Postseason Push Propels Field Hockey into NESCAC’s
By Brenton Arnaboldi '14, Staff Writer
Staring at a one-goal deficit in the waning moments of Saturday’s crucial league tilt at Wesleyan, the field hockey team scored two goals in the final 10 minutes en route to a dramatic 4-3 comeback win. The victory improves the Jeffs’ record to 10-3 (5-3 NESCAC) and propels Amherst into a tie for fourth place with Trinity in the conference standings. The Jeffs and Bantams will battle for home field advantage in the NESCAC playoffs this Friday at Gooding Field.

Amherst took a giant step toward securing home-field advantage in the postseason this weekend by defeating Wesleyan, as both teams entered the weekend with 4-3 conference records.

The Little Three rivalry clash “wasn’t one of our best games, but we managed to stay focused and come out with the win,” leading goal-scorer and NESCAC Player of the Week Katie McMahon ’13 said. “We realized how important this game was, and that we needed to play hard for all 70 minutes,” she continued.

The Jeffs had a promising start to the game, as they jumped out to a two-goal lead within the first half hour of play. Amherst’s Alex Philie ’14 initiated the scoring at 13:16 in the first period after a penalty corner, and fellow first-year Krista Zsitvay doubled the visitors’ lead in the 28th minute.

But just when the Jeffs appeared to be cruising to victory, the Cardinals stormed back with three unanswered goals over a 15-minute stretch spanning across the halftime break.

Wesleyan’s Liz Chabot scored an unassisted goal with less than four minutes remaining in the first half, swaying the momentum to the hosts before the intermission. Galvanized by the homecoming crowd, the Cardinals scored two goals early in the second frame to take a 3-2 lead, and the Jeffs looked to be reeling.

Resilience prevailed, however, as the Jeffs staged an epic comeback in the final 10 minutes. McMahon scored her team-leading 17th goal of the season on an assist from Rachel Lupien ’12, knotting the contest at 3-3 in the 63rd minute. Moments later — with just 1:45 left in regulation — Carly Dudzik ’12 scored the game-winning goal from a penalty corner, stunning the Cardinals.

The comeback effort demonstrated the relentless nature of this year’s team, McMahon said. “We never get too far down on ourselves, and we’re capable of achieving a lot when we set our minds to the task.”

Tri-captain Liz Schink ’11 made seven saves in her second collegiate start between the pipes. Playing outside of her normal forward position, Schink has inspired teammates with her leadership and tenacity as a goalie. The senior captain has not played in the cage since her high school years; upon arriving at Amherst as a freshman, she initially converted from goalkeeper to forward.

“She plays really hard back there, and does everything she can to prevent the ball from going in the net, whether it’s by diving headfirst in front of the ball or leaping laterally to make spectacular saves,” McMahon said, praising Schink’s willingness to sacrifice her body to stop shots. “She always gives a 110 percent effort out there.”

The team’s prolific offense this year, coupled with occasional defensive lapses, prompted the coaching staff to move Schink from forward to goalkeeper. Out of 10 teams in the NESCAC, Amherst ranks seventh in goals allowed (18), as the Jeffs have conceded substantially more goals than schools with relatively similar records, like Trinity (10) and Wesleyan (13). Even Williams, despite slogging to a miserable 1-7 conference record this year, has allowed fewer goals (14). On the flip side, however, the Jeffs have emerged as an offensive juggernaut, ranking third in the NESCAC in goals scored (25).

The Jeffs’ next game — Friday, at home against Trinity — will determine home-field advantage for the NESCAC playoffs. The top four teams in the conference host first-round playoff matchups; Amherst and Trinity are currently tied for fourth place with 5-3 records, so the winner of Friday’s game will start the postseason at home.

“Any chance to play at home on our turf and in front of our fans is huge for us,” tri-captain Carly Leahy ’11 said. “We are definitely using it as an incentive coming into [Friday’s game against Trinity].”

Issue 07, Submitted 2010-10-27 16:59:20