Field hockey: Tribe qualifies for NCAA tournament with 3-2 victory over Monmouth

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Courtesy image / TRIBE ATHLETICS

William and Mary welcomed Monmouth to Busch Field Nov. 7 in a crucial play-in game for the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. The winner would earn a first round matchup against top-seeded North Carolina Nov. 9. The Tribe looked to continue the momentum from its Colonial Athletic Association title clinching run, when it defeated Northeastern and five-time defending conference champion Delaware in the CAA tournament last weekend.

The College entered on a three-game win streak. The Hawks came in even hotter, winning their past five games and clinching the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title by defeating Sacred Heart and Fairfield in the conference tournament. Despite falling behind on two occasions Wednesday, including once with less than ten minutes left in the game, the College (12-7, 5-1 CAA) picked up this season’s sixth overtime victory to complete a 3-2 comeback over the Hawks (13-7, 5-0 MAAC) and advance to the NCAA tournament.

The Tribe put on offensive pressure in the opening minutes, resulting in an errant shot from senior midfielder Jenny McCann in the second minute of the game. Neither team formed a strong offensive attack in the first six minutes, despite the College holding most of the possession. Nevertheless, in the seventh minute, Hawks forward Kelly Hanna led a charge up the field, assisting across the net to forward Georgia Garden Bachop for the Hawks’ first goal of the game. Freshman goalkeeper Kimi Jones, the All-CAA Rookie of the Year, tried to cut off the attack, but Hanna was able to push the ball past her, leaving an empty net for forward Garden Bachop.

The game turned into a back-and-forth battle, resulting in few shots on goal. Sophomore midfielder Ella Donahue found the back of the net 14 minutes into the half, but the shot came from outside the circle and was therefore disallowed. Three minutes later, the College continued to ramp up the offensive pressure, as senior midfielder Estelle Hughes created two shots inside the circle, but goalkeeper Kate O’Hogan saved both to preserve the Hawks’ 1-0 edge.

The Tribe kept the Hawks on their heels throughout the middle of the first half, but O’Hogan seemed unbreakable. The Hawks’ goalkeeper’s first major test was a Tribe penalty corner 23 minutes into the first half. The Tribe converted for its 21st penalty corner goal of the season. Junior midfielder Annie Snead took the corner and darted towards the left post, where junior midfielder Christie van de Kamp hit her with a pocket pass for a point-blank shot. With O’Hogan drawn out of her goal to defend a potential shot by the CAA Defensive Player of the Year, Snead received the pass and slammed home the shot to even the score at one.

“It was really frustrating at the beginning, because no matter how hard we tried we just couldn’t convert.” Hughes said. “After we scored off our corner, it helped us settle into our game again. I think from there it was a weird game, but we managed to work our hardest the whole time and finally got there.”

The Tribe’s offensive pressure would earn them favorable position on the field, but the Hawks held steady, constantly pushing the College back to the midfield. The Tribe created a few more scoring chances late in the first half, but was unable to take its first lead of the play-in game. The College’s efforts were rewarded by a penalty corner to end the first half, but the Hawks did not concede a goal this time. The score remained 1-1 going into halftime.

Tribe freshman goalkeeper Kimi Jones, who faced scant pressure in the first half, came up with her first save of the game two minutes into the second half, stopping a shot by forward Annick van Lange. The Hawks found varied success in their offensive half to start the second half. The Hawks earned their first penalty corner attempt of the game in the 42nd minute, but the Tribe thwarted it and immediately responded with an attack up the field, forcing a foul and a penalty stroke for junior midfielder Cassidy Goodwin. However Goodwin could not direct a shot on frame and hit the left post of the goal, keeping the score level at 1-1.

The back-and-forth battle persisted in the second half, but the College found more opportunities than the Hawks. The Tribe called a timeout with 23:50 left in the game. Following the timeout, the College ramped up the offensive intensity even more. The pressure led to some desperate defending and chippiness from the Hawks defense, culminating in a green card for defender Hannah Schiavo.

As the game reached the final 15 minutes, the Hawks recovered and carved out of couple of scoring chances, resulting in a shot from Bachop that rolled wide of the cage with 13:40 left in the half. McCann fired a shot of her own less than a minute later on the other end of the field, but O’Hogan was up to the task once again; she finished the game with 10 saves.

Out of a timeout by the Hawks, junior forward Woodward Hooper narrowly missed a point-blank shot with 7:23 remaining. Following the miss, the Hawks charged straight back up the field on the counter attack and turned the momentum of the game with Bachop’s second goal of the afternoon. Forward Elyssa Okken was credited with the assist. Down 2-1, the College became desperate on the offensive end with just five minutes left to tie the game and preserve its championship hopes. The Tribe earned a penalty corner attempt off of an upfield charge with 4:46 remaining in the game. Just as it did on its first goal, the Tribe capitalized off of the corner, with Snead finding Hughes for her 13th goal of the season. Hughes’ tally, which momentarily gave her the team lead in goals for the 2018 season, tied the game at 2-2 with 4:15 remaining.

“There’s something that’s really calming about our team,” Hughes said. “I don’t know if that’s experience or if everyone is on the same page, but we just have this belief that we can make it back from anything.”

The final four minutes would see shots from both teams, but neither team could capitalize on the opportunities. The game went to overtime, the ninth time the Tribe would see an overtime period this season.

In overtime, the trend of offensive domination with little payoff continued for the College. The Tribe outshot the Hawks 20-10 for the game and dominated with 13 shots on goal in comparison to the Hawks’ three. In the first few minutes of the first overtime period, Hooper and Hughes both had shot attempts, but the Hawks continued to bend without breaking. The Tribe was finally able to break through six minutes into overtime. Hooper forced a turnover and came up with a steal before dishing the ball off to freshman midfielder Cara Menges. Menges, who was credited with the game-winning assist, directed the ball back to Hooper. Hooper tied Hughes’ team-high goal mark of 13, with the game-winning goal, firing a shot past O’Hogan to give the Tribe its first ever NCAA tournament victory. The College qualified for the tournament in 2000 and 2002 but lost its opening game in the tournament in each of those seasons.

“Even though they went up first, we stayed composed, and that was our game plan,” Hooper said. “I think we’ve been in high stressed opportunities all season, so we know how to stay composed under pressure, and that’s what we did, and I had no doubt in my mind that we would come back and tie the game.”

While the Hawks season comes to an abrupt end, the College will march on in the NCAA tournament. The Tribe will face undefeated and top-seeded North Carolina Friday in Chapel Hill in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels will pose an incredible test for the College with a spot in the national quarterfinals on the line. However, the Tribe will look to continue the momentum from program-defining victories over Delaware and Monmouth and pull off the massive upset to secure its spot in the quarterfinal round.

“They’re very talented, but they know nothing about us,” head coach Tess Ellis said. “We will step up. The girls are excited to take the challenge head on.”