STANDISH, ME - #2 Saint Joseph's College (13-5, 8-1 NAC) will host #5 Husson University (10-8, 4-5 NAC) in the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Field Hockey Championship at 1:00 PM on Saturday at Lakeside Field.
How they got here:
St. Joe's defeated #7 Simmons College, 3-1, in the quarterfinal round last Saturday and blanked #3 New England College, 1-0, in a semifinal match on Wednesday. Rachelle Messuri '14 (Atkinson, N.H.) netted the game-winner in the 37th minute and SJC keeper Meaghan Johnson '12 (Portland, Maine/Cheverus) made five saves in the triumph over the Pilgrims.
Husson advanced past #4 Maine-Farmington with a 3-2 penalty-strokes victory in the opening round of the NAC tourney and shocked top-seeded Castleton State College, 1-0, in the semis to move on to the championship game for the third consecutive season. Sophomore Sabrina Vaillancourt (Newport, Maine) provided the lone Eagles' tally in the fifth minute of play and junior keeper Kristen Capen (Leeds, Maine) withstood the Spartans' offensive onslaught with 16 saves in the shutout win.
The last time we met:
The Monks bested the Eagles by a 2-1 margin at Lakeside Field on October 5th as Amanda Sebastiao '12 (Uxbridge, Mass.) netted both SJC goals and Johnson stopped six shots on the afternoon. Mariah Arno '14 (Dover-Foxcroft, Maine) scored the Husson goal and Capen made nine saves in a losing effort.
What have you done lately?
The Monks have won seven of the last 10 contests and four straight going into the championship game. After losing two straight for just the second time in the last four years, St. Joe's closed out the regular season with solid victories over Colby-Sawyer and Plymouth State College.
The Eagles' loss to Saint Joseph's in early October seemed to send the visitors into a tailspin, but the team reverted to its usual form just in time for the playoffs. Including the SJC setback, Husson lost six of its final seven games before righting the ship with a thrilling triumph over Farmington in the quarterfinal round.
Saint Joseph's and Husson have met on the field hockey pitch 28 times over the past 17 seasons and the Eagles have come out on top on 15 occasions. Husson ended the Monks' season in each of the past two years, including a 2-1 victory over the Royal Blue in the 2010 NAC Championship, which was also played at Lakeside.
Recipe for success:
Defense is at the forefront for the Monks yet again this fall as the Royal Blue leads the NAC in goals against average (1.03) and save percentage (.878) by large margins. In fact, St. Joe's ranks third and 18th, respectively, in the country in GAA and SV%. The Monks have outscored opponents by a whopping 44-19 margin this fall and lead the conference, and rank 31st in the nation, in scoring margin (1.43)
Husson is well-balanced offensively and defensively as the Eagles rank second in the NAC in goals (63) and fourth in both GAA (2.39) and SV% (.789). Husson also leads the conference with 12.47 penalty corners per contest – an average that ranks 11th in the country.
Attitude reflects leadership:
SJC Head Coach Rupert Lewis (76-51, .598), now in his seventh year at the helm, is the winningest and most successful coach in team history. He inherited a two-win team as a first-year skipper and progressively built the program into an annual contender after just two years on the job. Before Lewis, a two-time NAC Coach of the Year honoree, came on board the St. Joe's field hockey team had posted just won double-digit win season (1999). The team's 13 wins this season marks the fifth time the Monks have notched at least 10 triumphs during coach's seven years in the fold.
Husson Head Coach Jen Johnstone is in her first season as the Eagles' clipboard carrier and seems to have picked up where the former regime left off. A former NCAA DI standout for the University of Maine, Johnstone brings a multitude of coaching and playing experience to the sideline for the Eagles.
Who to watch:
SJC senior netminder Meaghan Johnson (Portland, Maine/Cheverus) is in the midst of her finest season to date. The 2011 NAC Defensive Player of the year currently ranks third in the country in save percentage (.874) and 15th in goals-against average (1.03) and has essentially rewritten the Monks' goalkeeping record book during her fabulous career.
Offensively, Saint Joseph's is led by TJ Cowin (Newry, Maine), a sophomore transfer who attended Simmons College last year. The 2011 First Team All-NAC choice paces the Royal Blue in goals (15), points (32), game-winning goals (5), shots (84) and shots on goal (58). Sarah Bartell '12 (Exeter, N.H.), a two-time First Team All-NAC selection, has netted seven goals and six assists for 20 total points and Peyton Dostie '15 (Standish, Maine), the recent NAC Rookie of the Week, has contributed five goals, seven assists and 17 total points this fall.
Ace defender Brittany Locke '13 (Waterville, Maine) also collected First Team All-NAC honors and leads the Royal Blue with three defensive saves this fall.
Arno, a First Team All-NAC selection, is currently tied for the conference-lead in goals (20) and ranks third in total points (44). The second-year standout ranks 17th in the country in goals per game average (1.12) and 24th in points per game (2.41).
Vaillancourt, a NAC Second Team honoree, has contributed 16 goals and seven assists for 29 total points this year while Kara Poirier '13 (Berlin, N.H.) (6-3-15), also a Second Team recipient, rounds out the Eagles' top offensive threats.
Capen sports a 2.06 GAA with an .815 SV% and two shutouts this season.