As we all know by now, the New Paltz Field Hockey Team had a historic regular season. They put in the time, effort and determination to become the top seed in the SUNYAC. Now, all of their hard work came down to one last tournament.
On Wednesday, Nov. 3, the Oneonta Red Dragons marched down the North Turf Field to face our Hawks in the semifinal matchup. Winner moves on, loser is out for good.
Both teams proved early on that they were playing hard and ready to win. Just over a minute into the game, a New Paltz shot came from second-year forward Morgan Woolley, although the attempt was wide. The Hawks shot five more times after Woolley, before the Dragons had any retaliation.
Fourth-year midfielder Jessica Ascencao had an impressive defensive save against Oneonta, but after that, it was time to move into period two. Lots of substitutions were made as both teams were desperate to get the first point on the board, but defense was diligent and the game remained scoreless going into the second half.
More substitutions were made in period three, as well as lots of attempted shots and even more defensive saves, but no goal made the back of the net until period four.
It was a New Paltz goal. Third-year midfielder Jamie Wagner made it happen, with the assistance of fourth-year midfielder Shannon Bernhardt. New Paltz now had the lead in this put up or shut up game… But would one goal be enough to secure their win?
One goal wouldn’t be, but two goals certainly were. Just minutes after her first goal, Wagner came back again with another to defeat Oneonta for the second time this season in a 2-0 shutout. More importantly, it meant New Paltz was moving on to the SUNYAC Championship game.
Wagner said it felt amazing to get the goals, but she couldn’t have gotten them without the support and hard work of her teammates.
“I went into the game with a structural mindset,” Wagner said. “Get into position and ready for the ball, control touch and shoot the ball as soon as possible, and I just kept repeating that to myself as I ran into the circle. My motivation came from my love for the game and my teammates.”
At the end of the game, New Paltz ended with 22 shots, compared to Oneonta’s four.
“I think Oneonta wasn’t shooting because we denied them the opportunities to be able to shoot,” Wagner said. “Our team defense is strong, we keep a constant pressure on the ball, communicate efficient and effective doubles and are physically denying the ball carrier any help from her teammates.”
With the semifinals behind them, it would come down to one final game. Interestingly, New Paltz would again be facing the Red Dragons: Cortland edition.
Wagner said the team felt beyond excited to play against Cortland and they made sure to bring extremely high energy and intensity to practice the days before the game to get fired up.
The game kicked off Saturday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. The Hawks were ready, but they did not know that this all-important game would be determined by one crucial goal: and that goal happened 12 minutes into the game.
Second-year forward Hannah Ackerman shot twice, but her goals were saved by the Cortland goalkeeper Megan McGuinness. Luckily the third time’s the charm: seconds after her last attempt, Ackerman scored, assisted by Ascencao.
“I was unaware at the time that my goal would win the championship,” Ackerman said. “In that moment, all I knew was that we were on board and we needed to take that momentum and run with it. The goal was scored off of a broken corner, which shows how well we work together and adjust to when things don’t go as planned. While I actually scored the goal, I know that it was truly a team goal.”
Ackerman was named SUNYAC tournament MVP for her efforts and said she is so grateful and appreciative of the recognition and will use it to keep working hard and moving forward.
For the rest of the game, New Paltz looked to tack on some insurance goals. Formidable efforts were made by third-year forward Nastaia Plunkett, Woolley and Bernhardt, but they didn’t amount to any goals.
Ackerman said that the low scoring game made them play more intensely and put Cortland on their heels.
Cortland attempted to tie the game as well, but our fourth-year goalkeeper Ryan Dowling was too strong for them, saving eight goals.
“Our defense played a huge role in taking the win,” Ackerman said. “Cortland’s attack was very aggressive and fiesty, but our back line is very disciplined and composed, allowing them to completely shut them down. When the ball gets behind me, there’s never a doubt in my mind that they won’t come up with the ball.”
Soon the 60 minutes were over, as was Cortland’s chance of tacking on a sixth SUNYAC trophy. For the first time since 2018, New Paltz had won it all.
The Hawks finished their SUNYAC season going 6-0 in the conference, and with a winning streak of 10. If anything proves the value of hard work, it’s this team. Congratulations to them. It’s a good day to be a Hawk.
Did you think that you were done with the New Paltz Field Hockey Team? They are moving on to the first round in the NCAA III Championships. They will be facing Wilson College on Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. but they have home field advantage at the North Turf Field.
“We are so excited to be going into the NCAA tournament against Wilson. At this point in the season, any opportunity to play is a privilege as future games are not guaranteed. The team is ready to go as our practices are full of intensity, focus and high competition in preparation for the upcoming game. We are far from being ready to be done!” Ackerman said.
Can New Paltz extend their season even further? We will soon find out.