BOSTON, Mass. - The second-seeded Simmons College field hockey team will host number four seed Anna Maria College in the Inaugural Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday, November 8 at 5:00 p.m. The match will be played at Bridgewater State University's Swenson Field in Bridgewater, Mass.
The Sharks defeated number three seed Johnson & Wales University, 5-2, on November 5 to advance to the finals, while Anna Maria upset top-seeded Saint Joseph's College (Maine), 1-0, to reach the title match.
Simmons is seeking its first-ever conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Sharks last appearance in a league title match was in 2003 when they fell to University of Maine-Farmington, 3-0, in the North Atlantic Conference finals. The AMCATS are vying for their third conference championship, having captured the New England Collegiate Confernece crown twice, and also looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history.
Simmons has won eight of its last nine contests and enters the match with a 12-5 record, while the AMCATS are riding a four-match win streak as part of winning seven of eight games. They boast a 13-8 mark.
The Sharks edged Anna Maria in the teams' only meeting of the season, 1-0, on September 20 in Paxton, Mass. Simmons controlled the match with a 21-6 shot advantage, while dominating the penalty corners, 12-2. Junior midfielder Amy Cronin (Georgetown, Mass.) tallied the lone goal, while sophomore keeper Brianna Rastello (Salem, N.H.) stopped both shots on cage for the Sharks. Junior goalie Mary Kate Breen (Londonderry, N.H.) made 13 saves for the AMCATS. The teams are 1-1 against each other in the last decade.
Balance and depth have been huge keys for Simmons' success this season. The Sharks lead the GNAC with 3.3 goals per game, while posting a 1.13 goals against average to rank second in the league. The team has six players with 13 or more points on the season in 17 games and have received significant contribution from its non-starters. Of the team's 56 goals scored this season, 20 of those tallies have come from players off the bench. Simmons' youth hasn't slowed the team down one bit, in fact, two of the squad's top three scorers are first years, who have combined for 20 goals.
First year forward Julie Saltamartini (East Hampstead, N.H.) leads the team with 30 points on 13 goals and four assists, while senior forward Kelly Williamson (Natick, Mass.) has racked up 23 points on 10 markers and three assists. Rookie forward Samantha Rondeau (Franklin, Mass.) has been a key playmaker and scorer for the Sharks with seven goals and six helpers. Sophomore forward Jenna Gagnon (Waterville, Maine) could be the X-factor for Simmons. Despite missing the season's first seven matches, including the contest at Anna Maria, Gagnon has looked more and more like the player, who was the NAC's Rookie of the Year in 2013. The forward has been on a mission over the last six contests, piling up 17 points on seven goals and three assists.
Rastello has been named the league's Goalkeeper of the Week five times and for good reason. The second year goalie owns a 1.25 GAA and has posted a .773 save percentage, while registering five shutouts. The Sharks' defense has allowed more than two goals in a match just three times and posted eight shutouts for the season. Senior Avery Hines (Newburyport, Mass.) and junior Alexia Malone Oliver (Bristol, R.I.) have locked down the backfield for Simmons all season. The pair have provided a sense of security in conjunction with the team's defensive midfield.
The AMCATS have proven that it only takes one, scoring the lone goal on just two shots in their upset of St. Joseph's. Anna Maria features two of the league's top three scorers, led by junior midfielder Kylie Dalbec (Portland, Maine), who tops the GNAC with 47 points on 21 goals, including nine game-winners and five assists. She's joined by senior forward Nichole Lowe (Saugus, Mass.), who ranks second in the conference with 10 assists to go with 13 goals for 36 points. Junior midfielder Kayla Lapierre (Worcester, Mass.) has also been a player to keep an eye on for Anna Maria with seven goals and seven helpers. Breen has been solid in the cage for the AMCATS, ranking second in the conference with a .780 save mark, while putting up a 1.50 goals against mark.