Tufts Caps Historic Regular Season with Top Seed for First Time
HADLEY, Mass. - With a 9-0 conference record, Tufts University has captured the top seed for the first time ever heading into the 2008 NESCAC Field Hockey Championship. The undefeated Jumbos will host a quarterfinal contest on Sunday, Nov. 2 at 1:00 p.m. along with Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Amherst, as the championship format has changed for 2008 from a seven-team field with the top seed earning a first round bye to an eight-team tournament. The highest remaining seed after the quarterfinals will earn the right to host the semifinals and championship on Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 8-9.
Top-seeded Tufts (14-0, 9-0 NESCAC) had a historical regular season. The Jumbos finished atop the conference standings for the first time and broke the previous record of wins in a season (13) by traveling to Bowdoin in a winner-take-all match and upending the Polar Bears 4-3 on Friday afternoon. The Jumbos have the most potent offense in the conference, scoring three or more goals in 11 of their 13 wins this season. Tufts will host eighth-seeded Colby (5-9, 2-7 NESCAC) in the quarterfinals on Sunday in a rematch of the 5-0 Jumbo victory on Sept. 13 in Medford, Mass. The Mules fell 3-2 in overtime at Bates on Friday, putting them in a three-way tie along with the Bobcats and Connecticut College for seventh. Bates edged both teams for the seventh seed with a 2-0 head-to-head record, while Colby captured eighth with a win over the Camels. These two teams have never met in the conference tournament. Tufts has reached the semifinals in each of the last two years, while Colby is making its first appearance in the playoffs since 2004.
Second seed and defending NESCAC and NCAA champion Bowdoin (12-2, 7-2 NESCAC) came up short in its bid for a fourth consecutive number-one seed in the championship. The Polar Bears, who earned the head-to-head tie-breaker advantage over Middlebury for the second spot, had hopes of another undefeated regular season derailed by Trinity on Oct. 18, falling 2-0. Bowdoin still had a shot to earn the top spot in the conference during Friday’s showdown with Tufts, however it could not overcome the Jumbos. The Polar Bears will host Route 196 rival and seventh seed Bates (6-8, 2-7 NESCAC) on Sunday afternoon. The Bobcats got a win when they needed it most, overcoming a 2-1 halftime deficit to Colby to claim a 3-2 overtime victory on Friday and reaching the postseason in the process. In the only meeting of these two teams this season, Bowdoin won by a convincing 6-0 score on Sept. 17 in Brunswick. The Bobcats and the Polar Bears have never faced each other in championship play. Bates returns to the tournament for the third time (2002, 2004) having never won a tournament game, while Bowdoin has won the last three conference crowns and four overall (2000).
Third-seeded Middlebury (12-2, 7-2 NESCAC) will have a very familiar opponent in sixth-seeded Williams (6-8, 3-6 NESCAC). The two battled through regulation and an overtime period on Friday evening in Williamstown, Mass. before the Panthers were able to tally the game-winner with time winding down in the second overtime for a 3-2 victory. Middlebury heads into Sunday’s rematch riding a five-game winning streak and outscoring opponents by a 23-3 margin. Williams, on the other hand, has lost each of its last three games in overtime and has only one win in its last five matches, a 2-1 decision at Colby on Oct. 19. In the all-time tournament series between the two, the Ephs hold a 3-1 advantage over the Panthers, with all three Williams victories coming in overtime. Williams has won NESCAC titles in 2001, 2002 and 2004, while Middlebury’s lone conference crown came in 2003.
The final first round matchup will also feature opponents that faced each other on the final day of the regular season, fourth-seeded Amherst (10-4, 6-3 NESCAC) against fifth-seeded Trinity (11-3, 6-3 NESCAC). The Jeffs’ 1-0 overtime win at the Bantams on Friday evening gave them the head-to-head tie-breaker along with the final home game in the quarterfinals. Aside from Tufts, Amherst has been one of the hottest teams as of late, winning its last six outings. Trinity, meanwhile, was poised to make a run for the league’s top spot but fell in overtime in its last two conference contests. These two squads have never competed against one another in tournament history. While the Bantams are making their third consecutive championship appearance, they have yet to reach the semifinals. The Jeffs hope to make it to the round of four for the second time in three years.
2008 NESCAC FIELD HOCKEY
Quarterfinals - Sunday, November 2 at Higher Seeds
No. 8 Colby at No. 1 Tufts - 1:00 p.m.
No. 7 Bates at No. 2 Bowdoin - 1:00 p.m.
No. 6 Williams at No. 3 Middlebury - 1:00 p.m.
No. 5 Trinity at No. 4 Amherst - 1:00 p.m.
Semifinals - Saturday, November 8 at Highest Remaining Seed
11:00 a.m./1:30 p.m.
Championship - Sunday, November 9
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.