Field Hockey | Tufts starts run to title defense with a win at Bates
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 01:09
The defending national champion Jumbos, ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll, picked up where they left off on Saturday, outshooting NESCAC rival Bates 27 to zero en route to a 1-0 win.
Several first year players logged their first collegiate minutes, while the squad’s more experienced members held down the fort. Junior forward Brittany Norfleet took over for Lia Sagerman (LA ’13) and Kelsey Perkins (LA ’13) on corners, and sophomore Dakota Sikes-Keilp played the striker role. Meanwhile, juniors Colleen Golja and Katie Koch stepped up where Liza Wetzel (LA ’13) and co-captain Rachel Gerhardt (LA ’13) formerly bolstered the defensive end.
“I think that everyone did a great job [Saturday]; there are a lot of new people on the field stepping into new positions on the team,” Golja said. “I guess the lineup didn’t feel as new to me as it appeared because these are girls that I have been playing with at practice. I personally felt very comfortable with everyone in front of me and really feel a sense of trust throughout the whole team.”
Returning junior keeper Bri Keenan saw no action on Saturday, as the Bobcats failed to place a single shot on cage. Meanwhile, experienced senior center midfielder Emily Cannon and sophomore Alexandra Jamison worked to get the Jumbos’ transition game moving, with co-captains Chelsea Yogerst and Steph Wan helping to lead the attacking unit.
The Jumbos opened the contest strongly, immediately moving the ball into Bates’ 25-meter box. For several minutes, Tufts put on the pressure but failed to produce on numerous scoring opportunities. Bates defense played staunchly and refused to give up ground despite the Bobcats’ inability to turn the ball in the other direction.
“Bates had great defensive sticks and did a good job of stepping towards the ball to be able to clear it out,” Wan said. “We had a lot of great opportunities so we just need to work on finishing and still maintaining possession in the 16.”
After nearly 20 scoreless minutes, during which the Jumbos almost entirely controlled the pace of play, Tufts finally got on the board. On a corner opportunity, an insert from Norfleet swept across the 16-meter circle, where sophomore forward Rachel Terveer controlled the ball and pushed it across to rookie Annie Artz at the post. The freshman then guided the ball past Bobcats senior keeper Becca Otley and into the boards, notching her first collegiate goal and ultimately the only score of the contest.
“Corners are a huge offensive opportunity and converting these to goals is key to any game,” Wan said. “We need to keep practicing and work on the basics. Having a good insert, a smooth hit and getting a tip. Our goal was a good example of that. We didn’t get frazzled, and Annie was in a great position for the deflection.”
Entering the intermission, Artz’ goal put the Jumbos up by a slim, one-goal margin. In the second half, the Jumbos came out strong and continued to dominate the pace of the game.
Midway through the period, senior forward Yogerst had an excellent opportunity to double Tufts’ advantage. Yogerst, playing up against Otley, received the ball off a corner. Using her quick feet, she attempted a turn-and-shoot, but Otley just managed to stave off the shot. Yogerst positioned to collect her own rebound then went for a put-back, launching a diving shot that sailed just left of the cage.
In the ensuing minutes, Tufts narrowly missed several other scoring opportunities, maintaining their one-goal advantage as the clock expired. The game, in comparison to some more hotly contested rivalries in the NESCAC, was largely clean and neither team was awarded a single card or penalty.
“I think we had a great passing game to maintain possession,” Wan said. “This week during practice, we focused on having smart, hard passes and this translated in the game. Finding the open player and little inside-outside passes helped us to move the ball up the field.”
The Jumbos performance showed much promise for the rest of the season, as they possessed the ball for the vast majority of the game and prevented the host Bobcats from passing into the 25-meter box all but twice.
“I think we did a good job moving as a unit which helped us keep the ball in their defensive end,” Wan said. “Our defense did a great job of stepping up and putting pressure on early.”
“Yesterday I think everyone had great individual defense, which kept the ball above the fifty for most of the game,” Golja said. “I absolutely derive a sense of confidence from knowing our team’s ability to gain and maintain possession.”
While the Jumbos are no doubt pleased with the ‘W,’ coming off a 1-0 loss to non-conference opponent MIT in a scrimmage Tuesday, they know there is work to be done. This week’s results showed room for head coach Tina McDavitt’s squad to improve in the coming weeks.
Despite the massive edge in time of possession and gaining 17 corner opportunities, Tufts mustered just a single goal in the winning effort. Otley stepped up to make eight key saves for Bates, keeping them in contention despite their failure to control the ball.
Last year, Tufts similarly dominated time of possession and corners awarded in its games, yet struggled when it came to converting on those scoring opportunities. As the Jumbos move forward into more difficult stretches of their schedule, they know that they must do better to turn these chances into scores.
“Bates is a great team, and it was an important in-conference win for us,” Golja said. “I think we had some great passing patterns and were able to work well as a unit. We are just getting started, and I think we can look to amp up our intensity and start to establish our own unique team dynamic.”
Next, the Jumbos prepare to host their home opener on Bello Field, a tilt against non-conference Babson College on Sept. 10. In 2012 Tufts went a perfect 9-0 at home, and defeated the Beavers 3-2 on the road. Despite having these factors on their side, the Jumbos are determined to prepare for Babson as they would a top conference opponent, using their missed opportunities from Saturday to improve upon their team play.