From almost any perspective, the field hockey team has had a remarkable season. After losing the season opener to No.1 Middlebury, the Jumbos rattled off 14 wins in a row, only to be halted by No. 6 Bowdoin in the NESCAC Semifinals. But now, after downing the Polar Bears in the third round of the NCAA tournament, the Jumbos find themselves in an even more remarkable place – just two wins away from a national championship.
Coach Tina McDavitt’s team, sporting a record of 17-2, heads into the matchup against the Tigers in Geneva, N.Y. filled with confidence, especially after defeating arch-rival Bowdoin in the post season for the first time since 1996. The Jumbos feature a diversified scoring attack that includes four players with 20 points or more, a sign of the offensive depth that has smothered opponent after opponent this year.
In addition to averaging 2.76 goals per game, the Jumbos are only allowing 1.26 goals from their opponents per game on average, thanks in large part to the efforts of sophomore goalkeeper Brianna Keenan. Tufts has posted seven shutouts on the season and won by one goal 12 times – a testament to the team’s experience and ability when the game is on the line.
But despite the Jumbos’ impressive statistics, they will not have a walkover against a Tigers team that is appearing in the Final Four for the first time in program history. Although unranked, the Tigers proved their mettle by beating the top-ranked Panthers in the last round, a stunning overtime upset sparked by a goal from sophomore forward Paige Henry.
The Jumbos will also have to be aware of dominating senior forward Margaret Ells, who has an incredible 27 goals on the season, along with 10 assists. Meanwhile, the Tigers also have perhaps the strongest defense in Div. III, ranking first in the country in goals against with 0.54.
Winning a national championship would be the ultimate culmination for a season filled with success. If the Jumbos can push past the Tigers, they will face the winner of the other semifinal, which features No. 2 Montclair State against No. 3 Mary Washington.
Both the semifinals and the finals will be streamed live on the NCAA website.