Field Hockey | Sikes-Keilp leads Tufts to victory
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 09:09
The Jumbos continued to roll on Tuesday evening, defeating visiting UMass Dartmouth 5-1 for their second non-conference victory and fifth victory overall. The win marked another dominant performance for the Jumbos, who have controlled possession and pace of play in every game this season.
Head coach Tina McDavitt’s squad sent an astounding 41 shots at the Corsairs’ senior goalkeeper Lauren O’Brien, and earned 18 penalty corners while yielding just three corner opportunities and two shots on the defensive end. It could have been much worse for UMass Dartmouth, but O’Brien stepped up to make 21 saves in the contest.
“Our layers definitely help us to stop momentum going into our defensive end and give us the ability to keep the ball in our offensive circle,” senior All-American center midfielder Emily Cannon said. “We know that if we continue to put the ball on cage there’s a much greater opportunity for us to score than if we don’t.”
Tufts jumped out to an early lead on the Corsairs. After Cannon carried the ball into the Corsairs’ 25-meter box, it did not take long for the Jumbos to piece together their first score. Fewer than two minutes into the game, sophomore forward Hannah Park received the ball in front of the cage. After battling back and forth with O’Brien, Park managed to slide the ball into the cage on her third effort, putting Tufts on the board early.
As UMass Dartmouth looked to equalize, Tufts played a sloppy series on defense but managed to carry the ball out of the 16-meter circle. Junior forward Brittany Norfleet then used a strong effort to win the ball at midfield. Pushing up with speed, Norfleet launched a shot that drifted just left of the cage.
The Jumbos worked to earn a flurry of penalty corners and almost doubled their advantage when sophomore midfielder Dakota Sikes-Keilp crushed a shot from the top of the circle that hammered off of the left post. Seconds later, Sikes-Keilp wound up again, this time striking UMass senior defender Victoria Dolce in the left thigh as she attempted to block the shot.
Sikes-Keilp took several more shots as the Jumbos continued to push, but each one sailed just wide of the cage. Eventually, Tufts earned yet another penalty corner. Receiving the insert, Sikes-Keilp slid the ball across the top of the circle to senior co-captain midfielder Steph Wan. As Wan sent a shot in from the left side, classmate and fellow co-captain forward Chelsea Yogerst deflected the ball into the net to put Tufts ahead 2-0.
“The ball came out really well to Steph, and she put a cross-ball in towards the stroke mark,” Cannon said. “Chelsea just got a stick on it to redirect it past the goalie.”
Leading by two, Park, Sikes-Keilp and Yogerst continued to work on the offensive end. In the 24th minute, Cannon carried the ball from midfield, working it into the circle. Battling with several UMass defenders, Cannon eventually found space and dribbled a slow-rolling shot through traffic and into the boards for a 3-0 advantage.
“I was getting a pass from [senior midfielder] Katy McConnell and felt pressure coming on, so I cut to and kept going,” Cannon said. “I actually meant to send a pass into the post where Allison could tip it, but it ended up sneaking through.”
Towards the end of the first period, the Corsairs challenged, earning a series of penalty corners themselves, but junior goalkeeper Bri Keenan stood tall between the pipes, denying any real scoring chance.
Tufts jumped out of the intermission eager to build on their three-goal lead. Yogerst earned the Jumbos an early corner opportunity, while Park also saw a chance to extend the hosts’ advantage. Six minutes into the half, Norfleet worked to earn another penalty corner. Sikes-Keilp received the insert, which bounced around the top of the 16 until she managed to regain possession and fire a diving backhanded shot into the boards for a 4-0 lead.
Three minutes later, the Corsairs finally broke through. Two seniors, forward Tiffany Richard and midfielder Devon Herlihy worked to carry the ball down the left wing. On a side-in, they pushed the ball across to sophomore forward Alison Ladue, who beat Wan one-on-one before sending a long shot across the circle and into the boards.
The Jumbos took just two minutes to bring their lead back to four. Yogerst quickly won another Tufts corner. Sikes-Keilp polished off her second goal of the evening, firing a second-effort backhanded shot past O’Brien.
“Dakota has been doing a great job this season,” Cannon said. “She’s been really strong on the ball and distributing well. When she gets an opportunity, she doesn’t waste it, whether it’s her front or her back stick, and that’s how she’s able to put so many in the back of the net.”
In the next few minutes, coach McDavitt began to substitute in several younger players, who continued to bring pressure on the offensive end. Meanwhile, McConnell stepped up in the Jumbos’ transition game, using her athleticism to stop UMass Dartmouth’s runs and send balls downfield for the Jumbos’ young offense.
First-year players Dominique Zarrella and Ashyln Salvage both saw chances in the final minutes, but the Corsairs ultimately managed to stave off the Jumbos’ efforts for a sixth score. As the final seconds ticked off, UMass Dartmouth returned to the offensive end, but McConnell again stepped up to fight off the attack as time expired.
“Everyone definitely stepped up at the end of the game,” Cannon said. “They didn’t let the intensity waver in the second half. Because they kept pushing forward we were able to get a lot of good opportunities, even towards the end.”
The highly physical game was a solid test for the Jumbos, who proved that they can win against a variety of teams. This weekend, Tufts’ athleticism and skill will be tested in a crucial NESCAC doubleheader. The Jumbos travel to Amherst on Saturday, before turning around to host Trinity at Bello Field on Sunday.