Field hockey remains atop NESCAC after pair of road wins

12/09/2017 - Medford/Somerville, MA - Midfielder Erin Sanders brings the ball forward in the 2nd period of the woman's field hockey home game against Babson at Ounjian Field on Sept 12. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily)

No. 4-ranked Tufts added two more in-conference wins over the weekend against Amherst and Hamilton to remain the only undefeated team in the NESCAC.

Senior forward Mary Travers talked about the experience of playing multiple conference games on the road over the weekend.

“They were two huge games going into the weekend. We were and still are the only undefeated team in the NESCAC. So winning those two games, they’re nationally ranked teams in the top 20 and also conference teams,” Travers said. “Going on the road is definitely a challenge, so we’re staying in a hotel room, we’re having a hotel breakfast and we’re not in the same rhythm, we don’t have our facilities. Definitely pushing through that and the super long bus ride and putting all that aside to just step out on the field and focus on what we need to do was huge.”

On Sunday, Tufts played on the road against Hamilton. The Jumbos fell behind early in this game, giving up a goal after just 13 minutes. This forced them to play from behind for most of the game. However, over the next 16 minutes Tufts didn’t allow a single shot on goal and managed to put four shots on goal themselves. Finally, on their fifth attempt, Tufts was able to find the back of the net when sophomore midfielder Marguerite Salamone scored on a shot assisted by junior forward Hanaa Malik — Salamone’s first goal of the season.

Just under three minutes later, senior midfielder Erin Sanders scored her first goal of the season as well, assisted by Salamone. Neither team scored in the second half of the game and the Jumbos managed to win their second game of the weekend. The Jumbos led in shots on goal, had nine more shots than the Continentals and earned two more penalty corners.

On Saturday, five minutes into Tufts’ game against Amherst, Travers scored on just her second shot of the game to give Tufts a 1–0 lead. The game then went almost 25 minutes without any scoring until first-year midfielder Beth Krikorian made a successful shot, earning the Jumbos a 2–0 lead. Tufts coasted on that lead for the rest of the game to a 2–0 victory as, once again, no goals were scored in the second half. Tufts had seven more shots on goal than Amherst in the game and managed to prevent them from capitalizing on any of their three attempts.

Travers stressed the importance for the team of setting a fast pace early in the game against Amherst.

“We always talk about the first five minutes of the game as a time when the tone is set, so our goal as a team is to come out and get a shot, corner or goal in the first five minutes,” Travers said. “Against Amherst, that is exactly what we did, and I think that we got them on their heels a little bit.”

In both games over the weekend, Tufts underclassmen delivered, with a goal and an assist from Salamone in the Hamilton game and a goal from Krikorian against Amherst. Despite being an upperclassmen-heavy team, the contributions from the younger players are important to demonstrate the base the Jumbos have in place for next year.

“I always say to the [first-years] that there is a point in the season where everything starts to click for them,” coach Tina Mattera said. “They know their routine and they know what’s going on, and I think that really happened last week. We only have four [first-years] but I pulled them aside after practice and told them that they all look great. They’ve always been playing really well.”

Travers and junior forward Gigi Tutoni are currently the leading scorers for the Jumbos, with five and three goals respectively for the season. Despite their large number of shots on goal, the Jumbos are largely struggling to convert their chances. Mattera spoke to the Jumbos’ need to finish their opportunities on goal.

“I think that we are getting shots, but [we need to work on] how we get quality shots and how we get them in the cage,” Mattera said. “Our conversion rate is terrible. I said to the girls last week that we were ranked number one in shots in the NESCAC and we were fifth in scoring, and then I just didn’t say anything.”

Up next, Tufts will face off against Middlebury (6–2, 4–1 NESCAC), which is currently ranked No. 6 in the country and No. 2 in the NESCAC, both slightly behind Tufts. It will be a key matchup to decide who has hold of the NESCAC this season, after Tufts defeated Middlebury last year in the NESCAC championship game. Travers described the team’s current preparation for the game, placing an emphasis on how they are adapting their style of play specifically to counter Middlebury.

“They are a super skilled and very technical team. Almost because of how technical they are they are fun to study so we are watching a lot of film and doing a lot of scouting,” Travers said. “We are designing our presses and our forward and our first line of defense to really mimic what they are doing, which has been really successful in the past.”