On the heels of its thrilling shootout victory against Salisbury Sunday and a dominant performance against Smith Saturday, Tufts is heading to the Final Four for the fifth time in the program’s history. Coach Tina Mattera’s program has been a force to reckon with in Div. III field hockey since her arrival, and now the Jumbos have a shot at making their fourth appearance in the title game and claiming their second national championship.
While the Salisbury-Tufts quarterfinal did not feature much scoring, Tufts’ supporters were treated to a spectacle of high-quality defense, a nerve-wracking finish to regulation time with Tufts down two players, a tense overtime period and a thrilling penalty shootout.
The Jumbos dominated the first 20 minutes, firing off shots and grabbing penalty corner opportunities early on. Salisbury sophomore goalkeeper Dom Farrace and her defense had quite the workload, blocking three shots and saving three more in a five-minute span.
Senior forward and co-captain Gigi Tutoni spoke to the team’s struggles to finish on scoring opportunities.
“It was just a super frustrating game,” Tutoni said. “Salisbury is a really athletic and tough team, so I think we were kind of flustered … I think it’ll be better next week since we’ll be playing on AstroTurf instead of field turf, and we aren’t used to going as slow as we did last weekend on field turf. But we definitely need to remember what happened last weekend and remember to keep our composure.”
The Salisbury Sea Gulls had their turn towards the end of the half, taking their first penalty corner of the game with under three minutes to go in the period. Salisbury junior midfielder Arielle Johnston ripped two promising looks out of the set piece, but both were blocked by the Tufts defense. The teams entered halftime scoreless.
Within the first two minutes of the second half, Farrace was back to work, saving shots from the sticks of Tutoni and first-year midfielder Gillian Roeca. The Jumbos had a serious chance to capitalize at the 46-minute mark with two Sea Gulls out with yellow cards, but back-to-back chances by Tutoni were once again stopped by Farrace.
A few more shots came off the sticks of the Jumbos, but none found the back of the net as Farrace stood tall throughout the second half. Salisbury, on the other hand, didn’t get a single shot in the second half, though they did have a dangerous chance with a few seconds left in regulation that amounted to nothing after a missed pass to a waiting Sea Gull forward.
Tutoni and senior midfielder Claire Trilling both received yellow cards with under five minutes to go in the half, meaning their five-minute penalties carried over into overtime. As overtime is played with only seven players aside, the Sea Gulls had an early 7-on-5 advantage.
“Finding a way to waste three minutes until we could get our full field back on was really smart,” senior forward Hanaa Malik said. “I think that everybody played some amazing hockey [in the overtime period], did their job and … gave it their all.”
The first overtime period was still all Salisbury. The Sea Gulls had five penalty corners in three minutes, with five shots to boot. First-year goalkeeper Andie Stallman saved three of these efforts, while the Jumbo defense blocked one. The Sea Gulls’ final shot of the period went high, sending the game into double overtime.
After a long game, neither team had much left in the tank, yet neither wanted to be the one to give up a goal after over 80 minutes of play. Outside of a shot from first-year midfielder/defender Sophie Schoeni that went wide, the only action that went down in the second overtime period were possession changes, leaving the game to be decided by penalty strokes.
Johnston went first for the Sea Gulls, sinking the first penalty shot. Senior midfielder and co-captain Fallon Shaughnessy followed suit, knotting the score at 1–1. Neither team was able to score in the next two rounds, leaving the score tied heading into the fourth round. A miss from Tufts and a goal from Salisbury made the score 2–1, with only the fifth round left.
Stallman had to save the next goal to survive, and Tutoni had to make the next one just to force a sixth round. The last time the Jumbos were in such a scenario was in the 2016 national championship game against the Messiah Falcons, in which the Jumbos fell short.
This time, though, the team came through.
“Our coach always makes us practice [penalty shots],” Tutoni said. “She … talks us up and has us put ourselves in that place of ‘this is do or die,’ so taking the shot there was just like taking one in practice, which made it a lot easier.”
In the sixth round, with Shaughnessy and Johnston back up to shoot, Shaughnessy sunk another shot, putting the game in Stallman’s hands. Stallman turned away Johnston’s shot, giving the Jumbos a 3–2 shootout victory and a Final Four berth.
Saturday’s game featured an offensive clinic by the Jumbos, as they attacked early and often, grabbing two goals within two minutes of each other after 16 minutes of action. A third goal in the second half was more than enough to put Smith away. The Pioneers were only able to put up five shots in the entire game, compared to the Jumbos’ 17. Tufts advanced to the quarterfinal with ease in a 3–0 win.
“[For] our Saturday games, we’re always really prepared,” Tutoni said. “We have a full week of practice where we look forward to just that game — we don’t really think about Sunday because if we don’t win Saturday there is no Sunday.”
After the weekend’s victories, the team will face Johns Hopkins in the national semifinal. The winner will take on the victor of Rowan-Middlebury in the national championship game on Sunday at 1 p.m. Action against Johns Hopkins starts at Saturday at 11 a.m.
Tutoni said that the senior class will be looking to end the season and their collegiate careers well.
“We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season,” Tutoni said. “We’re so blessed that we’ve been able to extend our senior season as much as we possibly could. At this point, it’s not about us anymore, it’s about winning this for our team … We have to do our part to make this the best ending for everyone, not just us. If we can do that, that will be the perfect ending to our collegiate careers.”
Malik echoed Tutoni’s sentiment.
“We want to go all the way — we want to win a national championship,” she said. “This is our last chance.”