Field Hockey Returns to SUNYAC Finals, Beats SUNY Geneseo 3-2

First-year back Jessica Ascencao currently leads the team in points with 27. (Photo courtesy of Todd Gunter)

The field hockey team is headed to their second consecutive State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) championship, after a 3-2 victory over Geneseo in the semifinals on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Geneseo third-year back Julia Kim put the Knights in front early in the first half on a penalty corner assisted by second-year midfielder Jordan Penkitis at 17:16. However, the lead was short-lived, as Hawks second-year forward Carly Croteau found the back of the net off her own rebound, to even the score at 21:31.

The Hawks added an insurance goal just ten minutes later on a goal by fourth-year back Samantha Ackerman, assisted by first-year back Jessica Ascencao, to gain the lead, 2-1.

The Knights continued to be aggressive all game, amassing 19 shots on goal to the Hawks 11, while also accumulating 13 penalty corners to New Paltz’s seven. Geneseo’s determination would paid off, evening the score on Kim’s second goal of the game off a penalty corner at 56:41. 

Still tied heading into the final five minutes of play, a 65th minute goal by first-year midfielder Shannon Bernhardt sealed the victory for the Hawks, sending them to their second straight SUNYAC championship game.

“I think our success this year came from our ability to work together,” Ascencao said. “It is so much easier to play when everyone is comfortable with each other, and we have all been able to connect on and off the field.”

Prior to their playoff win, the Hawks had a dramatic overtime victory over rival Oneonta on Friday, Oct. 19 before falling to both Kean State and Vassar College on Oct. 23 and 27, respectively.

After a scoreless first half, Oneonta struck first on a penalty shot by fourth-year forward and midfielder Carissa Warren at 49:56. Just over ten minutes later New Paltz would answer, however, on first-year back Jessica Ascencao’s team-leading 11th goal of the season at 62:47, assisted by fourth-year back Samantha Ackerman.

Tied at the end of regulation, the match headed into the first half of overtime where it would remain scoreless.

In double overtime, the Hawks were able to come out victorious, thanks to the second goal of the game by Ascencao at 83:17.

Staying relentless on offense all game, the Hawks certainly deserved this one as they outshot the Red Dragons 16-9 (9-4 shots on target) and 10-5 on corners.

“We had to dig really deep to pull out that overtime win,” Ackerman said. “It takes a lot of mental toughness to stay in a game like that, but we absolutely did and that toughness wins championships.”

Coming into this match the Hawks stood one game behind rival Oneonta in the SUNYAC standings. The victory tied both teams atop the standings at 5-1. However, the head-to-head victory gave New Paltz the No. 1 seed heading into the 2018 SUNYAC playoffs.

“It’s amazing to be able to make a difference on the field, especially as a freshman,” Ascencao said. “There is no better feeling than when your whole team piles around and celebrates a big win.”

After their exciting conclusion to SUNYAC play the Hawks headed to New Jersey, where they would take on Kean University.

This one was all Kean, as the Hawks were outshot 24-10 (13-2 shots on goal) in a 3-0 route.

New Paltz then traveled home where they finished off their regular season with a match against Vassar College.

Once again, the Hawks could not find the win column. The Brewers outshot the Hawks 24-3 (20-3 shots on goal), and had 12 corners, compared to Vassar’s two. A goal by fourth-year midfield/forward Alyssa More was more than enough for the Brewers, defeating New Paltz 2-0.

The top-seeded Hawks will look to bounce back from their championship loss a year ago when they square off against SUNY Cortland on Saturday, Nov. 3.

“We had a tough loss in the championship last year,” Ackerman said. “This year was all about bouncing back and showing who we are. Our goal was to be number one and we stuck to our guns.”