Field Hockey Begins Quest for Fifth Title

Photo by Holly Lipka.

The field hockey team has finished State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) play for the regular season, going 5-1 in conference games.

The Hawks will enter the SUNYAC Tournament as the No. 2 seed and will host No. 3 seed SUNY Geneseo in the semifinal round on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. on the North Turf Field. SUNY Cortland, the No. 1 seed, will host No. 4 seed SUNY Oneonta that same day. This is the exact same bracket as last season’s tournament.

New Paltz played their last two conference matches this past weekend, first defeating SUNY Oswego by a score of 6-0 on Friday, Oct. 21.

“On Friday we had a great game,” Hawks head coach Shanna Vitale said. “We controlled the pace and scored early and capitalized on our opportunities. That was good momentum going into Saturday.”

In the match, fourth-year forward Kayla McKeveny passed Dani Ackerman ’16 as the program’s all-time leader in goals and points. McKeveny scored two goals in the match, pushing her career total to 41 goals and 102 points. Ackerman previously held the mark with 39 goals and 98 career points.

“Dani was a player I always looked up to,” McKeveny said. “She’s such an inspiring athlete and person, so it feels humbling to have been able to pass her in goals and points.  For the three years we played together, we supported each other well. Neither of us would have had as many points or goals without each other, as well as the rest of our teammates.”

The following day, the Hawks lost their first SUNYAC match of the season to Cortland by a score of 2-1. Both teams were undefeated in conference play before the game. The winner was going to earn the No. 1 seed, with the loser claiming the No. 2 seed.

New Paltz led 1-0 at halftime as McKeveny scored her eighth goal of the season during the fourth minute. Red Dragons second-year forward Jessica Welsh tied the game during the 48th minute off a feed from fourth-year forward Gabby Stein. Third-year forward Anna Branch gave Cortland the lead at the 59th minute thanks to an assist by second-year forward Jess Gibaldi.

“We had some brilliant moments where we were pressing and coming up with the ball and we capitalized early,” Vitale said. “Then there were some moments where we just couldn’t get the job done, and that cost us the game towards the end.”

This was the first meeting between the two teams since the Hawks beat the Red Dragons 4-1 in last season’s SUNYAC Tournament Championship. New Paltz has never beaten Cortland in the regular season, but have won all three of the teams’ meetings in the SUNYAC Championships.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26 the Hawks fell to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 4-2 in a nonconference matchup. First-year forward Kaitlyn Gunter scored both of the team’s goals.

Before the tournament, New Paltz will finish their regular season with a nonconference game against cross-river rival Vassar College on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. on the North Turf Field. The game will be the team’s regular season home finale, as well as senior day. McKeveny, fourth-year forward Erin Landy and fourth-year back Colleen Roemer will all be honored for the four years they have each spent on the team.

“We are looking to improve on our weaknesses in our last nonconference game and really end the regular season strong,” McKeveny said. “It’s important for us to take our last game extremely serious in preparation for the playoffs.”

Following that game will be the Hawks’ semifinal round matchup against Geneseo. The two teams faced off in last season’s semifinal round in New Paltz, with the Hawks emerging victorious by a score of 2-1 en route to their fourth-consecutive SUNYAC title.

Earlier this season, New Paltz beat the Knights 5-1 in Geneseo. Including playoffs, the Hawks have not lost to the Knights since their 2-1 defeat back on Sept. 27, 2013.

“We’ll be preparing for our SUNYAC semifinal game against Geneseo by being focused and disciplined in practice and working on the little things to ensure we’re fully prepared,” Landy said. “We’re all very focused on winning that game and we know the hard work put into practice this week and next will be crucial to ensuring the win.”