After NESCAC Double Whammy, Field Hockey Looks Ahead
By Brenton Arnaboldi '14, Contributing Writer
In its first home game of the season, the field hockey team suffered a 3-0 defeat against third-ranked national powerhouse Tufts University on Friday.

The Jeffs, ranked 16th in the country, battled all afternoon to overcome early deficits against Tufts, but the Jumbos’ stingy defense and stellar goaltending stymied the Amherst offense from start to finish. The loss dropped the Jeffs’ NESCAC record to 1-2, and marked the program’s third consecutive shutout defeat against Tufts.

While Amherst was unable to earn a positive result in Friday’s home opener, the Jeffs can take solace in staying competitive against a Tufts team that had out-shot the opposition 49-12 in its first two games of the season. Against Amherst, the Jumbos held a relatively small 16-10 advantage in shots.

“Despite the score, Friday was one of the stronger performances that we’ve had against Tufts over the last few years,” head coach Carol Knerr said.

The Jeffs quickly found themselves on the defensive against Tufts, conceding two penalty corners within the first two minutes of play as the Jumbos stormed out aggressively.

Controlling the early stages of the contest, the Jumbos scored the game’s first goal within 10 minutes. Tufts forward Sarah Cannon initiated the play by chipping the ball over Jeffs’ goalkeeper Sarah Wise ’13. Wise lunged back and made a spectacular save by batting the ball in mid-air near the goal line, but Tufts forward Melissa Burke scored off the rebound. By the end of the first half, Tufts held a 10-4 advantage in shots and a 9-4 edge in penalty corners.

Despite being outplayed during the opening minutes, the Jeffs created a flurry of scoring chances late in the first half to swing the momentum in their favor. Sophomore Chrissy Cantore’s one-timer clanged off the post after a nice feed from Katie McMahon ’13 in the 30th minute, and Carly Dudzik ’12 had a golden opportunity thwarted one minute later by a last-ditch defensive block.

The Jumbos, however, regrouped during the halftime break and doubled their lead just 3:19 after the interval. Tamara Brown scored following a sequence of passes from a penalty corner.

Staring at a two-goal deficit, the Jeffs pushed forward with an increased sense of urgency, generating several prime scoring opportunities in the following minutes. Tufts goalkeeper Marianna Zak, however, made a series of acrobatic saves to maintain the Jumbos’ two-goal cushion, including a diving stick stop to deny Dudzik in the 46th minute. In a game that featured quality goalkeeping from both sides, Zak finished with seven saves, while Wise stopped nine shots for the hosts.

“The game was fairly evenly played. There were a number of times when the momentum was going our way and we came up just short of capitalizing on our scoring opportunities,” Knerr said.

After absorbing the brunt of Amherst’s offensive pressure, Tufts added an insurance goal in the 63rd minute, 7:44 from the end of regulation, to shatter any hope for a Jeffs’ comeback.

While Amherst conceded two goals after halftime, the Jeffs were generally more competitive in the latter stages of the game, equaling the Jumbos in shots (6-6) and holding a small edge in penalty corners (5-3) in the second half.

Last weekend, the Jeffs earned a split on their two-game NESCAC road trip to Maine, enduring a gut-wrenching 4-3 loss at a top-ranked Bowdoin team, but rebounding the next day to defeat Bates 5-1. Despite the early setbacks, players said they expected the schedule to lighten up after facing NESCAC powerhouses Bowdoin and Tufts in a tough opening stretch.

“Between Tufts and Bowdoin we have faced the very highest level of competition that we will see for the rest of the season,” tri-captain Carly Leahy ’11 said. “We know we can compete with these teams and with the experience of two hard-fought games under our belts, we are excited to dominate our schedule from here on out.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming schedule, the Jeffs will play against Springfield on Wednesday before taking on NESCAC foe Connecticut College (2-0 league record) at Gooding Field on Saturday. The Jeffs, who finished with a 6-3 league record last year, can ill-afford to fall further behind in the NESCAC standings.

“Connecticut College is much improved from how they have been in the past, and they always give us a good game. We are looking forward to putting a snag in their winning streak so far this season,” Leahy said.

“Springfield is always a tough team. They are incredibly athletic and tough. If we stick to our smart game plan, use our superior stick skills, and out-hustle them, we are going to come up with a big win,” she continued.

Issue 03, Submitted 2010-09-22 03:45:24