Field Hockey Edges Out Trinity in Season Opener
Issue   |   Wed, 09/14/2011 - 02:25
Alec Jacobson '14
Stephanie Clegg ’12 helped anchor the Jeffs defense against in a 1-0 win over the Bantams.

After being dropped from the national rankings Tuesday morning, the Lady Jeffs responded in style, making a strong case for their reinstatement with a huge 1-0 win over Trinity later that day. The Bantams were the 15th-ranked team in the nation, but Amherst came into the matchup with confidence, having won the last two matchups against Trinity.

Amherst’s lone goal came five minutes and 23 seconds into the contest, as Krista Zsitvaya ’14 capitalized on an early opportunity that ended up being the decider. Just as notable for Amherst was the outstanding effort by first-year Rachel Tannenbaum, who made eight saves on her way to shutting out the Bantams in her collegiate debut. Tannenbaum’s most impressive save of the evening came as she protected the Lady Jeffs’ lead in the second half, making a leaping stop to deny the Bantam’s Payson Sword an equalizer on a penalty shot.

In nosing out the victory, the Jeffs improved to 12-2 in the last 14 meetings between the teams. It was the sixth straight contest between the teams in which the outcome was decided by one goal.

Amherst and Trinity met in the regular season finale last year, with the Jeffs edging out the Bantams 2-1 in overtime. Both teams entered the game with identical 5-3 league records, but the victory propelled the Jeffs to a No. 3 seed in the NESCAC tournament.

The Jeffs open their home slate with a pair of NESCAC games at Gooding Field this weekend. Amherst will take on Bates this Saturday, then Middlebury on Sunday afternoon. Last year, the Jeffs defeated the Bobcats 5-1 in Lewiston, ME, but suffered a dispiriting 4-1 loss to Middlebury in mid-October. The setback in Vermont was Amherst’s only loss during an impressive 12-game stretch last season, as the Jeffs won 11 of 12 games after starting the season at 1-2.

The result of the Amherst-Middlebury game could help determine the balance of power in the NESCAC this season. The Panthers and Jeffs were two of the top teams in the conference last year, finishing in third (7-2 record) and fourth (6-3 record) place, respectively. Middlebury has also started the 2011 season with a bang, upsetting national powerhouse Tufts 3-2 this past weekend.

The Jeffs, however, said they remained focused on defeating Bates in their home opener. The Bobcats struggled last season, but surged into the 2011 campaign with a 1-0 victory over Williams last weekend, and may prove to be a pesky test for the Jeffs on Saturday.

“The NESCAC is incredibly competitive and anyone can beat anyone on a given day,” Dudzik said. “We are just trying to work as hard as we can to improve our stick skills, maintain our clean passing game, and foster the great team dynamic that we take so much pride in.”

Led by a strong returning core, the Jeffs have welcomed back their top four scorers and two best defenders from last year. Players have said that this year’s squad could contend for the program’s first NESCAC title. In 2010, the Jeffs came close to achieving that goal, but ended their season in gut-wrenching fashion, losing to Bowdoin 3-2 in overtime of the NESCAC semifinals.

“Although last year did not end up as we would have liked and we are certainly motivated to change that outcome this year, we are approaching this season as a fresh start,” Dudzik said. “We want to focus on what we can control as we move forward and try not to dwell on the past. We are just so excited to get going and work as hard as we can for the rest of this season.”