Field hockey: Huskies earn at-large bid for NCAA tournament

By Katie Zigelman, News Staff

The field hockey team finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) and are advancing to the NCAA championship tournament after receiving an at-large bid, despite a 5-1 loss to Old Dominion University (ODU) in the conference championship game. This was the Huskies second-ever CAA championship game – the first appearance was during Northeastern’s inaugural season in the CAA, back in 2005.

Four players were recognized with All-CAA first and second team honors. Junior forward Crystal Poland and junior goalkeeper Lizzie Priest both made the first team. Senior midfielders Kaela Barker and Pam Aldridge earned spots on the second team.

Aldridge said making it to the championship game was “awesome.”

“We haven’t done it in a long time at Northeastern,” Aldridge said. “My freshman year we made it to the [CAA] tournament but got kicked out in the quarterfinals. It was really exciting to achieve our goal this year.”

The Monarch’s Emma Batten, who was named CAA Player of the Year, scored her first of four goals just over five minutes into play.

Junior forward Nicky Graham scored the only Northeastern goal throughout the game which ended with a 5-1 decision.

“Old Dominion is a really talented team,” Aldridge said. “You can tell that they have practiced and played together for a while. Their ball speed is quick and defensively they knew how to shut down our offense.”

Head coach Cheryl Murtagh said that she was excited by how the team played getting to the final, but that the start of the game against ODU was not good.

“We didn’t have a strong start and you just can’t do that,” she said.

In order to make it to the championship game the team had to first defeat Hofstra University. The Huskies took down the sixth highest scoring offense in the nation 4-2, Nov. 5 in Norfolk, Va.

Crystal Poland scored first at 4:44 with the help of Graham and senior midfielder Carolyn Malloy. Aldridge scored the second goal, also assisted by Graham. Hofstra tried to catch up after that with nine shots but junior goalkeeper Lizzie Priest was on her toes and stopped three shots in just 30 seconds. Senior back Beth Cobby helped out and made a save of her own, bringing the first half to an end at 2-0.

Aldridge started the second half strong with a goal just 38 seconds into play. Hofstra responded by converting a penalty corner into a goal at 51:36. Junior midfielder Allison Conti passed to ball to Malloy for the Huskies fourth and final goal. Hofstra’s Genna Kovar refused to go down without a fight and scored the last goal of the game at 56:58. This was her 28th of the season and earned her national top scorer. She and Poland have been trading off for the title throughout the season. The last time the two teams met, Poland surpassed Kovar’s goals to earn the regular-season scoring title.

Northeastern has been a part of the CAA championship tournament for five of the past seven years and each time they have been sent home by Old Dominion.

“They have always been the team to beat,” Aldridge said.

Despite their loss in the championship game, Murtagh said the Huskies are thrilled to have accomplished their goal.

“We would have liked to have done better, but our goal was to get a bye so we didn’t have to play the first round of the tournament and then to make it to the final,” Murtagh said. “This was the goal the team set and they accomplished it.”

With 14 wins this year – the most since their 2005 season – the Huskies earned an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. They are ranked No. 16 by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association and 13th in Ratings Percentage Index, which weighs the strength of each team’s schedule.

The team will take on Penn State University Nov. 12 at the University of Connecticut. If they beat the Nittany Lions, the Huskies will play the winner of the University of Connecticut and Princeton Univeristy game in the quarterfinals Nov. 13.

Penn State University has a 16-5 record and has won their last five consecutive games – one of which included their fifth Big Ten conference championship.