It was close, but the reigning LEC field hockey champs went down in a very unfortunate fashion when the Spartans fell to the undefeated University of Maine Huskies 2-1 in overtime.
In a back-and-forth contest that took place on Nov. 2, the Spartans were looking to push through semifinals to make it to back-to-back LEC finals appearances with hope of being once again crowned LEC champs and make another trip to the NCAA tournament.
“We obviously were hoping for a different outcome, but we are super proud of our team. You know, in any playoff game the energy and competition are that much greater than a regular season game. We are proud of ourselves on and off the field and the effort and teamwork we put into that game. We will continue to work hard during our off-season and come back stronger and more prepared!” said sophomore Genevieve Pitts.
Prior to their match against the Huskies, the Spartans had faced off against the Eastern Connecticut State Warriors in the quarterfinals in a game they dominated and won 5-2. The game at Dave Wolk marked the last game the Spartans would play at home for the year, because going into playoffs, they came in as the fourth seed, which allowed for them to have home field advantage in the quarterfinals having finished conference play with a 3-3 record in conference.
“Having a home playoff game is always great! The atmosphere and excitement goes to the next level with being able to play in front of the students and feeding off their energy,” said sophomore Peyton Richardson.
Last season, the Spartans found themselves in a similar situation, only getting one home playoff game in the quarterfinals which was the same outcome this year.
“Playoffs, it’s anyone’s game and you can’t expect anything. We knew East Conn was going to show up and that game wasn’t going to be given to us. I knew they were going to give us a hefty competition, which is exactly what they did. That game we played really well, and I was happy with it. It was a good way to end the season playing on our field and gave us more momentum and trust within each other moving onto USM,” said head field hockey coach Emily Lowell.
The Huskies, who sat at the top of the standings with a 6-0 conference record, would be their test in the semifinals of the LEC and they had a one up on the Spartans in regular season with a 4-1 win on Oct. 21.
While USM had previously beat the Spartans, the Spartans were not phased going onto the Huskies field scoring first in the semi-final contest when Emily Harris put one past the USM goaltender just two minutes into the contest.
“We came out of the gate really strong and scored within the first quarter,” Richardson said.
The contest went down to the wire after the Huskies came out in the third quarter tying the game at 1-1, which remained the score until the end of regulation. Then in overtime, the Huskies netted one past the Spartans goaltender two minutes into extra time.
“Unfortunately, we came home with a loss to USM, but the game was back and forth and could have gone either way. We played strong defense all game, just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net to get us ahead again. Overall, I thought we grew a lot as a team and we are all ready to get back to work,” Richardson said.
Although the season came to an end, the field hockey program has enjoyed the success of the past two seasons and sees it as a building block for the future of the program.
“No one expected a team like we had to win a championship last year, but we did, and we did it because of the hard work and connection we had. I think that hasn’t changed. That is still the same mentality and still the same talent we had. It was a switch from our opponents on what they were going to bring to the table against us,” Lowell said.
On top of the success of the team this season, six players received All-Conference Awards. Emily Harris and Jess Smithson received First Team All LEC; Amelia Wilson, Frouke Adraens and Peyton Richardson took home Second Team All LEC, and Madison Gile received the 12th player award. Emily Harris also received Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.