Field Hockey | Jumbos head to Final Four for first time since 2009
NCAA Semifinals await in upstate New York next weekend
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 07:11
The No. 10 field hockey team wrote a new chapter in its history this weekend. On Sunday afternoon, the Jumbos finally scored revenge for years of heartbreaking losses to conference rival and national No. 6 Bowdoin, coming from behind to beat the Polar Bears 2−1 and advance to next weekend’s NCAA semifinals.
The Jumbos have not made it this far since the 2009 season, when they suffered a 1−0 semifinal loss at the hands of Salisbury University. Since that year, Tufts has seen early exits in both the NCAA and the NESCAC tournaments.
The victory over Bowdoin came on the heels of an impressive 4−2 win the previous day against No. 9 William Smith, which sent Tufts into the third round.
But the most important victory came on Sunday, as the Jumbos and Polar Bears squared off for their third contest of the season. The previous meetings were split, as Tufts took the regular−season finale in a 3−1 win at home before losing 4−1 to Bowdoin in last week’s conference semifinals. Hungry for revenge, the Jumbos came out in full force but initially struggled to piece together threatening scoring opportunities near the cage.
Ten minutes in, senior forward Kelsey Perkins inserted a corner to the top of the circle, where it was knocked in front of the cage. As senior co−captain forward Lia Sagerman attempted to put it in from close range, the ball hit a post and rolled out of bounds, denying the Jumbos an early chance to lead.
The Polar Bears counterattacked quickly and had a penalty corner of their own. Tufts sophomore goalkeeper Brianna Keenan dived to her right to make a stop,but as the ball ricocheted Bowdoin junior forward Katie Riley controlled on the left side of the cage and pushed it across to classmate Lauren Schroeder.
As Keenan lay on the ground, the midfielder knocked it into the empty net to give the Polar Bears a 1−0 advantage at the 10:27 mark.
“We had had several opportunities of our own before they scored,” junior midfielder Emily Cannon said. “We knew that if we kept the pressure on that we’d be able to get one and put it away, so we tried not to let it get to us when they went ahead, even though the stakes were incredibly high.”
Over the next several minutes, Tufts produced several scoring opportunities. Each time, however, Bowdoin senior keeper Kayla Lessard came out of the cage to kick the ball away. Sagerman had another chance to score as she broke into the circle and received a pass, but the senior lost her footing on the slick AstroTurf, allowing the Polar Bears to recover.
The key moment in the first half came when Bowdoin returned to the offensive. With numbers on the Jumbos, the Polar Bears sent a sweeping pass across the front of the cage. No one was there to receive the pass, but the Polar Bears earned themselves a penalty stroke in the middle of the chaotic scene in the middle of the field.
Senior defender Kassey Matoin lined up to take the stroke, and as she put her stick on the ball Keenan lunged to her right. Keenan had guessed correctly, and managed to push the ball away as she dove to the ground, preserving the single−goal deficit for the Jumbos as the game entered intermission.
“[Keenan’s] save really kept us within striking distance and gave us an extra burst of intensity,” Cannon said. “Coming out of the half we knew that we just had to keep the pressure and knowing that we had [Keenan] behind us made us a lot more confident in pressuring harder.”
In the second half, the teams traded possession until the Polar Bears notched another penalty corner opportunity 12 minutes into the period. After Riley’s initial shot was blocked, senior defender Brooke Phinney corralled the rebound and took aim again. The Jumbos’ last line of defense, senior co−captain Rachel Gerhardt, then made a crucial defensive stop, knocking the ball away just inches before it crossed the goal line.
In the final minutes, the Jumbos took full advantage of the second chance that Keenan’s and Gerhardt’s stops had given them them. Perkins earned yet another penalty corner, inserting from the right side of the cage to Gerhardt on the circle. Gerhardt ripped a shot into junior forward Chelsea Yogerst, who put the tip−in past Lessard, tying the game in the 51st minute.