After securing the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) championship this Saturday, Nov. 3 against the Cortland Red Dragons in a battle ending with a 2-1 victory, the field hockey team ended their season with a 4-3 loss to Keene State in the first leg of the Division III NCAA Tournament.
“Going into the NCAAs was a great experience,” said third-year forward Kaitlyn Gunter. “I was just amazed at my team’s collective skills and talents that got us there.”
The Owls took the lead first in the first round of the NCAA tournament, with the Hawks following soon after to tie up the score at 1-1. With 18 minutes left in the first half, second-year forward Carly Croteau scored the second goal for the Hawks, bringing the score up to 2-1.
Gunter followed suit and scored off the corner going into the end of the first half, giving the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
With only 22 minutes remaining, Keene managed to score their second goal of the match. Hawks head coach Shanna Szablinski called a timeout immediately after.
The Owls tied up the game with another shot on goal, this time with 11:25 left on the clock.
With approximately two minutes to go in the second half, Keene took the lead with 4-3. The Hawks tried to come back, but to no avail.
“Losing to Keene was hard,” Dowling said.We played a strong first half and something just fell apart in the second. Whenever you lose it’s terrible, but we had an amazing season and a lot to be proud of.”
“We all had the same goals and mindset which is the reason for most of our success,” Gunter said. “We all worked well together and picked each other up when one got down. There was never a dull moment with this group of girls and I am so happy to have been a part of this team.”
The field hockey team came into the NCAA tournament after winning the SUNYAC championship against SUNY Cortland.
The Dragons started with the advantage, scoring after just three minutes into playing time. They capitalized on the offensive attack, which resulted in their first and only goal.
New Paltz’s defensive line successfully held off the remainder of the Dragons’ attacks.
Gunter scored the first goal for the Hawks. Receiving a pass from Croteau, Gunter made her way inside the circle, went between two Red Dragon defenders and reverse hit her shot into the corner of the cage for the goal.
New Paltz carried their momentum through to the second half of the game, where they secured the win with another goal. This one came 20 minutes out from the end of the game from first-year midfielder Jackie Kanapes, her first collegiate goal.
The Hawks were then hit with a yellow card less than 15 minutes from the end of the game. This forced them to play a man down, but the defense didn’t let a single shot get through.
Hawks out-shot Cortland, 17-13, and had more corners, 10-6, throughout the game.
“It feels amazing [to win] because everyone on the team had a role to contribute to us winning the conference title,” Croteau said. “You can expect that we are going to be the feared team to play in the conference and to expect to see us again in the NCAAs next year.”
This was the first time since 2015 that the team made it to the NCAA tournament.
First-year back Jessica Ascencao led the team with five shots in goal, and Croteau was not far behind with four. Dowling saved 7 shots in the championship game.
Dowling was subsequently named MVP, with 23 saves amassed during both tournament games. Gunter, Ascencao and fourth-year back Maggie Cottrell were also named to the All-Tournament team.
“Winning MVP was an amazing feeling,” Dowling said. “I could not have done it without the support and encouragement of my teammates and coaches.”
The Hawks ended their season with a 12-8 overall record. Losing fourth-years Samantha Ackerman, Serena Capsello and Cottrell to graduation, the Hawks are hopeful for the 2019 season.