Athletics

Jeffs Heading to Tufts in Search of First NESCAC Title

NESCACCourtesy of the NESCAC

HADLEY, MA – Fourth-seeded and 14th-ranked Amherst College will be in pursuit of the program’s first title when the Lord Jeffs compete in this weekend’s 2010 NESCAC Field Hockey Championship at Tufts University’s Bello Field in Medford, Mass.

Top-seeded and defending conference champion Tufts will face sixth-seeded Trinity in a rematch of last year’s championship during Saturday’s first semifinal at 11 a.m. Immediately following will be second-seeded Bowdoin taking on Amherst at 1:30 p.m. The 2010 NESCAC Field Hockey Championship concludes Sunday, Nov. 7 at 12 p.m. Details about live coverage will be provided later this week on the Amherst Athletics website.

Tufts

All Tufts (14-1, 8-1 NESCAC) had to do to secure the number-one seed in this year’s championship was defeat the only undefeated team left in the country on the final day of the regular season, Bowdoin. With two of the conference’s best offenses on display in the showdown, senior forward Tamara Brown tallied what proved to be the only goal of the game in the first half, as the Jumbos earned the 1-0 victory. Tufts’ all-time leading scorer and the reigning NESCAC Player of the Year then helped her squad get past eighth-seeded Bates in the quarterfinals, scoring three times in a 4-1 victory.

The Jumbos have been one of the most successful teams in the conference over the past three years with a combined record of 51-5. In 2008, Tufts accumulated 19 victories, the most in program history, and reached the NESCAC and NCAA title game for the first time ever. A year later, the Jumbos celebrated their first conference crown and advanced all the way to the national semifinals. Tufts looks primed for another run at the NESCAC title with an offense that ranks third among conference teams at 3.73 goals per game along with a defense that owns a 0.46 goals-against average, allowing a league-low seven goals over 15 games.

Brown has once again been the key component on the attack for the Jumbos, as her NESCAC-best 23 goals are five tallies shy of the program-record 28 she scored in 2008. Brown also sits tied atop the conference leaderboard for total points with 52. In back, junior defender Taylor Dyer has been the backbone of the Jumbos’ league-leading defense. Dyer draws the responsibility of shutting down opponents’ offensive threats and has helped the defensive unit record nine shutouts this season.

Trinity

The Jumbos will have a shot at revenge when they face the only team to have beaten them so far this season, sixth-seeded Trinity (9-6, 5-4 NESCAC). Trinity spoiled Tufts’ chances for a perfect regular season back on Oct. 16 with a 2-1 overtime victory, the second year in a row that the Bantams have done so. However, the Jumbos got the last laugh over the Bantams in last year’s title match in Hartford, as Tufts came away the winner in a 3-2 decision.

After finishing atop the NESCAC standings for the first time ever last fall, Trinity had to settle for sixth place this season, suffering back-to-back losses to close out the conference schedule. Three of the Bantams’ four NESCAC losses, though, were by one goal. Trinity advanced to the semifinals for the third consecutive time thanks to a 3-2 win at Middlebury on Sunday, overcoming a 1-0 halftime deficit with three goals in the second stanza. Trinity and Tufts have a bit of recent history between them in the playoffs as this will be the fourth tournament meeting between the two in the past five years—all Jumbo victories, and all by a single goal.

The Bantams are in the middle of the conference pack statistically this season, scoring on average 2.80 goals per game (5th NESCAC) while holding opponents to a GAA of 1.37 (4th). Looking to lead Trinity to its first conference crown will be the All-NESCAC foursome of Christy Bradley, Robyn Williams, Payson Sword, and Gina Dinallo. Bradley paces the offense with 26 points on a team-leading 10 goals and six assists, while Sword and Williams are tied for second with 21 points apiece. Dinallo, who for the second season in a row has played every minute of every game, has a 1.37 GAA and a save percentage of .794.

Bowdoin

In pursuit of its sixth NESCAC title this weekend will be the team with more conference championships than any other, second-seeded Bowdoin (14-1, 8-1 NESCAC). After going 10-6 a year ago, the Polar Bears returned to a form reminiscent of their back-to-back NCAA title runs in 2007 and 2008, as they put together another bid for a perfect regular season before being stopped by the aforementioned 1-0 loss at Tufts on Oct. 29.

Bowdoin has been solid on both sides of the ball this fall, owning the league’s best offense at 3.87 goals per game and a defense that ranks second only to Tufts in goals against with a 0.47 average. Since giving up three goals in the season opener to Amherst, the Polar Bears’ semifinal opponent, Bowdoin has allowed only four goals over the remaining 14 games and has recorded a league-best 10 shutouts.

The Polar Bears punched their ticket to a sixth-straight semifinal with a 2-0 blanking of Connecticut College on Sunday. In net, the tandem of Emily Neilson and Kayla Lessard has shared time, with the senior Neilson seeing a majority of the minutes. Neilson sports a 9-1-0 record with a 0.24 GAA and an .895 save percentage. Commanding the offense this season has been junior forward Katie Herter. Herter’s team-leading 16 goals and 36 points both rank fourth among all conference players. Senior Ingrid Oelschlager has been the Polar Bears’ primary setup person, as the former All-NESCAC honoree is second in the league with eight assists.

Amherst Color Logo

If Saturday’s second semifinal is anything like the regular season match between Bowdoin and fourth-seeded Amherst (12-3, 6-3 NESCAC), then fans should be in for a treat. The Lord Jeffs are tied with the Polar Bears atop the stats rankings in the conference for offense, as both teams are humming along at 3.87 goals per game. The season-opener for both squads on Sept. 11 proved to be a battle. Bowdoin built a 3-1 lead early in the second half and Amherst responded with a pair of quick goals to knot the game at 3-all with just over 15 minutes to play. The Polar Bears scored the decisive goal minutes later, holding on for the 4-3 victory.

After starting the year 1-2, Amherst responded by winning 11 of its next 12 games. The Jeffs head into the weekend riding their longest streak of the season at six after dispatching Wesleyan in the quarterfinals, 3-0. A big part of Amherst’s success has been the breakout performance of sophomore forward Katie McMahon (Denville, NJ). The team leader in goals, assists, and points, McMahon is in a dead heat with Tufts’ Brown for the overall conference scoring lead, collecting 52 points on 18 goals and 16 assists, and is making her case for consideration as one of the conference’s top players in postseason awards.

McMahon heads into the weekend riding an eight-game point streak, accumulating 14 goals and 11 assists over that span. Her best performance this season came against Smith on Oct. 19, tallying four times and assisting on three other goals in a 9-0 win. McMahon will look to lead her team into Sunday’s final for only the second time in championship history (2001) on Saturday with what would be Amherst’s first playoff victory over Bowdoin. The Polar Bears have won the previous two tournament meetings, including a 3-0 victory in last year’s quarterfinals.

2010 NESCAC Field Hockey Championship
Quarterfinals - Sunday, Oct. 31
No. 1 Tufts def. No. 8 Bates, 4-1
No. 2 Bowdoin def. No. 7 Conn. College, 2-0
No. 6 Trinity def. No. 3 Middlebury, 3-2
No. 4 Amherst def. No. 5 Wesleyan, 3-0

Semifinals - Saturday, Nov. 6 (at Tufts)
No. 1 Tufts vs. No. 6 Trinity - 11 a.m.
No. 2 Bowdoin vs. No. 4 Amherst - 1:30 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, Nov. 7 (at Tufts)
Semifinal Winners - 12 p.m.