Field Hockey Knocks Off Defending Champs
Issue   |   Tue, 10/01/2013 - 23:51

The Jeffs had an important week and took the challenge head on, earning two crucial NESCAC victories to improve to 5-2 on the season.

The first win came over the formerly undefeated, No. 2-ranked Tufts Jumbos. Amherst hosted the defending national champions on Saturday, Sept. 28.

The Jeffs gained the lead early, striking just under three minutes into play. Amherst was able to earn a penalty stroke after a strong offensive drive that began with a steal from Katie Paolano ’16. Krista Zsitvay ’14 took the stroke for Amherst and was able to slip it past the dive of Tufts’ goalie Bri Keenan ’15 to give Amherst a 1-0 lead.

The lead doubled just over two minutes later as Amherst forward Madeline Tank ’15 scored off an assist from Paolano. The offensive drive began thanks to a steal downfield by midfielder Mary Margaret Stoll ’17.

The Jumbos were able to sustain a lengthy offensive attack consisting of three consecutive corners, but Amherst’s defense remained strong, stopping all three chances for Tufts.

Amherst would add to their lead halfway through the first half. Paolano made a scrappy play in front of the goal and was able to net a rebound off the shot of Madeline Tank ’15.

The Jeffs earned a series of corners to close out the half, but the opportunities did not prove fruitful. The score remained 3-0 heading into the break.

Tufts came out of the intermission hungry, looking to get on the board. They strung together a few corners, but the Amherst defense held steady, shutting down the attack. Defensive play was highlighted by junior Ellie Andersen’s goal line stand that kept Tufts off the board.

Amherst held the formidable Jumbo offense scoreless, as Rachel Tannenbaum ’15 had five saves on the day and earned her second shutout on the year.

The Jeffs were aware of the challenges they would face with Tufts.

“Coming into the Tufts game, we knew just what to expect from the defending national champions — they’re strong, confident and relentless,” Paolano, who was named NESCAC Player of the Week, said. “But we came out hard right at the first whistle, challenging their defense with our speed and aggression.”

Amherst had a quick turn around as they travelled to Bates (0-7) the following day.

Senior midfielder Alex Philie opened the scoring as she found the net, unassisted, from the top of the circle to give the Jeffs the 1-0 lead.

Paolano built on this lead just over a minute later, finding the net off a rebound.

The Jeffs would double their lead before the half was out. Zsitvay connected with Kerry Fusco ’15 in front of the net and she tucked the ball past the Bobcats’ keeper.

Zsitvay earned the assist on the fourth of goal of the day as first-year Sara Culhane netted the centering pass from the Jeffs’ senior forward. This gave Amherst a 4-0 lead heading into the break.

Two more insurance goals were added in the second half as Zsitvay had her third assist of the day, sending the ball to Paolano and allowing her to make a move past the goalie to give the Jeffs a 5-0 lead.

Cuhlane added one more for the Jeffs, as she gained control of the ball during a scrum in front of the net and scored unassisted.

Building off of their impressive win from Saturday, the Jeffs were able to impressively execute their offense on Sunday against Bates, as they notched a 6-0 victory and won their fifth consecutive game in the process.

“We were confident in our team chemistry,” Paolano said. “Our transition passes were quick and accurate, helping us to move the ball up the field and into the circle, where we found the back of the cage with ease.”

Jeffs’ keepers Tannenbaum and Emily Horwitz ’17 combined to earn the shutout. The win was Amherst’s fifth in a row and their third shutout of the season. Sunday’s game also marked the closure of the first half of the regular season for the Jeffs.

“We acknowledge the growth we’ve had throughout the first half of the season and set some goals for how we want to approach the second half of the regular season,” Coach Carol Knerr said.

Amherst now stands atop the NESCAC standings at 4-1 in NESAC conference play. The Jeffs will host Keene State on Thursday, Oct. 4 and travel to Hamilton on Saturday, Oct. 7.

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