Interactive Championship Bracket
BOSTON, Mass. - The Simmons College field hockey team will play host State University of New York at New Paltz in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday, November 11 at 1:30 p.m. on North Turf Field in New Paltz, N.Y.
The Sharks earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament via their 1-0 victory over Saint Joseph's College (Maine) on November 7 to win the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship. The Hawks earned their Tournament spot with a 2-1 triumph over SUNY Cortland to capture the State University of New York Athletic Conference title on the same day.
Simmons owns a 14-4 mark and returns to the NCAA tourney after making its first appearance last season, while SUNY New Paltz is 15-5 and is making its fourth straight trip to the tournament. The Sharks fell to host University of New England, 2-0, in last season's appearance. The Hawks are 2-3 in NCAA Tournament play with opening round wins over William Smith College (5-2, 2013) and Keene State College (6-3, 2014).
Simmons has been one of the best defensive teams over the past two years, but this season it has taken its defense to a new level, posting a school-record 12 shutouts in 18 matches for a rate of 0.67 per match to lead the nation, while owning a 0.66 goals against average to place fifth among all teams in NCAA III. The Sharks have also been among the best offensive squads in the nation, ranking 23rd among all Division III units with 3.22 goals per game, while owning a 2.54 scoring margin to stand 12th in the nation. Simmons is allowing just 5.8 shots per game, which has been the key to the team's success and limiting opponent's scoring chances. The GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, sophomore Maizy Wagner (Chester County, Pa.) has been a big reason for that along with fellow First Team All-Conference honoree Alexia Malone Oliver (Bristol, Mass.) the pair have combined with junior keeper Brianna Rastello (Salem, N.H.) to keep the ball out of the cage. Rastello has posted a career-high eight shutouts to support a conference-low 0.72 goals against mark. The defense has helped to shut out its last four opponents and hasn't allowed a score in 308:52 minutes of play.
The Sharks' defensive midfield or "The Belt" has made it difficult for the opposition to even get within the circle to get a shot off. Patrolled by First Team All-Conference selection Amy Wilson (Falmouth, Mass.) along with Second Teamer Hailey Bruno-Moulton (South Berwick, Maine) and Robin Powell (Richmond, Vt.) to round out the suffocating junior trio. The group has dominated possession in the middle of the field, while also being able to support in the defensive zone in a moment's notice.
Up front, Simmons has no shortage of capable scorers, led by GNAC Offensive Player of the Year, Julie Saltamartini (East Hampstead, N.H.). The sophomore has already topped her stellar rookie campaign with a 37-point season, including 17 goals and five game-winners. Sophomore classmate Sammy Rondeau (Franklin, Mass.) seized a starting spot early in the year and responded by scoring nine times, while adding five assists for a career-high 23 points this season. Second Team All-Conference forward Jenna Gagnon (Waterville, Mass.) seems to always rise to the occasion. One of her six goals on the year gave the Sharks the conference crown as the only marker vs. Saint Joseph's and led to her being named the GNAC Tournament Most Valuable Player for the second straight year. First Team All-Conference midfielder Amy Cronin (Georgetown, Mass.) has served as an outstanding distributor all season for Simmons. The senior Tri-Captain ranks among the league leaders with six assists to go with a pair of goals. The Sharks have also received valuable contributions from junior forward Jillian Mercer (Dartmouth, Mass.), who has come off the bench to register six goals and first year forward Missy Maiewski (Northampton, Mass.), who has shown great poise in her rookie year, while scoring five goals. Junior forwards Mary Neidhardt (Middlefield, Conn.) and Madeline Koufos (Needham, Mass.) are both coming off outstanding efforts in the title match and have been solid contributors this season.
Not only is Simmons a balanced team, but a well-seasoned group as well, missing just four players from last year's NCAA Tournament team and boasting 13 players, who are either in their junior or senior season.
SUNY New Paltz has proven its mettle against tough opponents, having beaten a pair of nationally-ranked foes this year and is not without its own star-studded cast of characters. The Hawks also feature their respective conference's Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year. Senior midfielder Dani Ackerman (Nesconset, N.Y.) has been a mainstay for New Paltz over the past four years, on the cusp of 100 career points, and has been good for 14 points, including five goals this season. She's one of six players on the squad with a dozen or more points. Junior forward Kayla McKeveny (Holbrook, N.Y.) leads the team with 27 points and 12 goals, while senior back and Defensive Player of the Year, Jessica Caruana (Holbrook, NY.) has set up her teammates for a team-high eight assists to go with nine markers, including four off penalty strokes. Junior back Colleen Roemer (Pound Ridge, N.Y.) has helped Caruana lock down the back line for Hawks, holding foes to a 1.10 goals against average, while making six defensive saves. Senior keeper Alayna Wageman (Getzville, N.Y.) has posted a 1.15 goals against mark, while maintaining a .850 save percentage.
Although, New Paltz is making its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, almost half of its roster is making its first trip with 10 rookies on the squad.