Tufts Edges Bowdoin on Final Day of Season for Number-One Seed
HADLEY, Mass. – It was a thrilling finish to the regular season on Friday, as all five final games were decided by a single goal and three contests required overtime to determine a winner. When the dust settled, defending conference champion Tufts University earned the top seed in the 2010 NESCAC Field Hockey Championship thanks to a 1-0 victory over previously-unbeaten Bowdoin. The Jumbos, along with Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Amherst, have all earned the right to host a quarterfinal contest in this year's tournament, set to begin on Sunday, Oct. 31. All four games have a 1:00 p.m. start time.
Tufts (13-1, 8-1 NESCAC) knew heading into Friday's showdown with undefeated Bowdoin that whichever team won the match would capture the number-one seed for this year's tournament. Jumbo senior Tamara Brown (Annandale, Va.) scored what proved to be the only goal of the game with 15 minutes remaining in the first half in a 1-0 final. It is the second time in three years that Tufts has secured the top seed in the NESCAC championship. The Jumbos did it for the first time in 2008 yet fell in the championship to the Polar Bears. A year later, Tufts came in second during the regular season and ran all the way to their first conference crown over top-seeded Trinity. The Jumbos will begin their title defense on Sunday when they host eighth-seeded Bates (5-9, 2-7 NESCAC). The Bobcats are in the postseason for just the second time in the last five years thanks to a 2-1 win over Colby on Friday. In the only meeting between Tufts and Bates this season, the Jumbos scored five straight goals before the Bobcats answered en route to a 7-1 victory on Oct. 2, as Brown led her squad with three goals and an assist. Sunday's contest will be the first time these teams have faced one another in tournament history.
While Bowdoin (13-1, 8-1 NESCAC) had its bid for another perfect season spoiled by Tufts on Friday, the Polar Bears knew prior to the contest that they would be home on Sunday afternoon. Last fall, the Polar Bears went on the road in the first round for the first time ever, yet still managed to come away with a 3-0 victory at Amherst. Bowdoin returned to form this season, as the five-time NESCAC champs lead the league in goals per game (4.31), goals against average (0.46), and shutouts (nine). The Polar Bears will look to return to the semifinals on Sunday against seventh-seeded Connecticut College (7-7, 2-7 NESCAC). The Camels started off the season strong by going 5-1 over their first six games, but since the start of October they are just 2-6, including a 3-0 setback at Bowdoin on Oct. 2. Connecticut College closed out the regular season on the road on Friday, succumbing in double-overtime at Wesleyan by a 2-1 score. Although the Camels came close to reaching the semifinals last year, falling 2-1 to top-seeded Trinity in the quarters, they will need to bring their best game if they hope to upset the Polar Bears. Bowdoin won the only match between the two in tournament history, 1-0 in the first round of the 2001 championship.
Middlebury (11-3, 7-2 NESCAC) already knew well before the weekend that it had the third seed locked up in this year's playoffs; all the Panthers needed was an opponent. After turning in a lackluster September with a 2-3 showing, the Panthers have rolled to nine straight victories, most recently taking down Williams 2-1 in overtime on Friday. The 2003 NESCAC Field Hockey Champions begin their quest for a second conference crown on Sunday against last year's runner-up, sixth-seeded Trinity (8-6, 5-4 NESCAC). The Bantams needed a win at Amherst on Friday in order to have their own home first round game, but unlike the Panthers Trinity ended up on the wrong side of a 2-1 overtime decision. Trinity finished tied in the NESCAC standings with Wesleyan yet came up short to the Cardinals in the head-to-head comparison. The Bantams had similar fortunes as the Panthers this season, starting slow before making some noise in October. The Sept. 18 meeting between the two went to Middlebury by a 4-3 overtime score. This will be the second time the two have played each other in the NESCAC championship. The third-seeded Panthers earned a 4-2 victory over the sixth-seeded Bantams in the first round of the 2007 tournament.
Friday's overtime victory over Trinity meant that Amherst (11-3, 6-3 NESCAC) would host a quarterfinal contest for the third year in a row. Just because the fourth-seeded Jeffs are hosting doesn't mean it will be a smooth ride to the semifinals - a fact they know all too well. In 2008, Amherst lost at home to Trinity in the quarterfinals, 1-0, then fell to Bowdoin a year later by a 3-0 decision. The fall of 2010 may hold a different fate for the Jeffs, as they bring a high-powered offense and wins in 10 of their last 11 outings into Sunday's clash with fifth-seeded Wesleyan (10-4, 5-4 NESCAC). The Cardinals put together their best showing in conference play this season since 2005 - the last time they reached the NESCAC semis. After starting the season 6-1, Wesleyan is an even 3-3 over its last six, capping the regular season with a 2-1 overtime win over Connecticut College. Amherst won the sole contest against Wesleyan which took place nearly two weeks ago in Middletown, as two late goals allowed the Jeffs to overcome the Cardinals, 4-3. Sunday's game will feature the first meeting of the two in the NESCAC playoffs.
2010 NESCAC FIELD HOCKEY
Quarterfinals - Sunday, October 31 at Higher Seeds
No. 8 Bates at No. 1 Tufts - 1:00 p.m.
No. 7 Connecticut College at No. 2 Bowdoin - 1:00 p.m.
No. 6 Trinity at No. 3 Middlebury - 1:00 p.m.
No. 5 Wesleyan at No. 4 Amherst - 1:00 p.m.
Semifinals - Saturday,
November 6 at Highest Remaining Seed
11:00 a.m./1:30 p.m.
Championship - Sunday,
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.