Now three years removed from a national championship, the Tufts field hockey team gears up for a new season eager to improve on their 2014 performance. The ninth-ranked Jumbos finished last season with a loss to eventual national runner-up Bowdoin in the NESCAC semi-finals and failed to receive an invitation to the national tournament. After winning the national championship in 2012 and losing in the second round in 2013, the Jumbos look to return to the NCAA tournament once again this season.
The team feels ready for its season opener against Colby at home on Sept. 12.
“Our team is very excited for the upcoming season,” senior forward Hannah Park said. “[We have] a lot of potential, and we are excited to show everyone who we are.”
The Jumbos are led by coach Tina McDavitt Mattera, who has been at the helm of six of the past eight NCAA tournaments, national championship in 2012 — Tufts’ first for a women’s team. The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) named her the National Coach of the Year in the team’s national championship season. Over the past 11 years, she has built Tufts into a field hockey powerhouse, amassing a 151-44 overall record and is looking to continue that trend heading into her 12th year as head coach. Mattera is five wins short of becoming the all-time winningest coach in Tufts field hockey history.
Though Mattera will pace the sidelines in 2015, the team will likely miss the presence of players from the Class of 2015. Among the graduated players is former co-captain forward/midfielder Brittany Norfleet (LA ’15), who was third on the team in points last year with five goals and four assists. Norfleet was named to the NFHCA All-American second team last season and the All-Conference first-team. Her co-captain, goalie Bri Keenan (E ’15), played every minute in goal last season while posting seven shutouts. The team’s third Class of 2015 member, Colleen Golja (E ’15), scored two goals while playing in every game for the Jumbos.
“All three seniors that graduated this past year were definitely integral parts of the team, [but] we’ve been working super hard to fill the roles that they played,” senior midfielder Rachel Terveer said.
“The class of 2015 taught us a lot [about leadership, commitment and teamwork] these past years … and we are ready to use that knowledge to strengthen our team,” Park said.
Tufts finished last season with an overall record of 12-5 with a 6-4 record in the NESCAC. Five of the top 20 ranked teams in the country play in the conference, with Bowdoin starting the season ranked No. 1, Middlebury No. 3, Tufts No. 9, Amherst No. 11 and Trinity No. 15.
“By playing tough teams early on, we can figure out what is working and what we need to focus on,” Park said. “It is a great conference to be a part of.”
The Jumbos will return a core of seniors who played as first-years on the national championship team and are ready to lead this season. Senior defender Alexandra Jamison was named to the All-Conference second team last season, and fellow senior midfielder Dakota Sikes-Keilp was a key contributor, with five goals scored and three assists. The team also will benefit from two dominant juniors, forwards Dominique Zarrella and Annie Artz. Zarrella led the team in points with 21, scoring nine goals and racking up three assists, while Artz was second in points with seven goals and two assists.
Looking ahead to this coming season, the Jumbos play both Bowdoin and Middlebury in October at home, where the team went 6-1 last season, as opposed to their 6-4 away record. Although Bowdoin and Middlebury are the highest ranked NESCAC teams, the conference is tough top to bottom.
“It’s great that the NESCAC is such a competitive conference,” Terveer said. “Playing against all of the strong conference teams really prepares us for difficult out-of-conference games and hopefully the post-season after that.”
The team enters the season with optimism that it can return to the national tournament and continue its winning tradition.