OWLS TO HOST ENDICOTT ON WEDNESDAY AT 4; WITH VIDEO PREVIEW
KEENE, N.H. 11/7/11- After a two-year hiatus, the Keene State College field hockey team is heading back to the NCAA Division III tournament. Keene State will host Endicott College of Beverly, Mass., in a first-round game at Owl Athletic Complex on Wednesday (4 p.m.).
The winner of Wednesday's game will travel to Bowdoin College to face the host Polar Bears on Saturday (11 a.m.).
The Owls will be making their eighth trip to the national tournament, and first appearance since 2008. Keene State went to the Division II tournament in 1983, and earned its initial Division III berth in 1998. The Owls made five consecutive trips to the Division III tournament from 2004 to 2008.
KSC Coach Amy Watson said missing the tournament the past two years makes her appreciate this year's berth even more. "We came close the last two seasons but came up short," she said. "It does really make it a little sweeter this year."
The same can be said for the six seniors on the team who were freshmen the last time KSC went to the tournament. "As a freshman, I don't know if I really understood how important it was to go to the NCAAs," said senior Elizabeth Coffin, who leads the Owls with 22 goals, nine assists, and 53 points. "I figured we went every year."
Keene State enters the tournament on a roll, having won its last seven games. The top seed in the Little East Conference tournament, the Owls (19-4) captured the championship with a 2-0 shutout win over second-seed Plymouth State on Sunday.
Asked why this Owl team was able to get over the hump, Watson said, "This team has blended well together. We also have great leadership with seven seniors, including six who have started the past four years."
"We really work well together and have great team chemistry," said Coffin. "We have a lot of talented players who love playing the game. Nobody wants the season to end."
Aislynn Sherry said that senior captain Jackie Benson deserves a lot of credit for the team's success. "Jackie did a great job getting the team to bond and developing a great mindset," she said. "We were always ready to play."
Endicott College (12-8), which is making its first NCAA tournament trip, capped off an incredible second half surge during the regular season, defeating the University of New England 2-1 (OT) to claim its first Commonwealth Coast Conference crown on Saturday. After starting the season 1-7, the Gulls did an about face, winning 11 of their last 12 contests. "It should be a good game," said Watson "Both teams are peaking at the right time."
Keene State owns a 7-1 series advantage over Endicott. The teams last met in 2004.
Usually shipped out of the region or matched-up with a tough NESCAC opponent, the Owls appear to have gotten a break by hosting a first-round NCAA game. "We're such a home field team," said senior back Kerry Howe, who was named MVP of the LEC tournament. "We love playing and feel so comfortable playing on our turf field. We know they're a grass team, so that should give us an advantage."
Keene State historically hasn't fared well in the Division III tournament, losing all six of its first-round games. Two of those games took place at home. In 2004, the Owls dropped a 3-2 double-overtime game to the University of Maine-Farmington, and two years later got washed away (6-0) by Wellesley College in a game played in a downpour.
Is this the year the Owls get past the first round? Sherry thinks so. "This is the year of great things for our team and it's only going to continue," she said.