FH, XC, women's soccer gunning for titles
It isn't official yet, but it is all but certain that the Dartmouth women's soccer team will return to the NCAA Tournament after regular-season play concludes this weekend.
The Big Green began the season somewhat slowly, going 3-3-1 in its first seven contests after the scheduled season opener at Vermont and the Kappa/Hypertherm Classic here at Dartmouth were cancelled in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
But after the slow start, which included a 0-0 tie with below-average Yale and a 2-0 loss to Boston University -- a team Dartmouth had owned before then -- head coach Erica Walsh's squad began an ascent up the Ivy standings and Northeast regional rankings, culminating with a huge 1-0 win against Harvard two weeks ago.
The Big Green lost to Connecticut, 1-0, in double-overtime last week, but rebounded with a 3-2 win over Cornell. The UConn loss shouldn't hurt Dartmouth's postseason chances because the Huskies are ranked No. 1 in the region.
With only a match at woeful Brown remaining on the schedule, the Big Green is again in position to try for the Women's College Cup, a tournament that now includes 64 teams. The team's chances for a home game are somewhat unclear, although its recent inclusion in the national Top 25 makes the outlook bright.
The field hockey team, meanwhile, completed its second successful season under head coach Amy Fowler and missed out on a slim chance to make the 16-team NCAA Tournament.
Instead, the Big Green will host the ECAC Championship for the second consecutive year, entering as the No. 1 seed in the four-team field.
Fowler's women began the season with a 3-0 performance at a tournament in St. Louis before skidding to a halt with an 0-2 start to the Ivy season, including a 3-1 loss to eventual champion Princeton and an especially disappointing 2-1 overtime defeat at the hands of the Penn Quakers.
The Big Green won nine of 11 games from that point on, concluding the regular season with an impressive seven-game winning streak that essentially sealed the team's ECAC fate and gave the women visions of NCAA glory.
"Getting a bid to the NCAAs would have been awesome, and a first for us," forward Lauren Welsh '03 said. "We all know we've accomplished some great things this season and if the NCAAs aren't for us, then we'll just have to take the ECAC championship."
To do it, the women will have to do what didn't do last year -- win in the finals. In 2000, they dropped a tough one to Columbia in the decisive game. This time around, they'll have to get past Providence and then beat a team from the Mid-Atlantic region -- either Georgetown or Drexel.
"We're excited to get the chance to avenge last year's loss in the finals," midfielder Caitlin Barrett '04 said.
Elsewhere, the men's soccer team's chances for a second straight NCAA bid are slim to none. The main weakness hampering the men -- aside from their below-.500 record (5-6-2) -- is their poor showing (1-3-1) in the Ivy League.
The men's and women's cross country teams, meanwhile, have NCAA Regionals this weekend in Boston, where they will have a chance to qualify for their respective national meets. For an automatic bid, the squads will have to finish second in a field of 40 schools; failing that, hope remains alive for an at-large bid. The men, who won Heps two weeks ago, seem like a lock either way. Various runners can also qualify as individuals based on their performances this weekend.