Wellesley field hockey came into the NEWMAC tournament with high expectations after winning the conference championship last year and earning a No. 10 national ranking this season. On Saturday, the Blue faced the Babson Beavers at the Wellesley Outdoor Fields Complex in the NEWMAC semifinal game and won 4-1. Midfielder Nikki Sharkin ’17 set the pace for the Blue, scoring two goals in the first 10 minutes of play. Anissa Sridhar ’16 and Meghan Peterson ’15 each scored a goal in the second half, securing Wellesley’s spot in the final game of the NEWMAC tournament the next day. Sunday’s championship featured the Blue and the Mount Holyoke Lyons in a rematch of last year’s conference final.
“After a great week of practice, we came into the game and the entire NEWMAC tournament confident in our team’s ability to defend our title and get the job done on our turf. Earning home-field advantage in the game and the tournament as a whole is a huge advantage to us, and we were proud to have worked all season to earn that,” Hannah Flesch ’16 said after Sunday’s game.
The Blue came into the championship with a 17-2 overall record and ready to take the NEWMAC title for the second consecutive year.
Sunday’s game was full of energy from Blue fans, and the balmy, 55 degree weather could not have made for better playing conditions. The stands were full of Blue pride and cheering from the start of the game as the Wellesley field hockey team looked to repeat last season’s outcome.
“We have a long rivalry with Mount Holyoke, so we knew it would be a tough game and we had to come out strong,” said Sharkin.
The first half of the game was as tough as anticipated for both the Blue and the Lyons. Each team relied heavily on its defense to keep the first half scoreless. Wellesley and Mount Holyoke both recorded three shots on goal by the 35 minute mark, while the Lyons led the half in penalty corners with four compared to Wellesley’s three. Solid play by both goalkeepers left Blue fans on the edge of their seats going into the scoreless halftime.
Wellesley’s defense was the driving force in the second half of the game, creating several interceptions to continue a shut out of the Lyons. The second half involved more physical play than the first half, with Mount Holyoke’s Christine Ianni receiving a green card in the 64th minute of play. Ianni, a forward, tripped Sharkin with her stick in an intense chase for possession, but the Blue maintained ball control for the rest of the half, leading Mount Holyoke in both shots on goal and penalty corners. Despite their strong play in the backfield and an offensive advantage, the Blue were unable to convert and finished regulation time in a draw.
With the tied score of 0-0, the game went into a seven on seven sudden death overtime. The seven Blue players endured several battles for possession, and their hard work paid off in the seventh minute of overtime when they were given their fifth penalty corner opportunity of the game. Midfielder Sridhar quickly passed the ball to Flesch, who then scored the game-winning goal for the Blue. The crowd erupted in cheers, and the entire Blue field hockey team stormed the field, ecstatic over their second consecutive NEWMAC title.
“The highlight of the game was the OT period because we controlled the field for the most part. After drawing five corners, we knew we had the game,” Flesch reflected after scoring the go ahead game-winner.
After the celebration on the field, the Blue were awarded the NEWMAC trophy, and defender Meghan Peterson ’15 was named the NEWMAC tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“When I first heard my name called, I was really surprised to be honest. I don’t think I would have [the award] if it wasn’t for the other 18 girls standing behind me,” said Peterson after accepting her award on Sunday. “Our team excelled most at keeping our composure and constantly believed that we would be the winning team.”
The Blue finish the NEWMAC tournament with a record of 18-2, matching last year’s record in wins. The Blue hope to increase this number as they advance to the NCAA tournament this weekend. Sunday’s nail-biter victory sent the Blue to the second round of the NCAA tournament in Salisbury, Maryland, where they will face the winner of Juniata College and Gwynedd Mercy University’s first round matchup on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Photo by Bianca Pichamuthu ’16, Photography Editor