STANDISH, ME – Saint Joseph's will host Husson University in the 2010 North Atlantic Conference Field Hockey Championship on Saturday at 1:00 PM.
The title game is a rematch of the 2009 NAC Semifinal, when Husson ended the Monks' season with a gut wrenching 2-1 penalty-stroke victory on the way to earning the program's first NAC Championship. St. Joe's, which has captured the #1 seed in the six-team tourney in each of the last two seasons, was favored in the disappointing playoff loss to the Eagles, the fourth-seeded team in the tournament.
In the balance hangs the carrot of an NCAA DIII Field Hockey Tournament berth. With the conference crown, Husson collected the NAC automatic qualifier into the national tourney last fall and fell to Amherst College, ranked 13th in the nation at the time, by a 3-0 margin in the opening round. St. Joe's, making the team's second appearance in the NAC Championship in three years as a conference member, is seeking the program's first NCAA Tournament berth.
How they got here:
The Monks and Eagles couldn't have advanced to this season's title game in more different fashions. In Thursday's quarterfinal round, top-seeded St. Joe's edged out #4 Castleton, 2-1, in overtime, while #2 Husson trounced #3 Maine-Farmington by a 5-0 margin.
SJC senior forward Kayla Nowell (Bridgton, ME) netted the game-winner for the Monks in the ninth minute of overtime against the Spartans. Fellow senior Courtney Rague (Old Orchard Beach, ME) netted a goal and an assist and netminder Meaghan Johnson '12 (Portland, ME/Cheverus) made seven saves in the Saint Joseph's quarterfinal triumph.
Senior Caroline Bochtler (Turner, ME) netted a hat trick in the Eagles' 5-0 win over the Beavers on Thursday and Lorri Hiltz '12 (Norridgewock, ME) chipped in with a goal and a helper for the victors. Husson keeper Kristen Capen '13 (Leeds, ME) registered 10 stops in the cage in the win.
#1 St. Joe's (13-5, 7-0 NAC):
Saint Joseph's, led by seventh-year Head Coach Rupert Lewis, enters the title bout as the conference leader in scoring defense (1.33 goals allowed average) and goalkeeper save percentage (84%). The Monks also rank second in the league with 11 defensive saves.
St. Joe's has won seven of the last nine games and the team's five setbacks have come by a combined total of seven goals. In three years as a NAC member, the Monks have posted a phenomenal 19-1 (.950) record against conference opponents during regular-season play. St. Joe's hasn't lost a conference contest since October 4th, 2008, a span of 18 league games, when the Royal Blue suffered a 2-0 loss to Maine-Farmington.
Rague leads the Royal Blue in goals (14), assists (11) and points this season and is tied with Nowell for the team-lead in game-winning goals (4). Nowell, who became the Monks' all-time leader in goals and points earlier this season, has tallied 30 points (12 G, 6 A) so far this fall while tri-captain Sarah Bartell '12 (Exeter, NH) ranks third on the team's leader board with seven goals and 15 total points. Melanie Allen '13 (Jackson, NH) has chipped in with 12 points (2 G, 5 A) and freshman Rachelle Messuri (Atkinson, NH) leads the Monks' rookie class with three markers and seven points.
Senior tri-captain Alyssa Dunn (Standish, ME), the team's unquestioned leader and top defender, has contributed two goals and six assists offensively and ranks second on the team with five defensive saves. Brittany Locke '13 (Waterville, ME) leads the Royal Blue with six defensive stops and is a skilled defender.
In the midst of her finest season to date, Johnson is the backbone of the Monks' stout defensive efforts. The junior keeper and tri-captain leads the NAC, and currently ranks as the program's single-season leader, in both goals against average (1.22) and save percentage (.848) and is well on her way to owning virtually every SJC goalkeeping record.
#2 Husson (9-5, 6-1 NAC):
Head Coach Katie McCabe, now in her second season at the helm for the Eagles, brings a well-rounded club to the championship. Husson leads the NAC in shots (303) and fewest goals allowed (23) and ranks second in both GAA (1.64) and save percentage (82%).
After a 2-4 start to the 2010 campaign, the Eagles head into the championship game as winners in seven of the last eight contests. Husson's last three wins have all been shutouts.
Hiltz paces the Eagles in goals (7) and points (20) and Helen Berry '11 (Belfast, ME) ranks as the team-leader in assists (10) and is second in points (18). Bochtler, Jillian Morin '11 (Manchester, ME) and Sabrina Vaillancourt '14 (Newport, ME) have all netted six markers this season, with four of Vaillancourt's six tallies counting for game-winners. Courtney Allen '11 (Gardiner, ME), a tri-captain along with Morin and Lindsay Barnes '11 (Owls Head, ME), has chipped in with 13 points (5 G, 3 A) and Kajsa Blindow '13 (Morgan, VT) rounds out the Eagles' septet of double-digit scorers with 12 points (5 G, 2 A).
Barnes, Berry and Diann Ramsey '13 (Otisfield, ME) anchor the Husson defense in front of Capen, who ranks second in the league behind Johnson in both GAA (1.61) and save percentage (.820).
When we last met:
Earlier this season, Saint Joseph's defeated Husson, 3-2 in overtime, on September 25th in Bangor. Rague scored the game-clincher four minutes into extra play and Johnson made a whopping 19 saves in the SJC triumph.
Messuri and Allen also scored for the Monks, while Hiltz and Bochtler netted markers for the Eagles. Capen registered seven saves in net for Husson.
Husson has won 14 of the 26 meetings against Saint Joseph's, but the Monks have come out on top in four of the last six matchups. The last three games between the interstate rivals have gone into overtime.
Saint Joseph's has played against Husson more than all but one opponent – Maine-Farmington. The Monks and Beavers have met 27 times, with UMF trumping the Royal Blue in 20 of those meetings.