The Ladies field hockey team, despite entering this year’s playoffs as an underdog third seed, was not interested in exiting this season just yet. Through long road trips and two overtime nail-biters, Kenyon (15-6; NCAC 10-4) defeated second-seed Denison University (14-5; NCAC 11-3) and first-seed DePauw University (17-4; NCAC 13-1) in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) tournament for their fourth conference title in program history.
The Ladies began their journey to the tournament crown on Nov. 2 when they traveled to Granville, Ohio to face Denison in the semifinal round. Denison defeated Kenyon in Granville just four days earlier, and with the loss fresh in their minds, the Ladies resolved to win and advance.
“We knew that we were not going to lose again,” forward Hannah Sklar ’20 said. “We had all said the night before we were not going to let Denison, of all teams, beat us.”
Kenyon started the game on their terms, locking Denison down on defense for the first half. Minutes before halftime, Sklar scored for the Ladies. At halftime, the tables turned; Denison allowed Kenyon to take just one shot in the second half. With three shots of their own, Denison tied the game with fewer than four minutes left in regulation, and the match went to overtime. The Ladies committed all their energy to offense for the first five minutes of overtime, and the gamble paid off: Sklar scored again, this time for the win.
“I wasn’t even thinking after I scored,” she said. “I was just running around the field.”
With momentum on their side, the Ladies headed to Greencastle, Ind. for the tournament finals match against the DePauw Tigers. In two games this season, Kenyon and DePauw won one apiece, and the two squads itched for a rematch. The Ladies opened on shaky footing, giving up a goal just two minutes into the game, but tough defense kept the Ladies afloat until Kelsey Trulik ’18 tied the game in the 25th minute.
Neither team scored in the second half, and the Ladies geared up for their second overtime game in a row. They pressed with aggressiveness on offense, a final push for the sake of their whole season. It was Katelyn Hutchinson ’18 who clinched the NCAC title with a penalty goal four minutes into overtime. The Ladies were champions, again.
Kenyon won the title with a crushing defense, owing in part to the stalwart goalkeeping of Sarah Speroff ’18. Speroff led the NCAC with a 0.857 save percentage this season, and she made 10 saves in the two tournament games. For her contribution to Kenyon’s championship season, Speroff won NCAC Defensive Player of the Year and earned a spot on the All-NCAC first team. Shannon Hart ’18 joined her on first team, Trulik and Hutchinson earned second-team spots and juniors Paige Beyer and Weezie Foster received honorable mentions.
Kenyon’s season did not stop in Greencastle. The NCAC title gave the Ladies an automatic bid in the NCAA Division III Field Hockey Tournament, where they faced the Elizabethtown College Blue Jays (14-5; Elizabethtown, Pa.) in the first round yesterday. The Ladies triumphed in yet another 2-1 overtime victory, this time with Trulik scoring the game-winner in extra time. With the win, Kenyon advanced beyond the first round for the first time since 2006.
The next round of the NCAA tournament will pit the Ladies against the Salisbury University Seagulls (16-1; Salisbury, Md.), ranked second in the nation in NCAA Division-III field hockey. The Ladies will travel to Salisbury on Saturday for the match, which begins at 11 a.m.