MEDFORD – Playing in what might arguably be the strongest field hockey conference in the country, the No. 15 Tufts field hockey team will begin play in the conference tournament this weekend and will have their work cut out for them facing some tough competition. But, with home field advantage on Saturday the Jumbos are ready to make a run through the tournament. Here is everything you need to know:
WHO TO WATCH:
Junior tri-captain Dominique Zarrella is the leading scorer for the Jumbos with nine tallies this season. Zarrella ended the regular season on a high note, scoring twice against top ranked Bowdoin on Wednesday night. She was also the Jumbo’s leading scorer last year with nine goals last season.
Classmate Hannah Park has scored six times for the Jumbos, which is a career high for her. She didn’t score ones last season and only had one goal her sophomore season. But, in her rookie campaign Park scored five times, two of those coming in a 2-1 win over Montclair State in the National Championship.
Senior Dakota Sikes-Keilp has scored four times this season, but two of those have been important game-winning goals. Sikes-Keilp scored the game-winner off a corner as time expired in a 2-1 win over Christopher Newport. She then tallied the game winner in overtime in a 2-1 win over Williams. She is the leader in the assist category for the Jumbos this year with 11, which is the second most in the conference standings just behind Grace Jennings of Middlebury who has 12. Sikes-Keilp has 28 career goals, which is seventh all time for the Jumbos and 21 career assists, giving her 77 career points which is sixth on the all tie list for the Jumbos.
Rookie keeper Emily Polinski has started ten games for the Jumbos this season in goal. She has compiled a 7-4 record and a .762 save percentage. Most recently, she recorded a career-high 12 saves in a 4-3 loss to Bowdoin. Behind her sophomore Libby DesRuisseaux has started six games, putting together a 3-1 record with a .769 save percentage.
SCOUTING SATURDAY'S COMPETITION:
Trinity earned the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament after compiling a 8-7 overall record this year with a 4-6 mark in conference play. They picked up conference wins over Hamilton, Colby, Connecticut College and Wesleyan. They were able to take No. 1 nationally-ranked Bowdoin to overtime earlier this year, falling 3-2 on October 10th.
Sophomore Kelcie Finn is the leading scorer for the Bantams with nine goals this year. She was the conference’s rookie of the year last season. Juniors Sidney Doolittle and Clare Lyne and rookie Chandler Solimine have all scored six times this year.
Defensively, senior Sophie Fitzpatrick has played every single minute in goal for the Bantams. She was an All-NESCAC First Team selection last year and has put together a 8-7 record this year with a .766 save percentage and a 2.26 goals against average.
The Bantams are making their tenth straight NESCAC tournament appearance. Last season they advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2011 but fell to Middlebury in semifinal play.
The Jumbos are 15-7 against the Bantams overall, dating back to 1999. That includes a 4-2 win earlier this year where first-year Gigi Tutoni scored twice and juniors Elle Chrupcala and Zarrella each added one. The Jumbos have faced off with the Bantams twice before in the NESCAC Quarterfinals, and five times overall in the NESCAC tournament. The lone win was the most recent time they faced off as the Bantams topped the Jumbos 2-1 in double overtime in the NESCAC Quarterfinals in 2011. The Jumbos beat the Bantams in the tournament semifinals in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and also in the quarterfinals back in 2006.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:
Senior tri-captain Rachel Terveer: “Our team is really pumped to play Trinity on Saturday. We had a close game with them during the regular season so its definitely going to be a battle. One of our goals going into this NESCAC tournament game is to definitely come out strong and adjust quickly. We’ve been working really hard in practice on our offensive corners and quick shots in the circle, so capitalizing on our opportunities to execute these are definitely a focus going into Saturday.”
Senior tri-captain Maggie Chapman: “Post season is a really exciting time for us. Now is when we get to showcase not only our talent, but what we’ve learned and how we’ve developed over the past two months. Only the best teams make it this far, so every game from here out will be a battle. We’ve been focusing on playing as a team and playing with a lot of intensity in preparation for this weekend.”
Junior tri-captain Dominique Zarrella: “I think after playing Bowdoin (even though we didn’t get the results we wanted) we realized how talented we are as a team and how well we play when we work together. I think that if we can focus on perfecting our fundamentals and keep building on our positive momentum good things will happen. Every team in the NESCAC tournament is good, and everyone is going to be fighting hard, so we know that we’re going to have to battle. But, with that being said I know that we’re prepared to battle. The NESCAC is a crazy place, and it’s do or die for us now, but who doesn’t love some good competition.”
WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE CONFERENCE?
Bowdoin has drawn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament after finishing the regular season with a perfect 15-0 record overall and 10-0 in conference play. They will face off with No. 8 seed Bates. No. 7 Hamilton will travel to No. 2 Middlebury and No. 4 Amherst will host No. 5 Williams. After the games this Saturday, the highest remaining seed will host semifinals and finals play next weekend. On Saturday there will be two semifinal games, with the championship game being played on Sunday between Saturday’s two semifinal winners.
Bowdoin senior Rachel Kennedy is leading the conference with 24 goals this season, while Kimmy Ganong of Bowdoin and Annie Leonard of Middlebury each have 17 scores this year. Grace Jennings sit at the top of the assist category with 12, while the Jumbos’ Dakota Sikes-Keilp is right behind her with 11. Kennedy is at the top of the points category with 51 and Leonard is right behind her with 40. Kennedy has also taken the most shots this year (97), while Megan Fortier of Colby is second with 92 and Kelcie Finn of Trinity has 68.
Defensively, there is a different goalie at the top of the four categories in the conference ranks. Sara Grundy of Wesleyan has made the most saves this year with 151, but Amherst’s Emily Horwitz has the best save percentage with a .833 mark. In the goals against category, Lauren Pianucci has given up the fewest goals (9), but she has only played seven games. Right behind her is Clara Belitz of Bowdoin and Emily Miller of Middlebury who have both allowed ten goals all year. Belitz is at the top of the goals against average category with a 0.70 mark.
In the most recent National Field Hockey Coaches Association national poll Bowdoin was ranked No. 1, Middlebury sat at No. 3, the Jumbos were No. 15, Amherst was No. 16 and Williams was No. 20. Trinity was getting votes but was not in the top 20. No other conference had even close to five teams ranked in the top 20. The closest is the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and the Capital Athletic Conference who both have three teams in the top 20.
THE HISTORY BEHIND IT ALL:
The Jumbos are looking for their second ever NESCAC title, and their first since 2009. The Jumbos topped Trinity 3-2 back in 2009 to win their first ever NESCAC title. The last time the Jumbos were in the title game was back in 2010.
Only four different teams have ever won the conference title: Tufts, Bowdoin, Middlebury and Williams. Bowdoin has seven titles overall, with Middlebury winning four times and Williams winning three conference titles.
It’s been the Bowdoin and Middlebury show of late. The Panthers have won the last three conference championships and the last time a team other than Bowdoin or Middlebury was in the final was back in 2010 when the Jumbos were there.