The field hockey team’s season has come to an end after losing to No. 9 Messiah College in the second round of the NCAA Div. III Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 14 by a score of 3-0.
This was the third-consecutive season that the Hawks lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“The game against Messiah was a true heartbreaker kind of match,” fourth-year co-Captain Dani Ackerman said. “We played hard overall, but our lines were not connecting which really set us back in this game. We definitely put pressure on this team, but we could not finish the job. Messiah is a talented, deserving team.”
Similar to their State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) playoff games against SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Cortland, the Hawks entered the second half trailing 1-0 after a goal by Falcons third-year midfielder Lindsay Bower. Unlike those SUNYAC playoff games, the Hawks were not able to score in the second half. Falcons first-year forward Kezia Loht made it a 2-0 game at the 58:45 mark, thanks in part to an assist from second-year forward Carissa Gehman. Gehman would score less than eight minutes later to make it a 3-0 game.
The Falcons outshot the Hawks 18-3 and held an 11-5 advantage in penalty corners. Ackerman, fellow fourth-year co-Captain Jessica Caruana and third-year forward Erin Landy each fired off a shot for New Paltz, with Ackerman’s being on-goal. Hawks fourth-year goalkeeper Alayna Wageman made seven stops in the cage. Her opposite, Falcons first-year goalkeeper Shelby Landes notched a single-save shutout.
The Hawks conclude their season with a 16-6 record, tying a program record for wins in a season set during the 2012 season. New Paltz also received its first national ranking in program history and hosted the first NCAA Tournament game in school history on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
“I’m really proud of what the team accomplished,” Head Coach Shanna Vitale said. “It really puts New Paltz on the map as far as teams that can compete at the national level. There’s a lot of great things that came out of this season and a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to.”
Caruana views the SUNYAC title game against SUNY Cortland as the most exciting moment of the season.
“The most memorable moment for me was when we came back from losing to Cortland during the season and in the first half of the SUNYAC final,” Caruana said. “When they scored the first goal many of us felt in our hearts that there was no way we were going to end our season this way. The feeling of when [Dani Ackerman] scored the tying goal gave me hope in the game. And then when [Serena Capsello] scored the game winner, tears instantly came from my eyes. It was a proud moment because I watched a team come together in a losing situation and overcome any negative energy that was being given off from their first goal against us. I saw every girl on my team kick their game up in high gear and prove that we truly deserved to bring this title home for the fourth time.”
Ackerman, Caruana, Wageman and Hawks fourth-year backs Sarah Sansone and Gretchen Kleinsmith will not be returning for New Paltz next season. With the exception of Kleinsmith who transferred to New Paltz after her freshman year at Stevenson University, all of these players were freshmen when the Hawks won the first of their four-straight SUNYAC titles back in 2012. The Hawks had never won a SUNYAC title in history before Ackerman, Caruana, Sansone and Wageman joined the program.
“One thing I will always remember about New Paltz field hockey is the support I have received,” Ackerman said. “Not only from my teammates, coaches and family, but the entire community. There are no words to describe the gratitude I have for all of those who have supported me throughout my career. Feeling loved and supported while playing my sport is something I am incredibly thankful for. These four years have been unbelievable, full of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Ackerman and Caruana set program records during their senior years. Ackerman became the program’s all-time leader in goals scored on Saturday, Sept. 5 when she scored her 36th career goal against St. Lawrence University, her second of that game. She passed her former teammate Danielle Conklin, who posted 35 goals from 2010-2013. Ackerman passed Conklin again on Wednesday, Oct. 21 against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute when she notched her 96th career point to become the program’s all-time leader in points. Conklin tallied 95 points in her career. Ackerman finishes her career with 39 goals and 98 points. Ackerman also finished her career ranked third in assists with 20.
Caruana also passed Conklin in the record books earlier this season. On Friday, Oct. 2 against the College at Brockport Caruana assisted a goal by second-year forward Sam Eberle for her 26th career helper. This passed Conklin’s all-time mark of 25. Caruana finishes her career with 30 assists. Caruana is also among the program leaders in points with 88, ranked third, and in goals with 29, ranked fifth.
Wageman finishes her career with the lowest goals-against average in program history, with a 1.61 mark. She also finishes her career ranked fourth all-time in saves with 258, third in shutouts with nine and second in save percentage with a .779 mark.
Looking ahead to next season, Vitale expects her team to not dwell on the past and continue to improve upon the success they have had.
“The team is going to continue to train and maintain that healthy lifestyle all year round,” Vitale said. “They’re going to look forward and not look back, that’s the biggest thing. It’s up to us to make sure we continue to grow and work on the areas we need to work on and to keep that energy going throughout the year.”