Fired-up field hockey answers the call at Tufts

Head Coach Alix Rorke rarely gets angry at her field hockey team, but when the situation calls for it, she will not hesitate to let her team hear about it if they are not playing well.

Such was the case on Saturday against Tufts, as Rorke delivered a fiery speech to the Ephwomen during a timeout because they looked lackluster at the start. Whatever she said worked, as Williams (9-1; 6-1 in the NESCAC) scored twice in the next four minutes en route to a 2-1 victory over the Jumbos.

“Alix [Rorke] really wasn’t happy with how we were playing,” tri-captain Moonjoo Han ’03 said. “She said that we weren’t playing with intensity and that we needed to control the game. We needed to be more disciplined and control how we play.”

The message was heard loud and clear. Moments after the timeout, Tara Boyd ’05 got the Ephs on the scoreboard with an unassisted goal. Boyd’s fourth goal of the year was just the start of the Ephs’ offensive onslaught, as they went up 2-0 only four minutes later. Tori Scott ’04 made a gorgeous pass to co-captain Stef Noering ’03 in the circle and Noering banged it home for her team-leading eighth goal of the season.

“Tori made a really nice pass,” Noering, who missed a second goal when her blast hit the post, said. “We had a lot of other opportunities but we just couldn’t score.”

Aside from Noering’s near-miss, the Ephs, who came into the game ranked 19th in the country, pressured the Jumbos relentlessly in the offensive zone, out-shooting Tufts 13-2 on the game.

If it had not been for some suspect corner play, the final margin would have been much greater.

“Our corners weren’t that effective today,” Noering said. “We had a new play that worked last game that didn’t work today at all.”

Defensively, the Ephs were not tested much, but when the Jumbos threatened, tri-captain Leanne McManama ’03 and company cleared the ball time and time again.

Goalie Wendy Stone ’05 had to make only one save, and allowed the single goal to Lea Nepolitano early in the second half.

A week earlier, the Ephs played perhaps their best game of the season in a 3-1 domination of the Middlebury Panthers. Despite a steady rain and a soggy field, the faster Ephs ran circles around Middlebury all day.

“The team was really in synch [against Middlebury],” Rorke said. “It was a total team effort.”

Boyd, Noering and Scott each scored as the Ephs dominated in all facets of the game. Middlebury avoided a shutout with a meaningless goal in the last five minutes, but the message had already been sent.

“We really laid the whoopin’ on them,” Han said. “It was one of our best games of the season.”

A mere two minutes into the game, Scott and Jaye Gregory ’06 assisted on Boyd’s goal to give the Ephs the early lead. Williams continued to pepper the Panthers with shots, and Noering finally gave her team an insurance goal late in the half. Scott tallied her second assist, as she made a nice feed to Noering inside the circle.

Her teammates finally returned the favor to Scott in the second, when Molly Jennings ’04 fed her in the circle to put the Ephs up 3-0.

“We have really been working on utilizing our corners,” Rorke said. “All the hard work showed today, as we had two of the goals coming off penalty corners.”

Stone made seven saves and allowed only the one goal by Channing Weymouth. Middlebury goalie Jo Opot had 11 saves. Jennings also had a solid all-around day for the Ephs, making plays all over the field.

“Molly Jennings really stood out today,” Rorke said. “She played extremely well both offensively and defensively.”

Scott also stood out, as she was named NESCAC Player of the Week for her performance against Middlebury.

Having won seven in a row, the Ephs are now tied with Bowdoin for first place in the NESCAC.

Thursday the Ephs travel to Springfield before heading to Amherst on Saturday for a showdown with the Lord Jeffs. Rest assured, a pep talk won’t be needed from Rorke for that match up.