After entering the NESCAC Champions hips seeded 7th, the lowest in program history, the field hockey team (10-6, NESCAC 5-5) pulled off a dramatic upset on Saturday, beating No. 2 Tufts (11-5, NESCAC 8-2) 2-1 in the NESCAC quarterfinals. This win came just three days after losing to the Jumbos 3-0 in the last regular season game of the year.
“Both games, statistically, were very close. The Wednesday game, Tufts really executed all of their offensive opportunities, particularly on their corners, and they scored their three goals on their offensive quarters,” said Head Coach Nicky Pearson. “On Saturday I thought that defensively we played a lot better and we didn’t allow them the opportunity to score. The opportunities that we had, we scored on. So that really was the difference.”
The team not only avenged its Wednesday loss, but also staged a comeback within Saturday’s game itself. Going into the second half, the score was 1-0 in Tufts favor, but a goal from Elizabeth Bennewitz ’19 in the 39th minute tied the score up, with another goal from Emma Stevens ’20 in the 53rd minute cementing the Polar Bear’s win.
Captain Juliana Fiore ’18 credits not only these goals, but also great efforts from the defense and goalie for the team’s win. Goalie Maddie Ferrucci ’21 finished the game with five saves compared to Tufts’ three.
“I think the first half it was a little bit frantic, but then we calmed down, found our groove,” said Fiore. “We stood strong defensively, stood on our heads, they had a lot of defensive corners. Our goalie made some great saves. One of our goals was off of one two corners that we scored, so great execution there, and the other goal was a transition all the way from the back field.”
The win makes Bowdoin the third No. 7 seed in NESCAC field hockey history to advance to the semifinals.
“It was a huge win for the team, and we knew going into the tournament that the stakes are always higher. I thought that the team really rose to the occasion and it was by far the best game we’ve played all season,” Pearson said.
Despite the Polar Bears’ lower ranking, Fiore believes that no team had a strong advantage.
“I didn’t think Tufts was much stronger of a team even though they were ranked second. I think we see ourselves as being one of the top teams of the NESCAC—100% a contender for the NESCAC,” she said. “We’ve won it in the past. We have to be confident in our coach, and our ability and how much we’ve improved this season.”
The team has the same mentality going into the game against No. 1 Middlebury. The Panthers are currently on a ten-game winning streak and looking to advance to their seventh straight semi-final game. When the two teams faced off earlier in the season, the game went into double overtime and the Panthers came out with a 1-0 win.
“Everyone’s really excited … I’d say [our regular season game against Middlebury] was one of our best games. We played tremendously defensively as well, really limiting their opportunities. We also were really patient in that game with our swings and looking up the field for an opening,” Fiore said. “I’m excited to play a really good game of field hockey, it’s going to be a physical, strong battle and hopefully we can come out on top.”
One of Middlebury’s greatest strengths is its offense. Currently, it has the top offense in the league, with 37 goals compared to Bowdoin’s 19.
“They’re obviously playing very well at the moment, they’re a fast and skillful team … so I think we’re going to have to just match their athleticism and skill, and play well defensively and make sure that we execute all of our offensive chances,” said Pearson.
Last year, Middlebury beat Bowdoin in the quarterfinals, ending Bowdoin’s season. This year, Fiore believes that the team is trying not to focus on Middlebury, but instead focus on reaching the championship.
“We always want to beat Middlebury,” she said. “I’m not really thinking about last year very much, I’m thinking about our game this year more because I’ve played Middlebury countless times in my career and it’s always a close game. I think rather than thinking of last year, it’s just a push to get into the NESCAC championship again.”
The team will travel to face off against the Panthers on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Horace Wang contributed to this report.