The New Paltz Field Hockey Team’s season has finally come to an end, and boy did they go out in a blaze of glory.
After becoming SUNYAC Champions, they moved on to the NCAA tournament and the Hawks made it all the way to round two — the fourth time in program history they were able to accomplish such a feat.
Fourth-year goalie Ryan Dowling said NCAA games are crazy.
“The stakes are huge because the competition and intensity is so much higher compared to a regular season,” Dowling said. “I definitely got nervous before the NCAA games, but as a team we take those nerves and turn it into excitement about the opportunity ahead of us. We had the chance to continue playing against some of the top teams in the country and weren’t going to let some nervousness stop us from giving it our all.”
To get to round two, they first had to get past Wilson College on Wednesday, Nov. 10. The Phoenixes marched to the North Turf Field at 1 p.m., not knowing they were about to get shut down 3-0 by the Hawks.
The first goal happened in period one. Third-year forward Natasia Plunkett made it happen, assisted by fourth-year midfielder Jessica Ascencao. Ascencao herself was already in the midst of a dominant period one, earning a couple defensive saves to her name to keep Wilson down.
Dowling was also a dominant defensive force.
“A lot of making big saves is just the reaction,” Dowling said. “The ball comes too fast to even think and my body just goes. Before the shot goes off, I try my best to get my body behind the ball and be set in a position where I can allow myself to react.”
In period two, both teams were diligent, but New Paltz was better: New Paltz had opportunities to shoot four times, whereas the Hawks held Wilson to just one chance.
Similarly, in period three, New Paltz shot 12 times to Wilson’s one. Although most of the Hawks’ attempts didn’t pan out to a goal, it shows their aggressive gameplay and attitude.
One shot did pan out, though, from third-year midfielder Jamie Wagner, assisted by fourth-year midfielder Shannon Bernhardt, putting New Paltz ahead by two.
New Paltz was not yet done scoring. Within the last fifteen minutes of the game, they tacked on one more insurance point. Ascencao got a goal of her own, assisted by third-year back Julia Cummings.
The Phoenixes could not catch up, and when the game ended, so did their season.
“I was so proud of my team for the way we played during the Wilson game,” Dowling said. “Coming into the game, they were an undefeated team who had scored a lot during their season, so we knew they would be good.”
Cummings said they came into the season determined to be successful.
“From August to now, we worked so hard, in every practice, to better ourselves. I think that our determination and passion for the spot is what helped us become so successful throughout our historic season,” Cummings said.
New Paltz was hoping to do the same to Tufts University on Saturday, Nov. 13. The Hawks traveled to Middlebury, Vermont for the match-up. It was the first game in just under a month that they weren’t playing at home.
Tufts scored within the first five minutes of the game, meaning that for the first time in a while, New Paltz would have to be fighting for the lead back.
Cummings said the team went in understanding Tufts wasn’t going to be an easy match, but agreed to bring in the most energy and intensity they possibly could.
Dowling saved a goal, but the Elephants got another one during the first period.
Tufts scored goal number three in period two, and by the time period three ended, they had gotten five unanswered goals. It was looking grim for the Hawks, but they never gave up.
“For the majority of the game we were losing with no goals on the scoreboard for us,” Cummings said. “I’m very proud of the way we kept playing no matter what the score was.”
Determined not to give the Elephants a shut-out, New Paltz knew they’d have to really start stepping up.
And step up they did: in the last period of the game, the Hawks came back with two goals. One at 51:09 from Cummings, and another during the very last second of the game, from Wagner.
“We kept up our energy and intensity, which is what got us two great goals,” Cummings said. “This just shows that we don’t stop working until the very end of the game. I’m so excited to have been part of the goals. It just proved that we were able to put up a good fight and compete with them.”
It was clearly a tough game, but New Paltz played their best and kept their honor. No one can say otherwise, as the numbers speak for themselves. Dowling, who was goalkeeper the majority of the game, ended with five saves, and fourth-year Mackenzie Mortimer who took over, left with six.
“It was truly an honor to be a part of this team as we made a lot of history for our program this year,” Cummings said. “I’m so proud and happy that we were able to win the conference and get as far as we did in the National Tournament. We set many goals this year and accomplished a lot of them. I’ve never been a part of a team with such good chemistry, both on and off the field, and I’m thankful I got to experience this all with them.”
New Paltz finished their season with an overall record of 17-3, winning all nine home games they had. After such a long and historic season, fans will certainly be sad that they have to wait another whole year before seeing this team in action but should also be excited, knowing that our women are going to come back even stronger.
“Next year we will prepare and train as hard as we did this year,” Cummings said. “We know that nothing comes easy and that the competition next year will still be tough. However, we will focus on improving the little things day by day to help achieve our personal and team goals. The most important thing is staying focused on what we want to accomplish and taking that thought into every practice and game to motivate us.”
Goodbye for now, New Paltz Field Hockey.