After surviving and advancing from their respective Saturday games, the No. 6 Salisbury University field hockey team and No. 4 Tufts University met to fight for an NCAA National Semifinals berth on Sunday.
For both the Jumbos and the Sea Gulls, their last NCAA semifinals appearance came in the 2016 season. After Tufts defeated Salisbury 1-0 in that contest, the Jumbos went on to the NCAA championship game, only to fall short to Messiah 1-0 in double overtime.
The Jumbos were the only team of the four competing at Sea Gull Stadium during the weekend to not win their conference. Both of Tufts’ losses came to the 2018 New England Small College Athletic Conference champion and defending national champion No. 2 Middlebury. The Jumbos had an impressive resume coming into the tournament, having defeated five fellow nationally ranked NESCAC opponents.
“I think we play in the toughest conference in the country,” Tufts head coach Tina Mattera said. “It’s a chip on my shoulder as a coach to prove our conference is the best and that we can compete with anyone in the country. [Our conference games] really prepare us well for tournament play.”
Since falling to No. 7 The College of New Jersey (at the time ranked fourth) 3-0 at home, the Sea Gulls had won 11 straight games coming into Sunday’s matchup against Tufts. The Sea Gulls had outscored their opponents 40-6, recording seven shutouts over that span.
The Jumbos maintained control offensively throughout most of the first half, recording seven total shots and five penalty corners. Despite this, the Sea Gulls held strong on defense, not allowing a single first-half goal by Tufts. On defense, the Jumbos prevented Salisbury from getting a single shot on goal until the final two minutes of the first half.
The Sea Gulls and Jumbos went into the half scoreless. Tufts outshot Salisbury 7-2 in the first half. Salisbury sophomore goalie Dom Farrace made three first-half saves for the Sea Gulls to keep the game scoreless.
In the second half, Tufts continued to dominate on offense and defense by not allowing a single shot by Salisbury in the second half. The Sea Gulls’ defense in the second half still prevented the Jumbos from scoring. Both teams got multiple good looks in the final 20 minutes of the second half, but neither could capitalize.
With the game still scoreless at the end of regulation, the Sea Gulls were forced to venture into overtime for the second consecutive day. Entering today’s overtime, though, the Sea Gulls found a break.
Tufts had two players get yellow cards near the end of regulation, so the Sea Gulls started the first overtime up two players. Thanks to this, the Sea Gulls’ offense gained control and found success most of the first overtime period, getting five shots and five consecutive penalty corners. Despite all of Salisbury’s good looks, the Jumbos were able to prevent the Sea Gulls from scoring, sending the game into double overtime.
The Jumbos regained control offensively in the second overtime period. However, Salisbury’s defense still did not allow Tufts to score. The Sea Gulls regained momentum late in the second overtime period, having an untimed penalty corner that could potentially win the game.
The Jumbos knocked the shot away, ending the second overtime period and sending the game into a final shootout. This was the first shootout at the collegiate level for Salisbury’s Farrace.
“We definitely practice [penalty strokes] at practice,” Farrace said. “I believe I was ready for [the penalty strokes], and I left it all out on the field.”
At the end of the first round of the penalty shootout, Tufts and Salisbury were tied at 2-2 after each team had taken five total strokes. This meant that the next team to successfully score on the penalty stroke and have its goalie make the save would win.
Tufts senior midfielder Fallon Shaughnessy scored on Tufts’ sixth overall penalty stroke to put the Jumbos up 3-2. All Tufts needed to defeat Salisbury was for its freshman goalie Andie Stallman to make a save on Salisbury’s junior midfielder Arielle Johnston.
Stallman was able to make the save, clinching the Jumbos’ victory over Salisbury 3-2 in penalty strokes. Tufts was headed to the NCAA National Semifinals in Manheim, Pa.
“I was just trying to stay as calm as possible [going into penalty strokes],” Tufts’ Stallman said. “A bunch of my teammates came up to me before [the final shootout] and said that they believe in me and knew I could do it, and that really helped me.”
The Sea Gulls ended the 2018 season with a 17-3 record, their 21st Capital Athletic Conference title and advanced to the regional final.
“We left it all out on the field,” Salisbury head coach Dawn Chamberlin said. “It was a great effort. We worked really, really hard, it just didn’t go our way.”
The Sea Gulls will look back on their 2018 season with many conference accolades as well. Chamberlin received her 17th CAC Coach of the Year award, forward Tara Flavin was named Rookie of the Year and junior defender Jillian Hughes was named Player of the Year.
In total, nine Sea Gulls were named all-conference players. With only three seniors on the roster this season, a majority of this year’s squad will return in 2019.
By BRANDON STARK
Featured photo: SU goalie Dom Farrace makes a save against a Tufts forward. Nov. 11 (Marshall Haas image).