After losing the final game of the regular Field Hockey season to Bowdoin 2-0 on Saturday, the Cardinals entered the NESCAC tournament as the lowest seed of seven. With the top seed receiving a first round bye, the Cardinals traveled from Maine to Medford, MA, to face second-seeded Tufts University on Sunday. The Jumbos, ranked fifteenth in the nation, came out on top with a score of 1-0, beating the Cardinals for the second time this season.
In the first game of the weekend, the Cards faced a formidable opponent in Bowdoin. The Polar Bears are ranked first in the nation this year and are in the midst of an undefeated season, going 14-0 (9-0 NESCAC). They are also the two-time defending NESCAC field hockey champions.
Wesleyan was out-shot 24-2 in the game and trailed 15-1 in penalty corners. However, the Cardinal defense and goalie Breen McDonald ’10 were able to hold Bowdoin off the scoreboard until 20 minutes into the second period. Bowdoin added an insurance goal with just under ten minutes remaining. The game was Bowdoin’s thirteenth shut-out of the season while McDonald’s 14 saves were the most she’s had all season.
“Bowdoin is a really skilled and disciplined team,” said co-captain Adrienne Shea ’08.
“They have been blowing teams out all season and so we shifted our system to play them very defensively,” she added. “This meant we had less offensive opportunities but we played really solid defense and Breen had an amazing game.”
The next day Wesleyan faced Tufts in the first found of the conference playoffs. The two teams faced each other just two weeks earlier in a regular season game in Middletown. Tufts won that game 2-0 as their aggressive style of play and strong goaltending prevented any strong Wesleyan attack.
“Tufts is another really strong team this year,” Shea said. “We didn’t change our game plan—we just played them with our system. They are really physical, so we were definitely more prepared for that in the playoff game.”
Tufts displayed a strong defense again, not allowing Wesleyan to get a shot off on net. Meanwhile, the Jumbos offense racked up 13 shots in the game. The Wesleyan defense did a good job holding Tufts at bay for most of match.
The only goal came with just under ten minutes remaining in the first half. Jumbos forward Michelle Kelley ’10 redirected a free hit by teammate Margi Scholtes ’10. Her goal was Tufts forty-third of the season, setting a new program record.
The Cardinals had a slow start to the season, as they lost several tough games. However, they soon filled the holes in their play, leading to a six-game win-streak, which included three NESCAC wins. They finished the season with an even .500 winning percentage and finished 3-5 in conference play, good enough to earn a position in the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.
“I am really proud of how we grew as a team throughout the year,” Shea said. “Starting out 1-4, 0-3 in the NESCAC was very overwhelming and we worked hard to stay positive and focused. We were able to turn our season around and have some really great games.”
This year’s team showed great depth throughout the season. The Cardinals finished the year with nine different goal-scorers, two more than in each of the past two years. In addition, the Wesleyan defense conceded seven fewer goals than last season and eight less than in the 2005 season. McDonald represented a large part of the improved defense, and finished with the fourth most saves in the conference.
The Cardinals will look to have another strong season next year, despite graduating four starters. This season’s first years already made an impact as four of the eight freshmen started the playoff game. McDonald will return as one of the conference’s top goalkeepers with defenders Molly O’Connell ’09 and Emma Ram ’11 returning in front of her. Forwards Alexa David ’10, Hailey Sarage ’09, Jamie Thabault ’11 all had five or more points and will help lead the offense in 2008.