CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Junior forward Jenna Gagnon (Waterville, Maine) scored just over 10 minutes into the second half to give the number one-seeded Simmons College field hockey team the only goal it would need in a 1-0 victory over visiting second-seed Saint Joseph's College (Maine) this evening to win the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship on Jack Barry Field on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
The Sharks win their second straight GNAC crown in as many years of the league's sponsorship of field hockey since last year's inaugural campaign and improve to 14-4 on the season to match the school record for victories. The victory also gives Simmons an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship Tournament. The Monks fall to 13-7 on the season.
The Sharks win their fifth straight match and seventh of their last eight. Simmons learns who its first round opponent will be in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night, October 8 at 10:30 p.m. via NCAA.com. The match will be played on Wednesday, November 11.
The Sharks' defense held strong the entire match, holding Saint Joseph's to just six shots, despite the visitors owning a 6-4 advantage on penalty corners.
Gagnon, who was named the GNAC Tournament Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row, snapped home the winning tally at 45:05 of the second half. Junior midfielder Amy Wilson (Falmouth, Mass.)unleashed a shot that sophomore forward Julie Saltamartini (East Hampstead, N.H.) corralled on the right side of the box. Saltamartini then found Gagnon in stride for a one-timer in the left slot for what proved to be the game-winning marker.
The Monks threatened in the 15th minute of the first half when junior Kelsey Dumond (Lewiston, Maine) fired a shot off the left post following a penalty corner. Saint Joseph's later looked to score the equalizer in the final 14 minutes of the match with five penalty corners, including three in the span of less than a minute with Simmons down a player, due to a green card. The Monks managed three shots during their flurry, but were unable to connect for a score.
Junior keeper Brianna Rastello (Salem, N.H.) stopped three shots on the night to earn her eighth shutout of the season and 14th of her career for the Sharks, while extending her scoreless streak to 308:52 minutes. Senior back Alexia Malone Oliver (Bristol, R.I.) also made a defensive save for Simmons during Saint Joseph's late match rush. First year goalie Megan Baker (Gorham, Maine) made a pair of saves for the Monks.
Gagnon, who tallied a pair of goals in the tournament, was joined on the All-Tournament team by Saltamartini (2-1-5), senior midfielder Amy Cronin (Georgetown, Mass.), Malone Oliver and sophomore back Maizy Wagner (Chester County, Pa.) for the Sharks, while Saint Joseph's was represented by sophomore midfielder Elyse Caiazzo (Scarborough, Maine), first year forward Michalia Parent (Westborough, Mass.), who finished with a team-high three shots in the championship match and Baker. Anna Maria College placed junior midfielders Katherine Abro (Leicester, Mass.) and Lauren Beauregard (Hubbardston, Mass.) on the squad, while Johnson & Wales University sophomore midfielder Jessica Kocur (Mattapoisett, Mass.) and sophomore goalie Shannon Yoder (Boyertown, Pa.) were also named to the team.