BOSTON, Mass. - The second-seeded Simmons College field hockey team will head to Portland, Maine to take on top-seeded Saint Joseph's College (Maine) in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday, November 5 at 3:00 p.m. at Deering Memorial Stadium.
The Sharks (11-7, 5-1 GNAC) earned their third straight trip to the GNAC title game following a 3-0 victory over number three seed Johnson & Wales University on November 2, while the Monks (12-6, 5-1 GNAC) defeated number four seed Lasell College, 3-1, on the same night.
Simmons is the only school to have played in every championship match since the GNAC began sponsoring field hockey in 2014 and edged Saint Joseph's in last year's final, 1-0. The Monks were ousted in the semifinals as the number one seed in 2014 in their other GNAC Tournament appearance prior to last year.
Saint Joseph's posted a 3-0 victory over the Sharks in the teams only meeting this season on October 8 in Standish, Maine. First year forward Libby Pomerleau (Limerick, Maine) scored all three goals to lead the Monks.
Simmons has plenty of playoff experience with 14 players on the roster who have been on the field for both of the Sharks' previous championship contests. Junior forward Julie Saltamartini (East Hampstead, N.H.) has tallied six playoff goals in five GNAC Tournament matches, while senior forward Jenna Gagnon (Waterville, Maine) has scored five times in GNAC playoff games and has earned Tournament Most Valuable Player honors following each of the first two title runs. Senior goalie Brianna Rastello (Salem, N.H.) is 5-0 in GNAC Tournament play and has not allowed a goal in her last 230:04, including three straight shutouts.
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 1.39 goals against average to rank 40th in NCAA Division III. Rastello owns a sparkling .798 save percentage to stand 24th among Division III leaders and leads the GNAC, while registering a 1.33 goals against mark to stand second among conference leaders. The Sharks, anchored by senior center back Robin Powell (Richmond, Vt.), have limited opponents to just 10.5 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 six contests and she has made three defensive saves.
The Simmons attack is fueled by Saltamartini, who has registered career-highs of 45 points and a school-record tying 20 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 five games as part of a two-week stretch that has seen her pile up 21 points in just five contests. Her 1.11 goals per game ranks her 17th in the nation. She is joined by junior forward Sammy Rondeau (Franklin, Mass.), who is enjoying what's become a typical season with nine goals and five assists for 23 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 two matches this season and Gagnon has contributed with three goals and five assists for 11 points. 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 senior Mary Neidhardt (Middlefield, Conn.) (4-0-8) and sophomore Missie Maiewski (Northampton, Mass.) (4-1-9) 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.
The Monks have gotten is done with defense as well this season, holding opponents to a 0.99 goals against average to place 17th among the nation's leaders and have allowed just two goals in their last 10 matches. Saint Joseph's has given up more than two goals to just three opponents this season. Sophomore goalie Megan Baker (Gorham, Maine) leads the league with a 1.03 GAA and six shutouts, while owning a .750 save percentage in 1084 minutes between the pipes. Sophomore defender Kayla Veilleux (Sabattus, Maine) has been a big contributor from the back line with a league-leading five defensive saves.
Pomerleau leads all GNAC rookies and tops the Saint Joseph's offense with 38 points on 14 goals and 10 assists. She's been named the conference rookie of the week three times and has scored six game-winning tallies. Two-time all-conference honoree, Kelsey Dumond (Lewiston, Maine) ranks second on the team with 25 points on nine goals and seven assists, while junior midfielder Elyse Caiazzo (Scarborough, Maine) has scored five goals, including a trio of game-deciders, to go with four assists for 14 points. Sophomore Kara Kelly (York, Maine) has also been an emerging force for the Monks wiht five goals and thre assists.