By EDEN LITTRELL ’14
Sports and Wellness Editor
Three Wellesley teams this fall fell just a bit short in their conference championships and had to settle for second place, but not Blue field hockey. The team continued its stellar season and broke the pattern, coming out on top in a thrilling 1-0 overtime win in the finals.
Field hockey headed into the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament as the first seed in the conference, but both Babson on Nov. 9 and Mount Holyoke on Nov. 10 made Wellesley work for the victory.
The Blue won Saturday’s semifinal against the Babson Beavers 3-2. Babson scored first, less than seven minutes into the first half. The conditions were cold and windy, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the large group of supporters who had come out for both teams.
Captain Kaitlyn Kirkaldy ’14 was determined to get the Blue back into the game and was a force on defense, stopping Babson attacks and launching Wellesley back toward the Babson goal. Wellesley soon scored two goals in quick succession, one by Anissa Sridhar ’16 24 minutes into the game and one by Nathalie Gruet ’15 off an assist from Nikki Sharkin ’17. Possession continued to shift throughout the first half, with neither team truly gaining the upper hand as Babson’s aggressiveness disrupted the Blue’s usual smooth play. Babson managed to stop the Wellesley onslaught for the remainder of the half, and Wellesley went into the break up 2-1.
Babson came into the second half strong, but Wellesley kept them at bay. Gruet scored another goal 15 minutes in, giving Wellesley a two-goal lead. Babson responded with a goal 12 minutes later, but it was too little, too late. Goalkeeper Brit Mscisz ’14 contributed five saves in the close game.
It was still cold during Sunday’s match against the Mount Holyoke Lyons, but Wellesley came out of the gate red hot. Mount Holyoke matched this intensity, and the game remained scoreless over long minutes in the first half. Wellesley dominated possession, winning five penalty corners in contrast to the Lyons’ two, but the scoreboard remained unchanged.
The second half was the same story. Wellesley dominated, but was unable to get past the Holyoke defense or goalkeeper. Sridhar made constant breakaway attacks throughout the half, but to no avail. The game then went into overtime, which means play switches from 11 versus 11 to seven versus seven.
“I wasn’t worried at all. Seven versus seven play is our game since we do it in practice all the time. We utilized the extra space really well and took advantage of it,” Mscisz said.
Less than 90 seconds into overtime, Sridhar’s persistence paid off. She tipped in the ball off an assist by Hannah Flesch ’16.
Mscisz made two saves, along with many clearance kicks outside the scoring circle, and Holyoke goalkeeper Liz Dicesare was a standout player for the Lyons with nine saves.
“It’s Wellesley’s first time winning [NEWMAC] since 2002 so it’s a new and exciting feeling for the current members of the team,” Mscisz said.
Coach Julia King, who won Coach of the Year in the NEWMAC for field hockey this season, was pleased with her team’s performance.
“It is a really great feeling to achieve the goal we set at the beginning of the season, which was to win the NEWMAC championship,” she said. “Every member of the team has played a huge role in our success this season and I am just really happy for the team.”
The victory in the NEWMAC Championships means that Wellesley automatically qualified for the NCAA Division III Tournament. This is the first time in seven years the Blue will compete at NCAAs.
“We are so excited to go to NCAAs. We are really looking forward to the experience and can’t wait to keep playing,” Kirkaldy said.
Field hockey received a first-round bye in the tournament and will play the winner of the Nov. 13 match-up between Ursinus College and Wilkes University on Saturday, Nov. 16.
Eden is a senior who does not have, nor desire, a twitter. She can frequently be seen at the KSC harassing hardworking coaches for quotes and training for the zombie apocalypse.