For the first time in program history, the Women’s Field Hockey team has been crowned SUNYAC champions.
On a cold and windy Saturday morning, the Lady Hawks defeated No. 3 seed SUNY Cortland by a score of 2-1, after shootouts brought the game down to its final seconds.
“As soon as Toni stopped it, we knew — that was it,” Head Coach Shanna Vitale said. “The emotions were so intense and our team is so close so we have this energy that you could feel. It was just excitement. It was pure happiness — bliss.”
With the win — which was the team’s 10th straight victory and first defeat of SUNY Cortland — the Hawks advanced to the NCAA Div. III Championship Tournament, which set them up against No. 6 Bowdoin College on Wednesday, Nov. 7. The Hawks fell to Bowdoin by a score of 6-1.
A crowd of more than 100 people huddled together to watch the championship game, which featured a back-and-forth between both teams for much of the regulation time. The game’s unique deadlock finish also marked the first time a SUNYAC Championship came down to a shootout, according to a SUNY New Paltz Sports Information Department press release.
For the first half, the Red Dragons controlled much of the possession, shooting 13 goals over the first 30 minutes of regulation. At the end of the half, Cortland took a penalty corner into the net, giving them a 1-0 lead at halftime.
However, in the second half, second-year midfielder Deirdre O’Neill scored in the 51st minute to tie the game. The Hawks kept Cortland from scoring until regulation ended.
After two overtimes, where the Red Dragons snapped six shots in the final 15 minutes, neither team could get the goal that would ensure victory. At the end of the second overtime a shootout was needed to determine who would be crowned the SUNYAC champion.
The Hawks would score twice in the shootout, while they blanked Cortland, securing the championship.
Third-year goalkeeper Antonija Pjetri was named the SUNYAC Tournament MVP after her strong play throughout the playoffs and her stops during the shootout. During the game, she collected 13 stops across the regulation time and two overtime periods.
“In the beginning of the season, coach asked us what we wanted to accomplish and we wanted to win,” Pjetri said. “We’ve been breaking records all season – and we’re not done. This is another one to add to the books, but we are excited to keep going.”
Pjetri, who was named SUNYAC Field Hockey Player of the Week for the third time on Monday, said the team’s confidence was the reason for their success and while in the net during the shootouts, she could not think about anything except not letting her teammates down.
Pjetri said the team executed their game plan and their strong practice regimens allowed them to play against a college such as Bowdoin in the NCAA Div. III Tournament.
“We are never done working hard,” Pjetri said. “A lot of teams like to settle, but that’s not what New Paltz is about.”