Field hockey stumbles vs. Tufts despite strong 2nd half

Field hockey (4-8, 2-6 in the NESCAC) faltered in the face of tough competition last week, losing 3-2 against Tufts on Saturday and 5-2 against Skidmore on Oct. 16. The women played strong second halves in each game but failed to overcome early deficits that ultimately proved insurmountable. On Oct. 13, the women fell to a fierce Bowdoin squad after topping Wesleyan on Oct. 12.

Tufts opened strong on Saturday, gaining several dangerous penalty corners in the first 10 minutes of play. The Jumbos’ attack came to fruition at 12:13 in the first half as Alexandra Jamison banged home a goal. A shot struck from outside the arc hit the goal post and deflected back into play, setting up an easy put-back scoring opportunity for Jamison.

However, the Ephs quickly answered the nationally-ranked Jumbos just minutes later. In a smooth transition to offense from the neutral zone, Caitlin Conlon ’15 received a pass in stride from co-captain Emily Jablonski ’14 and drove to the Tufts goal, pushing the ball past Jumbo goalie Bri Kennan at 14:52 in the first half.

With the game knotted at 1-1, Tufts’ defense stepped up its game and did not allow a Williams shot for the rest of the half.  Offensively, the Jumbos responded as well; at the 24:14 mark of the half, Emily Cannon found the back of the net after an offensive push resulting from a penalty corner. The Ephs were outshot 13-1 in the half and gained only one penalty corner to the Jumbos’ six. Goalie and co-captain Ariana Spiliotes ’14 highlighted a defensive effort that kept Williams’ deficit to only one at the half.

The second half was marked with much more parity, as the women matched Tufts in shots with both sides taking seven for the half. The Jumbos extended their lead at 51:29 of the half as Dakota Sikes-Kelip scored on a textbook penalty corner set play. Down two goals with less than 20 minutes to play, the Ephs continued to fight until the very last second when Jablonski scored an exciting buzzer beater. The effort, however, was too little, too late, as the women lost the match 3-2.

“We went into Saturday’s game with the mentality that we had nothing to lose,” Jablonski said. “We were playing the defending national champions and were the underdogs, but it didn’t feel that way during the game. They happened to capitalize on one more offensive opportunity than we did. It hurts to lose to a team like that because Tufts was talented but definitely beatable. We would love a chance to play them again in the postseason.”

On Oct. 16, the women hosted another top-ranked team, Skidmore. Williams fell behind early as Skidmore’s offensive pressure overpowered the women’s defense, despite several impressive initial saves from Spiliotes. The Thoroughbreds’ first goal came at 17:12 when Kelly Blackhurst tapped a rebound into the net for her first of three goals on the evening. Skidmore added one more before the half to take firm control of the game 2-0.

In the first 10 minutes of the second half, Blackhurst and the Thoroughbreds added two more goals to make the score 4-0. The Ephs did not give up, however, and scored two quick goals as they ramped up their offensive pressure. Abby Belcrest ’16 scored from the center of the arc, and Conlon tipped a shot from Annie VanWagenen ’16 into the net just minutes later. Once again, the women’s second-half effort proved to be ineffective as time wound down, and Skidmore pushed one more past Spiliotes to make the final tally 5-2.

The women were only outshot 17-14 and had eight penalty corners to Skidmore’s nine, but they failed to convert and take control of their offensive opportunities until late in the second half.

On Oct. 13, the women lost 5-0 to Bowdoin. The Polar Bears scored four first-half goals, and tacked on a fifth at 62:10, while a well-organized defensive line proved too strong for the Ephs. On Oct. 12, Williams took on Wesleyan, winning 2-0 after a brace by Conlon. Both goals were assisted by Jablonski.

The women will next host Bates on Saturday at 11 a.m.

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