Field hockey off to 3–0 start with wins over Babson and Bates

Senior forward Hanaa Malik fights for possession of the ball in Tufts' homecoming 3–2 loss to Middlebury on Oct. 7, 2017. Evan Sayles for Tufts University

This time last year, the Tufts field hockey team sat at 2–1, with a tinge of disappointment after a tough overtime loss against Babson. With its rematch last Tuesday, the No. 8 Jumbos had a direct chance to exact revenge and get off to a perfect start in their beginning trio of games this season.

They did just that, with a 4–2 win over the Bates Bobcats (0–3) and a 2–1 overtime victory over the Babson Beavers (5–1) in the past week. The wins keep the Jumbos’ perfect early season record intact and in a four-way tie at the top of the NESCAC in win percentage.

Saturday afternoon featured the first home game for Tufts’ young season at Ounjian Field in a NESCAC battle against Bates. While the Jumbos already had a leg up in conference play from defeating the Colby Mules in the season opener, the margins of NESCAC field hockey are thin that any given conference game has to be considered a must win.

The Jumbos showed that urgency from the opening minute, putting up an impressive 14 shots to the Bobcats’ four in the first half of action. These opportunities weren’t for naught, either, as the Jumbos struck first just after 12 minutes into the game. With the help of a penalty corner from junior midfielder Marguerite Salamone, junior midfielder Rachel Hamilton scored her second goal of the year.

Hamilton then returned the favor a mere minute later, as she set up junior forward Shannon Yogerst with her first goal of the new season. The Bobcats, unable to get much going on the offensive end, could do little about the onslaught of Jumbo attacks and had to fend off shot after shot.

With an offense that has continued to remain dominant in possession and shots, senior co-captain and forward Gigi Tutoni believes that the team’s conditioning was the key to the high-powered start.

“I think we’ve been able to keep [the offense] up just from our physical fitness,” Tutoni said. “Our team is so in shape that if we lose the ball we are able to get immediately back, sticks down and ready to play defense. The other teams are finding it very difficult to make it past our forward line and midfield.”

Right before halftime, Tufts turned a secure lead into a very secure one with another Salamone assist, her third of the season. This time the recipient happened to be first-year midfielder Claire Foley, who scored her first goal of her collegiate career, giving the Jumbos a 3–0 lead heading into the latter period.

The second half started with much of the same, as Tufts put up its fourth goal of the contest within two minutes of play restarting. This one featured an all first-year connection, as first-year midfielder/defender Marin Waddington assisted first-year midfielder/defender Sophie Schoeni in a Jumbo goal, which were the first collegiate points for both players.

Coach Tina Mattera sung the praises of the younger players and their ability to make quick contributions this early in the season.

“Our [first-year] class has just been really great,” Mattera said. “Claire Foley has been really impressive in practice so we decided to put her out there and give her a shot and she made a beautiful goal. Sophie Schoeni has impressed from the beginning and earned a starting spot at center-mid, and really stayed patient and put up an excellent goal as well.”

From that point on, Tufts held a relatively safe lead, but Bates did not go out without a fight. They scraped together two unassisted goals later in the half, courtesy of sophomore forward Bridget Tweedie and junior co-captain and midfielder Grace Fitzgerald. Senior goalkeeper Emily Polinski held steady, though, and the Bobcats were unable to make another dent in the Jumbo lead.

On Tuesday, the Jumbos traveled to Wellesley, Mass. to take on the Babson Beavers in a game that was surely marked on every player’s calendar before the season began. Last season, Babson handed Tufts an early-season overtime loss. With the opportunity to avenge that loss, the Jumbos took full advantage.

The first half proved to be a tight defensive battle, with the Jumbos only being able to put up five shots in the period. Conversely, the Beavers only put up one shot themselves, but that was all they needed to get on the board first. About 20 minutes into the game, first-year forward Lauren Curley scored off of a tip pass from junior forward Tori Roche.

The half fizzled out slowly, with no further score from either side. The second half began in a similar fashion, and all the way up until the 60th minute the Jumbos were unable to come up with an equalizer. That changed when a promising attack by the Jumbo offense could only be stopped by a foul within the penalty circle by the Beavers defense. Hamilton took the penalty, sinking it right into the back of the net for her first goal of the season.

Despite a few late attacks from the Jumbos, 70 minutes ended in a draw. The first 10-minute overtime period commenced, and Tufts picked up their attack once again. The Jumbos put up six shots in the nine minutes of overtime, while the Beavers did not even get one real chance at the goal.

With under a minute to go in the first overtime period, Tufts had probably one realistic shot left off of a penalty corner. Schoeni put up a fair shot that was deflected away by Babson first-year goalkeeper Cassidy Riley, but it found its way to the stick of Tutoni, who was able to deal the finishing blow and score the game-winning goal.

“The last [penalty corner] that we scored on was executed perfectly,” Tutoni said. “It was a beautiful insert, and Sophie Schoeni got a great hit on the ball. Unfortunately, the goalie made that first save, but it got behind her feet and she couldn’t see it, and we were able to flick it in for the goal.”

The victories put the Jumbos at 3–0 for the year, and should surely kick their Div. III ranking up from their No. 8 position last week. At 2–0 in the conference, Tufts is starting the season in the best way they can. They play four out of their next five games at home, with their next match coming on Wednesday against the MIT Engineers at 6:30 p.m.

That being said, Mattera believes that Tufts still has things to work on.

“We have to continue to try to finish better,” Mattera said. “We’ve gotta make sure we’re staying patient and trying to get the best looks we can once we’re near the goal.”


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