Field Hockey | Jumbos dominate Camels, finally break through in overtime
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 06:10
The No. 9 field hockey team rocketed to 5-1 in the NESCAC Sunday, and, as usual, it took the victory in dramatic fashion.
Reigning NESCAC Player of the Week and senior co-captain Kelsey Perkins notched a goal in the 85th minute to give the Jumbos a win against the Camels — their third overtime conference victory in as many weeks, extending the Jumbos’ overall record to 8-1.
As they have for the majority of the season, the Jumbos dominated possession and consistently pressured the opposing defense but showed the same inability to cash in on those advantages down the stretch.
Tufts outshot host Conn. College 24-1, and Tufts sophomore keeper Brianna Keenan made a single stop to preserve the shutout.
Camels goalkeeper Becca Napolitano, however, proved a constant thorn in the Jumbos’ side. The sophomore denied senior Rachel Gerhardt and junior Emily Cannon four shots each, making 23 stops throughout the contest to hold Tufts scoreless deep into extra time.
The Conn. College defenders, led by sophomore back Mallory Kosow and junior midfielder Andrea Hoisington, played strong shutdown defense, denying Tufts 25 penalty corner opportunities.
“It was definitely frustrating when we realized how many shots we took and how few they had,” Cannon said. “But we slowly got a little closer to scoring and knew we were going to break through. Their goalie played really well. and for a lot of the game we just couldn’t get a shot in the back of the net.”
After 70 minutes of regulation, the game remained tied. In a now-familiar chain of events, the Jumbos prepared to duke it out with the Camels in extra time.
In the first period of extra time, neither team managed to find the back of the net. The Jumbos got three shots on cage, all of which were rejected by Napolitano. Meanwhile, Keenan was forced to come up big, making her first and only stop of the day to hold things at 0-0.
“We were definitely confident going into overtime because we have already played two overtime games,” Cannon said. “We just had to be patient and find a way to break through.”
Finally, the Jumbos found an opening. After Tufts broke up a Conn. College penalty corner, they quickly pushed the ball through their transition game, finding Perkins.
The reliable senior then took charge, breaking through and launching an unassisted strike past Napolitano.
“Conn.’s goalie had a phenomenal game, and their defense was incredibly tough,” Perkins said. “With fewer players out there in overtime, we were finally able to spread the field more. So when our defense broke up the Conn. corner, they were able to send an outlet to Missy Karp. She quickly transitioned and sent a beautiful ball into some open space, giving me a one-on-one with the goalie.”
Perkins now sits atop the team scoring leaderboard and has combined with fellow senior Lia Sagerman for 12 goals and four assists, good for fourteen points apiece.
“Our chance came when we caught Conn. in transition,” Cannon said. “We got a quick free hit and then a couple of passes, and we were up the field. Kelsey did a really good job moving the goalie and when she realized [Napolitano] was going down and lifted it.”
With the long-awaited goal, the Jumbos surged to their eighth straight victory.
After breaking into the national Top 10 last week, the team has its eyes on the upper tier of the conference rankings going into playoff season.
Currently, No. 2 Middlebury and No. 16 Trinity have the top spots on a lock, sporting 7-0 and 6-1 records in the NESCAC, respectively.
But Tufts, which sits in a third-place tie with perennial powerhouse Bowdoin, has the opportunity to break through with three of the conference’s weaker teams on the backside of its regular schedule.
In the coming weeks, Tufts will play at Williams before hosting Bates and last-place Hamilton.
While no team in the NESCAC can be underestimated, if the Jumbos continue to play to their full capabilities, they should have some breathing room heading into their final regular-season matchup against No. 6 Bowdoin.
First, however, Tufts turns its attention to a Tuesday matchup with non-conference rival Wellesley.