It competed during the 2000-01 school year. It won a record number of games and set a record for NESCAC regular-season wins that still stands today. It defeated long-time power Middlebury in a double-overtime game. It bowed out early in the NESCAC tournament, but rebounded to make the finals of the ECAC New England Division III tournament.
Men’s lacrosse? Nope. While the 2001 team set countless records and blazed the way for today’s powerhouses, the team didn’t beat Middlebury in a double-OT game—in fact, the teams didn’t even meet during the season. The mystery team is the 2000 field hockey squad, which won 13 games (a team record) and won the ECAC New England Division III tournament, duplicating both feats from the previous year.
Cardinal field hockey finished with a losing record five times in six seasons from 1993 to 1998, but the 1999 season proved to be a sharp contrast to the previous sub-.500 years. The Cardinals jumped out to a 7-2 start and won their last five games to emerge as the ECAC New England Division III champions, finishing with a 13-4 record. The 13 wins broke the previous team record of 10, set in 1978 and duplicated in 1979.
The Cardinals picked up right where they left off in their final season of the 20th century. Wesleyan opened with a 3-2 overtime loss to Wellesley, its sixth loss in eight games against the Blue, but rebounded to defeat Mount Holyoke and Colby before a setback to perennial power (and 2007 national champion) Bowdoin. Following a victory over Elms, Wesleyan fell to Little Three rival Williams before rattling off seven straight victories, including a 3-2, double-overtime win over Middlebury, just the third in program history. A 2-1 loss to Amherst on penalty strokes snapped the streak and gave Wesleyan an 0-2 Little Three record, one of the few blemishes on the season. Wesleyan then fell to Tufts in the first round of the NESCAC tournament, 2-1, for its first two-game losing streak since Oct. 21 to 31, 1998.
However, Wesleyan was able to rebound in the ECAC tournament. The fourth-seeded Cardinals earned a 1-0 victory over Connecticut College in their fourth straight double-overtime game and knocked off Tufts 1-0 in Medford, avenging the earlier loss. (Both goals came off the stick of Laura Pfeiffenberger ’03). Wesleyan then defeated Clark 2-1 (in double OT) for the championship.
Remarkably, despite the talent, only one individual record was set during the campaign. Goalie Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi ’01 upped her career shutout total to 19, setting a record that stands today. Wesleyan gave up four goals only once (to Bowdoin); in addition, only two of the Cardinals’ 13 wins came by more than two goals (6-2 against Mount Holyoke and 5-0 against Elms). Strong play in goal has always been a hallmark of winning teams, and Wesleyan was no exception.
Conceivably, the ECAC tournament could be viewed as an also-ran compared to the more prestigious NCAA tournament, the Division III equivalent of the NIT. However, given the NESCAC’s long-standing ban on postseason play, simply qualifying for the playoffs, whether the NCAA or ECAC tournament, was a celebratory accomplishment. And as Wesleyan showed, an ECAC tournament berth can put the finishing touches on an historic season.