Field hockey defeats Brown, now waits for NCAA bid
In the words of Tom Petty, "The waiting is the hardest part." After waiting nearly two months for the rescheduled Brown game, the Dartmouth field hockey team must wait another 24 hours to find out its postseason fate. The Big Green (13-4, 5-2 Ivy) wrapped up its regular season yesterday afternoon in Providence with its seventh straight win, a 2-0 shutout over Brown (8-9, 3-4 Ivy), and now awaits this evening's announcement by the NCAA selection committee.
Avoiding a letdown after Saturday's emotional penalty stroke win against Cornell, Dartmouth took to the road and took care of business. The Big Green got on the board with 1:55 left in the first half as Rebekka Stucker '04 tallied her team-high fourth game-winning goal. Assisted by Carolyn Steele '03, Stucker's goal propelled Dartmouth to a 1-0 halftime lead.
The Dartmouth women wasted no time putting Brown away in the second half. Two minutes in, Steele got a goal of her own off an assist by Averill Doering '04.
Ahead 2-0, the Big Green women were careful not to let Brown back into the game as they did against Cornell. Kirsten Anderson '02 continued her spectacular play in goal, recording seven saves in her seventh shutout of the season. Anchored by Anderson, the Dartmouth defense tightened the noose and the Bears slowly stopped kicking.
With their fifth straight Ivy League win under their belts, the only thing the Big Green has left to do is wait for tonight's announcement, set to begin at 8 p.m. In a year that has seen the expansion of both the men's and women's NCAA soccer tournaments (to 48 and 64 teams respectively), the NCAA field hockey tournament remains rigidly set at 16. Sitting in second place in the Ivy League, the Big Green must hope for the committee to award them one of the precious few at-large bids.
Co-captain Anderson remains cautiously optimistic. "We feel we deserve the shot. Considering the way we're playing right now, I think we could make a lot of noise in the tournament, but there are a lot of great teams out there. Hopefully we have earned enough respect around the nation to honor us [with a bid]," she said.
The selection process becomes even more frustrating as teams Dartmouth has defeated have already earned an invitation while the Big Green ponders its future. Kate Alexander '02 said, "It's unfortunate that the 16 team field is not always the best 16 teams." For instance, UMASS (an overtime loser to Dartmouth two weeks ago in non-conference action) has earned an automatic bid for winning the Atlantic 10.
The Big Green women may have only themselves to blame, however, if a disastrous weekend in Philadelphia comes back to haunt them. The Big Green was shocked by Penn and couldn't overcome nationally ranked William and Mary as Dartmouth lost as many games in 24 hours as it did the rest of the season.
Dartmouth has a lot going for it as well " most notably strength of schedule and their play late in the season. The Big Green played the toughest schedule possible, facing six teams from last year's tournament field and compiling a 3-3 record in the process. A 3-0 weekend in St. Louis gave the team some national prominence and a seven-game winning streak entering the postseason cannot be ignored by the selection committee.
"At this point we have done all we can do to prove ourselves, and hopefully the selection committee will see that," said Caitlin Barrett '04.
The waiting all comes to an end tonight when the field is announced. If the committee overlooks the Big Green, an invitation to the ECAC tournament will be the likely consolation prize. But Dartmouth has its eyes set on loftier sites.
As Barrett said, "Now we just have to sit and hope" And hope that the wait is worth it.