Jumbos and Panthers to Duel in NESCAC Semifinal Action on Saturday

MEDFORD – The Tufts field hockey team will board a bus to Maine on Saturday with one goal on all of their minds…bringing a NESCAC Championship trophy back to Medford with them on Sunday afternoon.  The Jumbos head up to Bowdoin to compete in the semifinals of the NESCAC Tournament on Saturday with the final being on Sunday between Saturday’s two semifinal winners.  Here is everything you need to know:

WHO TO WATCH:



 

Jumbo junior tri-captain Dominique Zarrella was at it again last weekend, scoring once in the Jumbos 2-0 quarterfinal win over Trinity.  Zarrella now has a team-leading ten goals this season and has scored in the Jumbos last two games. 

But Zarrella wouldn’t be scoring as much as she is without classmate Elle Chrupcala and senior Dakota Sikes-Keilp.  The trio has combined for all the Jumbos goals in the last two games, with Zarrella scoring twice against Bowdoin with assists from Chrupcala and Sikes-Keilp on one goal and just Chrupcala on the other.  Chrupcala scored against Bowdoin with an assist from Sikes-Keilp, and then Zarrella scored again against Trinity on Saturday with the assist being credited to Chrupcala.  The Jumbos second goal against Trinity was from Sikes-Keilp off a penalty stroke.

Chrupcala is third on the team in scoring with five goals this season and four assists.  Sikes-Keilp leads the team in points with 21—coming from five goals and 11 assists.  Zarrella is right behind her with 20 points from her ten goals.  Senior Hannah Park has also scored six times for the Jumbos this year—which is a career high for her.

Defensively, time in goal has been split a bit this year between sophomore Libby DesRuisseaux and freshman Emily Polinski.  But Polinski has gotten the nod in the past three contests for the Jumbos and looks to be the go-to this weekend.  She has an 8-4 record this year with three shutouts, a goals against average of 1.21 and a .783 save percentage.

Defense has also been a team effort for the Jumbos this year, as sophomore Ellexa Thomas and juniors Nicole Arata and Chrupcala have started all 16 games in the back for the Jumbos, anchoring a strong defense.  As a team the Jumbos have picked up nine defensive saves this season, with Sikes-Keilp and sophomore Celia Lewis each having two. The nine defensive saves is the second most in the conference, just behind Amherst’s 12.

SCOUTING THE COMPETITION THIS WEEKEND:





First up for the Jumbos will be Middlebury, a team they fell to 3-0 earlier this season.  Middlebury topped seventh-seeded Hamilton 8-1 in quarterfinal play this past weekend.  Audrey Quirk scored twice and assisted two others, and Grace Jennings and Pam Schulman each added two goals and an assist in the win.  Jennings is at the top of the conference standings with 13 assists this year, and Annie Leonard is tied for second with 18 goals while Pam Schulman is tied for third with 15 goals and is fourth in the assists category with eight.  Back when the Jumbos played Middlebury it was Annie Leonard who scored twice and Bridget Instrum connected for the third goal to give the Panthers the 3-0 win.

In the other semifinal game, top-seeded Bowdoin will square off with fourth-seeded Amherst.  Bowdoin topped No. 8 seeded Bates, 4-0, in quarterfinal play, while No. 4 seeded Amherst needed an overtime period to knock off fifth-seeded Williams, 2-1.

Senior Rachel Kennedy is the story for Bowdoin, as she leads the conference with 26 goals this season.  This past week Kennedy surpassed the school’s career record for goals and points.  On Wednesday against the Jumbos Kennedy scored her 92nd career goal to tie the Bowdoin record and then broke that record on Saturday in the quarterfinals against Bates. She now has 94 career goals and 206 career points.

As far as scoring in the conference goes, Kennedy is way ahead of everyone else with her 26 goals.  After her, Kimmy Ganong and Leonard of Middlebury both have 18, and Sara Culhane of Amherst and Schulman of Middlebury have scored 15 times this year.  The Panther’s Jennings is at the top of the assists category with 13, but the Jumbos’ Sikes-Keilp is right behind her with 11 and Kelsey Mullaney of Bowdoin also has ten helpers this year.

