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Ethan Sturm | Rules of the Game

Fairy tale

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 08:11

 

Last week, our field hockey team won a National Championship. I know this is old news at this point, but it can’t hurt to talk about them one last time.

By now, any Jumbo knows that it was our men’s lacrosse team that ended the school’s NCAA team championship drought with a 9-6 win over Salisbury back in 2010. But for years, it appeared the field hockey team would be the one to break through.

In 2008, the Jumbos made it all the way to the National Championship game against Bowdoin. With the match in double overtime, a deflected rebound fell to the stick of a Polar Bear player, who tapped in the title-winning shot.

In 2009, Tufts was even stronger, and cruised to a NESCAC title and a spot in the National Semifinals on the back of Margi Scholtes (LA ‘10) and Tamara Brown (LA ‘10), who would go on to become the career leader in goals at the school.

But then the wheels came off. Coach Tina McDavitt had an emergency appendectomy the night before the semifinal and wasn’t on the sidelines. Scholtes dislocated a finger in the first half and couldn’t return. Brown was still limping around after pulling a hamstring earlier in the tournament. The Jumbos failed to generate offense, and a single Salisbury goal seemingly ended the school’s best chance at a title to date.

From there, the window appeared closed. Middlebury knocked out Tufts early in 2010, and the team didn’t even make the NCAA tournament in 2011. 2012 looked to be a rebuilding year, especially at the back, where the team lost first-team All-NESCAC defender Taylor Dyer (LA ‘10). That train of thought was only reinforced when Middlebury scored five goals in the season opener, the most allowed by the Jumbos since 2005.

But then the magic started. The Jumbos won nine of their next 10 games by a single goal, with three of those wins coming in overtime. Tufts dominated Bowdoin in the team’s regular season finale, but ran up against them again in the conference semifinals where the Polar Bears scored their sixth straight postseason victory over the Jumbos.

Unseeded in the NCAA Tournament, the magic returned for Tufts, who eliminated its first two opponents by a combined score of 12-2.

Then, it was time for a rubber match with Bowdoin in the quarterfinals. The Polar Bears scored first and had a chance to add to their lead when they were awarded a penalty stroke. But sophomore goalie Bri Keenan gave Tufts all of the momentum with a once-in-a-lifetime diving stick save.

The Jumbos scored twice in the second half and finally got the postseason Bowdoin monkey off their backs. Then they dispatched Depauw, 2-0, in the National Semifinals. Rachel Terveer and Dakota Sikes-Keilp, both freshmen off the bench, provided the goals, and it seemed Tufts had a date with destiny.

Fittingly, No. 2 Montclair State jumped out to a first-half lead in the final, leaving it to Tufts to bounce back one last time. This time, it was Hannah Park, also a freshman coming off the bench, who provided both goals in quick succession. Tufts hung on for 42 minutes, and the celebration began.

The cliche “Cinderella Story” may be overused, but this finish was a fairy tale. Fresh faces provided all four Final Four goals. A goalie, recruited for another spot, turned in a miracle of a save to vanquish an old foe that had tormented Tufts time after time.

And a team that never stopped believing won a National Championship that no one saw coming.

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Ethan Sturm is a senior who is majoring in biopsychology. He can be reached at ethan.sturm@tufts.edu or @esturm90.

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