Field Hockey | Perfect 10: Tufts wins again, downs Williams
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 08:10
As is becoming commonplace for the field hockey team, Saturday’s game once again came down to the wire. On Saturday, the No. 8 Tufts, which has played three overtime contests this season, narrowly escaped another draw to capture its tenth straight victory at Williams College.
Senior co-captain midfielder Rachel Gerhardt carried the day, launching the decisive strike past Ephs junior goalkeeper Ariana Spiliotes with fewer than nine minutes remaining in regulation.
The Jumbos are no strangers to close games. This season, nine of their 11 games have been decided by a single goal. The Jumbos are undefeated in these tight matchups.
Tufts has dominated opponents in shots and penalty corners this season, often by double-digit margins, but has not turned the control into goals.
On Saturday, however, the Jumbos did not seize the lead until the final minutes of the game and faltered uncharacteristically in the first half.
Williams dominated in the opening 35 minutes, launching six shots at Tufts sophomore goalkeeper Brianna Keenan.
“We were getting beat to the fifty-fifty balls, we weren’t making smart passes and Williams came out more aggressive than we were expecting, which threw us off,” Keenan said. “[The Ephs] took advantage of our mistakes and did a good job of trying to capitalize on what we gave them.”
Meanwhile, the host Ephs did not allow the Jumbos a single shot in the first half, and Keenan was forced to make three big stops to preserve the 0-0 tie entering the half.
“The defense did a great job of holding Williams off and breaking up their plays,” Keenan said. “But they still managed to get some shots off partly due to lack of communication on the field and partly because we were having trouble getting the ball out of the backfield.”
After intermission, Tufts returned to its dominant style of play. The Jumbos maintained possession of the ball and played with a new upbeat tempo, sending 12 shots at Spiliotes.
“I think we came out slow because we weren’t playing our style of hockey,” junior midfielder Emily Cannon said. “We got caught up playing the same way as Williams. At halftime we talked about staying composed and really focusing on our style and level of play.”
Coming out of halftime, the Jumbos found new energy, as Tufts allowed the Ephs just a single look at the cage. In contrast to the first half, Keenan sat comfortably behind a solid Tufts defense and did not have to make a stop in the closing 35 minutes.
As the Jumbos started to tighten things up at the back, they also rejuvenated their offensive attack, and held an 8-2 advantage in penalty corner opportunities in the second stanza.
“Our forwards are fast and we knew that if we could beat our man we could get more opportunities to score,” Keenan said. “We also knew we had to capitalize on our corners because we had been getting a lot of them, and they’re one of the best opportunities to score while they’re a few people down.”
Each time the Jumbos struck, Spiliotes dug in her heels, rejecting each of Tufts’ attempts to break through. But Tufts’ experience on penalty corner strikes finally paid off in the 62nd minute as senior Kelsey Perkins, the Jumbos’ leading scorer, took the corner, quickly inserting a pass to Gerhardt.
The veteran midfielder finished the ball perfectly, sending the game-winner past an exhausted Spiliotes to break the tie and give the Jumbos their first lead of the contest.
“Rachel had an awesome shot that was placed perfectly,” Cannon said. “After that we stayed strong and kept the momentum going to not let them get any other opportunities.”
In the closing minutes, Tufts continued to pressure, and played shutdown defense in order to repel two Williams penalty corners. In the last five minutes, freshman forward Hannah Park pressured Spiliotes, but was unable to extend the Jumbos’ lead.
After sputtering in the first half, Tufts finished with another dominant performance and sent the Ephs to a 3-5 NESCAC mark. Meanwhile, the Jumbos improved to 6-1 in the conference and will host Bates in a Wednesday afternoon showdown.
“Coming off of the second half and all the opportunities we created, it gives us a positive look towards the rest of the season,” Cannon said. “If we keep working, hopefully we will be able to turn all those opportunities into goals going forward.”