Bowdoin hasn’t lost this year, currently boasting a 16-0 record.  Middlebury just has one blemish on their record, a 2-1 loss to Bowdoin earlier this year in regular season play.  Amherst boasts a 12-4 record, with those losses coming to Bowdoin, Middlebury, Tufts and Colby.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:



 

Assistant coach Taylor Dyer: “From here on out each opponent will likely be tougher than the last, so we need to focus on continuing to elevate our play.  Postseason is exciting because the teams we are facing are not only the best in our conference—they are the best in Division III.  Middlebury is an incredibly talented team that we know we can compete with, and its just a matter of playing our best hockey this weekend so we can keep extending our season.”

Senior tri-captain Maggie Chapman: “The team is very excited to get another shot at Midd this weekend! We have learned a lot since the last time we played them, so it should be a good game.  This week we are focusing on stepping up the pace of our play, and getting used to playing on astroturf.  As always, we will look to capitalize on our opportunities offensively, and try to maintain possession of the ball.  Middlebury is a really fun team to play, so we are ready to take them on!”

Junior tri-captain Dominique Zarrella: “We can’t wait to take on Midd this Saturday.  When we played them during the regular season I don’t necessarily think that the score reflected the game, I think Midd just took advantage of the scoring opportunities given to them and we didn’t.  With that being said we really focusing on perfecting our offensive corners, making possession passes all over the field and keeping our overall pace high.  I’m super excited because we’re practicing on astroturf all week, which I think will help us immensely in that we won’t have to spend the first ten minutes of the game on Saturday adjusting to a faster surface.”

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT?




The Jumbos are familiar with NESCAC Tournament semifinal play, as they have been here before.  Ten times before.  The Jumbos have a 3-7 record in semifinal play, but their season hasn’t always ended there, as they have made six NCAA Tournament appearances.

This will be the Jumbo’s fourth consecutive appearance in the tournament semifinals and their tenth overall in program history.  The Jumbos longest consecutive string of semifinals appearances was from 2006 to 2010 when they made five consecutive appearances before losing in the tournament’s first round in 2011. 

The Jumbos have faced off with the Panthers twice before in semifinal play.  They fell in overtime back in 2007 by a final score of 4-3.  The year before the Jumbos also faced off with the Panthers in semifinal play and were topped, 4-1. 

It’s the Polar Bears the Jumbos have faced off with most in semifinal play, playing Bowdoin four times in that round.  They have also taken on Trinity twice and Middlebury and Wesleyan each once. The Jumbo’s three semifinal wins have come against Wesleyan once and Trinity twice.


CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY:



 

Tufts will be hoping for a win on Saturday for their chance to play in their fourth NESCAC Final.  They have been there three times before, winning in 2009 over Trinity, but getting topped by Bowdoin in 2010 and 2008. 

The Jumbos have been able to bring the conference championship back to Medford before.  Back in 2009 the Jumbos won their first NESCAC Championship.  In 2012 the Jumbos fell to Bowdoin in semifinal play but, went on to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and make a run through the tournament winning their first ever National Championship.

Bowdoin has won the most conference crowns, with seven total.  Their most recent though was back in 2011.  But, the Polar Bears have been able to bring four national championships back to Brunswick, winning in 2013, 2010, 2008 and 2007.  In 2008 they topped the Jumbos in the national title game, and in 2007 it was Middlebury that they beat to win the national championship.

Middlebury has lifted the conference championship trophy the past three years, and four times overall dating back to 2000.  Prior to their three-year winning streak, the last time the Panthers had won was back in 2003.  Williams has won the crown three times, most recently in 2004, and the Jumbos are the only other team to win a conference championship, bringing the trophy back to Medford in 2009.

The third seed has won the whole thing before, twice actually.  But, both times that it was done, it was Williams that did it.  The Ephs won the conference championship as the third seed in the tournament in 2004 and 2001.  The number one seed has won seven times with the number two seed winning the whole thing five times.  Only one time has the fourth seed won, and that was Middlebury back in 2013.  No seed lower than fourth has ever won the conference tournament.