Field hockey remains hot despite overtime loss to No. 1 Middlebury

Sophomore midfielder Beth Krikorian possesses the ball during Tufts' 8–0 win over Wellesley at Ounjian Field on Oct. 10. Max Lalanne / The Tufts Daily
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It was an up-and-down week for No. 3 Tufts after it dropped an important matchup against No. 1 Middlebury in overtime before defeating out-of-conference Wellesley on Wednesday night. Overall, the Jumbos are now 9–1 on the season, with a 5–1 conference record that puts them in second place in the NESCAC.

On Wednesday, Tufts scored eight goals for the second time this season to defeat visiting Wellesley. The Jumbos quickly took a 2–0 lead within the first nine minutes of play. Senior forward and co-captain Gigi Tutoni scored Tufts’ first seven minutes in, and first-year midfielder Gillian Roeca doubled the lead with a shot that rolled under sophomore goalkeeper Janelle Sullivan.

Tutoni extended the Jumbos’ lead 12 minutes later, knocking the ball in after Sullivan deflected a shot from junior forward Rachel Hamilton. Shortly thereafter, Hamilton fired a shot from the left side off a penalty corner pass from junior midfielder Marguerite Salamone to bring the tally to four. Hamilton scored again in the 28th minute, this time assisted by Roeca.

Tufts kept the offensive pressure on for the entirety of the first half, outshooting Wellesley 24–0 in the half and rarely allowing the visitors any offensive chances.

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“I think we were working really well together,” coach Tina Mattera said. “I was really happy with the passing in the backfield and possession. We really started to see the open lanes, and we were really smart with our passes.”

The second half proved to be more of the same, as Tufts put up another three goals on 23 shots. First-year midfielder Claire Foley assisted Roeca for her second goal of the day, four minutes into the half. With seven minutes remaining, junior forward/midfielder Brigid Gliwa received the ball from Roeca off of a penalty corner and hit a high, looping shot that found its way into the back of the net. Junior midfielder Julia Todesco brought the final score to 8–0 with a little over two minutes left.

“I think we played well as a team and we kept possession, which was good, and scored early, which was big for us and [a] goal for us going into the game,” senior midfielder and co-captain Fallon Shaughnessy said. “I think going forward, we definitely want to play at a really high pace, so I think that’s something we continually strive for to work on and be better at.”

On Saturday, the Jumbos traveled to Vermont to take on the No. 1 Middlebury Panthers in a more competitive contest, as the visitors lost in overtime in an annual mid-season matchup between two perennial powerhouses.

Tufts let Middlebury get off to a quick start — a mistake the team had suffered from on Homecoming weekend — as Middlebury junior midfielder Marissa Baker scored from the back of crease in the fourth minute off a penalty corner pass from senior forward Grace Jennings.

“I kind of laid into the team about it the other day and just said we [were] not ready,” Mattera said. “You have to be focused and you have to play 70 minutes of hockey … [That mistake] can’t happen anymore.”

A few minutes later, Tufts managed to generate a few penalty corners back to back but could not capitalize on the opportunity. Finally, in the 24th minute, the Jumbos earned their third penalty corner of the half and scored their first and only goal of the game. Salamone connected with Shaughnessy, who tapped the ball over to sophomore midfielder Beth Krikorian. Krikorian controlled the ball, and her shot went beneath the left post for her fifth goal of the 2018 season.

The rest of the first half proved to be a defensive battle, and the second half continued with more of the same strong defense for both teams. The Jumbos’ defense — led by senior defender and reigning NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year Issy Del Priore — did not allow the Panthers a penalty corner for the entirety of the second half while also limiting the Panthers to just two shots.

The Jumbos were limited to just one shot in the second half themselves, though, with few good scoring opportunities. Tutoni tried to push the pace on offense at several points throughout the half but was stopped by Middlebury’s strong back line.

The Tufts defense made a big stop in the final four minutes of play, when Jennings’ cross was deflected away. After taking a timeout in the 66th minute, Tufts failed to capitalize on a penalty corner as time ran out.

In overtime, the Panthers made quick work of a fatigued Jumbos squad. A little over a minute into the extra period, sophomore defender Meg Fearey pushed the ball upfield past the Jumbos defense and passed the ball to fellow sophomore defender Erin Nicholas, who fired a shot past senior goalkeeper Emily Polinski.

“It was definitely a tough loss, but those are the games you want to be in,” Shaughnessy said. “We’re determined to play them again. We love playing them and want to play them again. We’ll hopefully see them in NESCACs, so we’re eager to have a rematch.”

Despite the loss, Mattera said that her team’s performance was promising.

“We had a really good game plan, and I thought we implemented it really well,” Mattera said. “I was super proud of the team, and so it was such a bummer to lose. But I took away that, if they’re the No. 1 team in the country and they’re defending national champs, we can beat anybody on our best day if we play our best game.”

Tufts hopes to maintain and solidify its high national ranking with a pair of NESCAC games on the road this weekend, facing off against Conn. College on Saturday and Trinity on Sunday.

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