Field hockey: Tribe emerges victorious in overtime, clinches first ever CAA title

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COURTESY IMAGE / MARK CAMPBELL, CAA SPORTS

After William and Mary and Delaware both picked up wins in the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals, the two teams met in the CAA Championship for the second consecutive season. For the Blue Hens, it was their seventh straight championship appearance, having won the past five. In the regular season, the Blue Hens edged the Tribe in a game at Busch Field, 4-2. Sunday, the Tribe got revenge for the regular season loss, despite falling behind before halftime. The College came back to take the lead in the second half, before the Blue Hens were able to send the game to overtime. Nevertheless, the Tribe claimed its first CAA title, 3-2, on an goal by redshirt senior midfielder Estelle Hughes just under four minutes into the first overtime frame.

The game pitted the Tribe, who shut out Northeastern 2-0 in the semifinals, against the Blue Hens, who racked up eight goals against Hofstra in the semifinals. The Blue Hens offense dominated possession in the first few minutes of the championship and earned the first penalty corner of the game. In the sixth minute, forward Greta Nauck got a shot off of the penalty corner and put it on frame. Freshman goalkeeper Kimi Jones, co-Rookie of the Year in the conference, was up to the task and deflected the ball away from the net for her first save of the afternoon. As the half reached its midway point, the College managed to claim more of the possession. Junior midfielder Annie Snead nearly got a stick on the ball right in front of the goal, but the ball skidded by her stick harmlessly. As the half reached its final 15 minutes, the Blue Hens got their second penalty corner of the game. This time, they were unable to create a shot off of the corner, which was well-defended by the College. In the 27th minute, the Blue Hens had their second shot of the game. Forward Michaela Scanlon ripped a shot on frame, but Jones blocked the shot to preserve the scoreless tie.

However, the Tribe was unable to get to the half in a tie game. In the 33rd minute, Delaware withstood an offensive attack by the College and started a counter attack the other way. Defender Femke Strien got the ball at the top of the circle and fired a shot along the ground that found the corner of the goal. The College did manage to get off its first shot before the end of the half, as freshman midfielder Cara Menges ripped a shot on goal. It did not beat goalkeeper Sydney Rhodes, but earned the Tribe a corner. At the end of the half, Snead took the penalty corner, but the Tribe could not produce a shot. The Blue Hens took their 1-0 lead to the break.

The College’s offense came out strong in the second half.

The College’s offense came out strong in the second half, continuing its effort from the last two minutes of the first half. After the Blue Hens earned a penalty corner in the first minute of the half, the Tribe got the next three penalty corners, all of which were taken by Snead. On the last two, the Tribe was able to get a shot on goal. Hughes had both shots, but Rhodes was up to the challenge, preserving the 1-0 lead for the Blue Hens with 28 minutes to play in the championship game. However, in the 50th minute, the Tribe finally took advantage of a penalty corner. This time, junior midfielder Cassidy Goodwin took the corner. She passed the ball to Hughes who found junior midfielder Christie van de Kamp. The CAA Defensive Player of the Year fired a shot on frame, finally beating Rhodes to knot the game at one with 20 minutes to play.

With the game tied, the pace of play picked up and both teams had a significant amount of offensive pressure over the next ten minutes. It was the Tribe who broke through for the third goal of the game. In the 59th minute, van de Kamp distributed the ball to the College’s leading scorer, junior forward Woodard Hooper. Hooper recorded her 12th goal of the season to retake the team lead in goals and give the College its first lead of the championship game. As the clock ticked below the 10 minutes to play, the Blue Hens desperately tried to come up with a tying goal. They produced a flurry of shots and had three penalty corners in as many minutes. Jones came up with saves off of the first two corners, but the Tribe’s inability to clear the ball came back to haunt the College. On the third penalty corner, Nauck ripped a shot past Jones to tie the game with just over seven minutes to play. With the game tied again, this time at 2-2, the College took its timeout with 5:38 remaining in the contest. The College enjoyed a majority of the possession in the final five minutes, but it was unable to get a shot off and the game went to overtime tied at two.

The shot eventually nestled in the left corner of the net for the game-winning goal in sudden death overtime.

The first of two 10-minute overtime periods started with the College keeping most of the possession. The College earned its sixth penalty corner and Snead put a shot on goal, but Rhodes kept the Blue Hens alive with a save. After the Blue Hens tried to start a counter attack, the Tribe got the ball back and Menges ripped a shot towards the goal. However, the shot trickled wide of the left post for the College’s only shot that was not on target all game. Just seconds later, the College earned its seventh penalty corner of the afternoon. Goodwin inserted the ball, but the Tribe was unable to find a shooting lane initially. Hughes ended up with the ball on her stick and she moved towards the right side of the goal. Eventually, she ripped a shot along the ground that skidded past Rhodes. The shot eventually nestled in the left corner of the net for the game-winning goal in sudden death overtime. It was the All-CAA First Team honoree’s 12th goal of the season, re-tying her with Hooper for the team lead and allowing her career to continue.

With the victory, the College halted the Blue Hens five-year streak of CAA championships. The Tribe claimed its first CAA championship after previously being 0-4 in conference championship games. The College also grabbed its fifth overtime victory of the season in a program-record eight overtime games out of a total of 18 contests. With its first conference championship, the College secured the CAA’s automatic bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament. This will be the College’s third appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the previous two times being 2000 and 2002. The College lost its first game in the tournament each of the previous two appearances. The play-in round of the NCAA Tournament is on Nov. 7 and the first round begins on Nov. 9. The College will look to achieve another program first by winning its first NCAA tournament game in school history.