCAC. Shaughnessy, who started all 16 games last year, is also a key defensive ingredient.
Tufts has plenty of offense returning as well, but Mattera would like to see an increase in the production that resulted in 2.5 goals per game last year. That placed among the middle of the NESCAC pack. Tufts' .125 shooting percentage last year (40 goals on 319 shots) was one of the lower marks in the league. However, the 144 corner opportunities that they earned was fourth-best. Mattera is particularly interested in seeing improvement in how they follow up on second chances.
Senior Hanaa Malik scored five goals with five assists last season, while Tutoni is the top returning goal-scorer after putting home six goals with two assists last fall. Tutoni led the team with three game-winning goals last year. Claire Trilling broke through with three goals and three assists last year and will look to be even more productive in her senior season.
Now a junior Marguerite Salamone was a key contributor on corners last fall and finished with five assists to go with a goal. Junior Rachel Hamilton has shown an offensive touch in her two seasons, including four goals last year. Sophomores Beth Krikorian and Kassidy Rogers-Healion also entered the scoring column twice last season, and they along with junior Shannon Yogerst and Brigid Gliwa will look to take it up a notch offensively this season as well.
In addition to all this returning talent, Mattera is excited about the seven freshmen who have joined the Jumbos for 2018.
"We are working quickly to get our freshmen up to speed on our system and playing style as they are all talented and are vying to get some serious playing time," the coach said.
After opening the season on the road at Colby and at Babson on September 11, the Jumbos play their home opener at Ounjian Field September 15 versus Bates College.