BOSTON, Mass. - The second-seeded Simmons College field hockey team will host number three seed Johnson & Wales University in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship Tournament Semifinals on Wednesday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m. on Daly Field in Brighton, Mass.
The Sharks are making their third straight semifinals appearance since the GNAC began sponsoring the sport in 2014. Simmons has made four semifinals trips since 2006, which included an entry into the North Atlantic Conference's final four. The Wildcats are also making their third appearance in the semifinals. The teams have met in each of the two previous GNAC Tournaments semifinals rounds with Simmons defeating Johnson & Wales, 5-2, in 2014 and 3-0 last year.
The Sharks enter play with a 10-7 mark, while the Wildcats are 7-11. Johnson & Wales edged Anna Maria College, 1-0, in the quarterfinals on Morgan Matthews' fourth marker of the year in the first half. Sophomore keeper Claire Nolan (West Bridgewater, Mass.) made four saves in the win.
Simmons beat Johnson & Wales, 4-0, in Providence on October 22 behind two goals and a pair of assists from junior forward Julie Saltamartini (East Hampstead, N.H.). The Sharks outshot the Wildcats, 20-6, and senior goalie Brianna Rastello (Salem, N.H.) stopped the only shot she faced to post the shutout.
Simmons has been one of the best defensive teams in the nation in recent years and this season has been no different. The squad owns a 1.47 goals against average to rank 47th in NCAA Division III. Rastello owns a sparkling .798 save percentage to stand 25th among Division III leaders and leads the GNAC. The Sharks, anchored by senior center back Robin Powell (Richmond, Vt.), have limited opponents to just 11 shots per game. One of the keys to the team's defensive prowess has been its experience. Senior Amy Wilson (Falmouth, Mass.) missed time to begin the season, but has helped strengthen a defensive front that also includes 2015 GNAC Second Team honoree Hailey Bruno-Moulton (South Berwick, Maine). Since Wilson's return, the backline has allowed just four goals in the last five contests.
The Simmons attack is fueled by Saltamartini, who has registered career-highs of 42 points and 19 goals. She recently became just the second player in school history to surpass the 100-point mark and became the first Shark to score 50 career goals in the program's history. The reigning GNAC Offensive Player of the Year has tallied at least one goal in each of her last four games as part of a two-week stretch that has seen her pile up 18 points in just four contests. Her 1.12 goals per game ranks her 16th in the nation. She is joined by junior forward Sammy Rondeau (Franklin, Mass.), who is enjoying what's become a typical season with eight goals and five assists for 21 points to rank among the league's top nine in points, goals and assists. First year Olivia Trull (Lowell, Mass.) has also given the team's offense a jolt with six goals and an assist for 13 points, while starting all but one match this season. Sophomore Ana Giarrusso (Hingham, Mass.) moved to the midfield to solidify the group and help settle the team's offense. She's chipped in with two goals and a pair of assists, while senior Madeline Koufos (Needham, Mass.) has provided experienced play and a player who has played in big games before.
Simmons also boasts one of the deepest rosters in the region with seniors Jenna Gagnon (Waterville, Maine) (2-5-9) and Mary Neidhardt (Middlefield, Conn.) (4-0-8) and sophomore Missie Maiewski (Northampton, Mass.) (4-1-9) all serving as a scoring threat for the Sharks. Depth extends to the defense for Simmons as well with sophomore Meghan Fontaine (Westminster, Mass.), juniors Eryn Melanson (Townsend, Mass.) and Kiera Kirkaldy (Middlebury, Vt.) along with first year Hannah Scott (Claremont, N.H.) all showing they can play significant minutes when called upon.
Johnson & Wales is no stranger to playing in tight games, having been a part of five one-goal outcomes in conference action, while standing on the winning side four times. The biggest win of the season came in a 2-1 win over top-seeded Saint Joseph's College (Maine). The Wildcats are led by first year forward Kaylyn Forest (Amherst, N.H.) on offense with six goals for 12 points. Matthews also has an assist as part of a nine-point campaign, while sophomore midfielder Madeline Larson (Catonsville, Md.) and sophomore forward Adriana Scala (Valley Cottage, N.Y.) each have three goals and an assist. The Johnson & Wales defense is backed by Nolan, who has played all 1260 minutes in the cage and posted a 3.17 goals against mark to go with a .692 save percentage.