UR Field Hockey (URFH) came up short in a nail-biting Liberty League (LL) championship game by a score of 2–1 on Saturday afternoon against the Skidmore Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs.

Both squads came out to fight in an evenly matched title game, with the winner automatically receiving a bid into the NCAA Division III tournament.

Despite the loss, URFH did, in fact, receive one of five at-large bids late Sunday night to the tournament.

It was a sloppy defensive start that ended up plaguing the ’Jackets in their attempt to win the league title, as UR had just displayed a very strong defensive performance against William Smith, ranked #1 in the league tournament.

“During that semi-final game at William Smith on Wednesday, we knew we may not have as many chances to score as we have in previous games, so we focused on earning as many scoring opportunities as we could, and executing those well,” Head Coach Wendy Andreatta said. “I was so proud of the team for shutting down the league’s top scorers and playing a great game to keep our season alive.”

Going into this contest against Skidmore, UR was set to avenge their previous defeat against the Thoroughbreds, in which the ‘Jackets fell 2–1.

“We had a close game against [them] a few weeks ago but we’ve adjusted the things we need to work on and are ready for a chance to beat them on their own field,” senior midfielder Sayaka Abe said.

In the first half, URFH could only rack up one shot attempt—a wide one by Abe, leading into the 13th minute. But it was a few defensive mistakes for the Yellowjackets that broke an initially-deadlocked championship game.  

“We just broke down a couple times and Skidmore was able to capitalize on those moments,” freshman midfielder Maya Haigis said.

Thoroughbred junior forward Kayla Rose scored her fifth goal of the season right before halftime on a pass from senior midfielder Kelsey Denby. Junior goaltender Gabrielle Cantley remained in-goal for the first half, allowing one goal while saving one as well.

At the top of the second half, junior Kiran Sundaram stepped in for Cantley and allowed one goal on a high shot from sophomore forward Gabby Hyman, after receiving the pass from freshman forward Miranda Davenport.  

After a relatively dormant first half and a 2–0 hole, the Yellowjackets went on to outshoot their LL rivals 8–7 overall, while keeping the Thoroughbreds to three shots-on-goal. UR was patient and waited for an opportunity. In the 60th minute, Abe dodged two defenders and scored on a penalty corner, cutting Skidmore’s lead down to one with fewer than ten minutes remaining.

Leading up to Abe’s score, URFH pressured sophomore goaltender Elizabeth Coughlin. Senior attack Callie Fisher and sophomore midfielder Miranda Lakis fired shots off Coughlin, but the sophomore came up in the clutch, making three key saves.

The defensive play of the game came in the last four minutes of regulation, when senior Becca Halter blocked a shot off a penalty corner from Haigis.

“When [Abe] scored to make it 2–1, we got our momentum back and had a few scoring opportunities that were so close to tying the game,” Haigis said.

The Thoroughbreds (15–5), ranked #17 in the country, won their third LL title in the past four years, while capturing the championship for the tenth time in the program’s history.

On the other side, URFH (17–4), ranked 15th overall, had three players selected to the all-tournament team, as Abe, Haigis, and senior defender Alexis Wood all received these honors.

“Although we dominated the game and played the best we have all season, it was not enough,” Fisher said. “I am so proud of this team and all we have accomplished, everyone truly played their hearts out.”

Although the 2016 ’Jackets were unsuccessful in capturing the LL title, and had the potential to be the first team in school history to do so, this is still a momentous season for UR.

“We were honored and privileged to make it as far as we did,” Fisher said. “Our team has this saying, ‘It’s us versus history,’ and we have made history this season. We have created the best record in school history for field hockey.”

And it’s true: No team in UR Field Hockey’s 41-year history has had a record with as few losses as this year’s squad. They went 18–6, one more win than this year’s 17–4, in 2015.

Coach Andreatta is hopeful for a future URFH squad to capture the University’s first LL title.

“We know we can compete with anyone in our league and the loss will have to serve as motivation for us in [Liberty] League play next season,” Andreatta said.  “Historically, no team but William Smith or Skidmore has ever won the LL title, but our team is ready to change that statistic.”

UR’s first game in the NCAA Division III tournament is at home against Shenandoah University on Wednesday, Nov. 9, time still to be determined.

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