For the first time in program history, UR Field Hockey has won the Liberty League title.
The team did it on its home field, by beating longtime rival Skidmore College, and won all nine games against conference competition on the season. The team has earned an automatic bid to the NCAA championships.
Postseason play began last Wednesday night in the semifinals against William Smith (12–6). As the first seed in the Liberty League, the Yellowjackets (17–3) secured home-field advantage at Fauver Stadium throughout the tournament.
UR had opened its conference schedule on Sep. 23 with a 4–3 overtime victory over the Herons in Geneva. With the venue changed, the result wasn’t nearly as close this time around, as the no. 15 ‘Jackets cruised to a 4–0 win.
In the 27th minute, junior defender Courtney Dunham guided a shot through multiple opponents to get Rochester on the board. The shot came off an assist from senior attacker Olivia Denny after the team’s first penalty corner of the game. This method of scoring proved to be the theme.
That would be the only score in the first half, in which Rochester outshot its opponent 4–2 with the same edge in corners. In the 52nd minute, the ‘Jackets struck again on a one-timer by junior attacker Jessica Brandon from sophomore midfielder Colleen Maillie. The play started on another penalty corner, and Maillie scooped up the ball off an initial blocked Dunham shot.
Sophomore attacker Maya Haigis added to the lead less than four minutes later, on a rocket off a backhand tip pass by Maillie. In the 65th minute, Haigis scored again on another hard shot, this time from the left wing off a corner pass from Denny.
The Herons had a few scoring opportunities in the last few minutes, but senior goalkeeper Kiran Sundaram was able to secure her fourth solo shutout of the season.
Rochester has now won back-to-back playoff games in the past two years against William Smith, after losing in the playoffs to the Herons in each of the four seasons prior.
Last Saturday afternoon, the ‘Jackets played in their fourth Liberty League title game against the visiting Skidmore College Thoroughbreds (14–7). In the teams’ first meeting this season, Rochester prevailed 1–0 after an epic shootout round. This time around, the offense got going early and the defense held onto the lead resulting in a 3–2 win.
Fifteen minutes in, Haigis took hit a shot that hit the foot of a Skidmore defender directly in front of the cage. The play was a violation, which meant that Rochester was given a penalty stroke. Maillie beat the goalkeeper to give the ‘Jackets a 1–0 lead.
In the 21st minute, Skidmore threatened as leading scorer Gabby Hyman entered on a breakaway from the right sideline. Senior goalkeeper Gabrielle Cantley came out to challenge and made the save on a charging Hyman.
Junior attacker Nancy Bansbach doubled Rochester’s lead at 27:49, scoring off a rebound on a play that originally started from a penalty corner.
The first half was dominated by the ‘Jackets, who outshot Skidmore 13–1.
In the second half, Hyman got a similar opportunity, and this time she slowed as she approached the goal, lifting the ball past Cantley to get Skidmore on the board.
It only took two minutes for the ‘Jackets to respond, when Bansbach scored again inside the right post off a cross pass from senior attacker Claire Dickerson.
Hyman threatened again when the Thoroughbreds had their first penalty corner opportunity. She was first blocked by Maillie, and then once again stopped by Cantley.
On the resulting corner, Skidmore was able to score again off a redirected shot, trimming the lead back to one with 15 minutes left in regulation.
After the second Skidmore goal, Rochester coach Wendy Andreatta took a timeout, and the ‘Jackets defense responded by holding their opponents without a shot the rest of the game, including when Skidmore pulled its goalkeeper.
When the result was certain, the ‘Jackets rushed the field to celebrate.
“We’ve rushed the field a bunch of times, but this time it was so special and amazing because we worked so hard for the win,” said junior attacker Jennifer Lee. “We set a goal from the beginning of preseason and exceeded it.”
Junior defender Kate Tiffany added: “The girls on the current team played with multiple All-Americans and we never won the championship. Even though we don’t have any stand-out stars right now, we were able to pull off the win through hard work and determination.”
For now, UR Field Hockey can revel in its achievement and will begin NCAA tournament play this week.