Field Hockey Falls in OT to No. 1 Middlebury; Ends Season without At-Large Bid to NCAAs
Issue   |   Thu, 11/08/2012 - 20:03
Mark Idleman '15, Public Affairs Office
Katie McMahon ’13 ends her Amherst field hockey career as the leader in points (150), goals (56) and assists (38).

Field hockey’s season came to an end in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday, as the Lord Jeffs pushed first-ranked Middlebury to the brink before falling in overtime of the NESCAC semifinals, 3-2.

The 12th-ranked Lord Jeffs were then passed over for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, officially ending the season at 11-5 (6-4 NESCAC).

The Lord Jeffs knew they would have their hands full with undefeated Middlebury, who had yet to trail a single minute entering the game and had outscored their opponents 59-0 over their past eight games. Middlebury defeated Amherst in both the NESCAC and NCAA tournaments last year, and the team was out for revenge, as a win would all but guarantee a NCAA playoff spot.

Early on, it looked as if the Jeffs had brought their best game; even so, however, just as they predicted, they would be in for a battle. The first half was an even affair, with Amherst holding a slim 6-5 advantage in shots and winning five penalty corners. The team narrowly missed a golden opportunity to go ahead in the 15th minute, when a sloppy defensive giveaway left Krista Zsitvay ’14 barreling towards Middlebury goaltender Madeline Brooks all by herself. With a great effort by Brooks, however, Zsitvay’s shot was turned away. Later in the half, Katie Paolano ’16 narrowly missed batting the ball forward with the Middlebury defenders out of position before connecting on a shot that was blocked by a defender.

Around three minutes later, Middlebury took the lead. Off of a penalty corner, Lauren Greer, the nation’s leading scorer, smacked a low shot that skipped into the far corner past Rachel Tannenbaum ’15.

Middlebury had an apparent goal disallowed with minutes left in the half after the ball was judged to have gone over the endline in the play’s run-up, and the score stayed 1-0 heading into halftime.

Amherst came out strong in the second half, and the Lord Jeffs got on the board in the 39th minute when Madeline Tank ’15 turned in a rebound for the goal to snap Middlebury’s eight-game streak of not allowing a goal. It was the team-leading 12th goal for Tank, who has been remarkably efficient with a total of 40 shots on the year.

Middlebury responded off of another corner midway through the half. Greer’s shot was blocked, but the rebound was knocked in out of the air by a Middlebury forward. Amherst pressed forward but couldn’t find the net until there were under three minutes left.

Amherst was awarded a rare penalty stroke, and Zsitvay stepped up to take the shot. Middlebury brought in a substitute goalkeeper off the bench for the shot, but it was to no avail as Zsitvay fired into the net to tie Tank for the team lead in goals. The tie held, and the Lord Jeffs forced Middlebury into their first overtime game of the season.

Unfortunately, the Lord Jeffs were punished for allowing Greer another chance off of a penalty corner early into overtime. This time around, Greer sidestepped the defense before scoring into the far corner to send Middlebury to the final.

Amherst ended up outshooting Middlebury 12-11, as the Lord Jeffs gave the Panthers their toughest test of the year this far. Tannenbaum and Brooks recording five saves each.

With their NESCAC tournament dreams over, the team looked to earn one of seven at-large berths to the 24-team NCAA tournament field, announced late Sunday night. The Lord Jeffs had a strong case for inclusion given their high national ranking and the fact that all five of their losses came against top-20 teams, with four of those games going to overtime.

The tournament committee, however, passed the team over in favor of teams including Bowdoin and Tufts.

Saturday’s game was the last for four Amherst seniors who made it to the NESCAC semifinals the past three years. Co-captain Katie McMahon ’13 will leave Amherst with the career records for points, goals and assists.