By Tanner Swan, Sports Editor
The St. John Fisher field hockey team claimed the Empire 8 title and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in just its fifth year of the program.
The Cardinals dominated the Empire 8 all season long with a record of 8-0 before winning the two conference tournament games. Fisher’s 18-2 record is also the best in program history.
A 17-game winning streak has Fisher rolling into the NCAA Tournament with confidence.
In the semifinal against Stevens Tech, Fisher scored 12:23 seconds into the contest with a goal from Emily Markarian. Stevens tied the score at one with a goal just five minutes into the second half.
The game couldn’t have been closer in terms of shots, as Stevens had 20 shots as opposed to Fisher’s 19. Both goalies were impressive as Stevens’ Emily Stukenborg had 13 saves while Fisher’s Ashley Maynard had 12.
The ultimate deciding goal came in overtime as the Cardinals peppered Stevens with five shots in the extra period. Gabby Laforce assisted Markarian for her second goal of the game, and the winning goal that propelled Fisher into the conference final.
In the finals, Fisher hung on in another close matchup against Washington & Jefferson College to win the championship. Washington & Jefferson proved to be a tough test for the Cardinals in the regular season, which Fisher needed two overtimes in order to win.
Lauren Fazio scored the first goal of the game for the Cardinals in the first half. Markarian added another goal in the second half to give Fisher some comfort room.
That proved to be necessary, as Washington & Jefferson scored in the final minutes to bring the final score to 2-1. Maynard had 11 saves.
Despite Fisher’s record, the team has not received a significant amount of love from the NCAA as they are still not in the top 25 rankings. However, the team will play its first round game at home against a very tough Rhodes College team.
Rhodes is from Memphis, Tennessee and is 15-2 while also claiming its SAA conference title. The SAA conference does not have an automatic bid, meaning the team that wins the conference isn’t necessarily granted an NCAA tournament appearance. However, in this case Rhodes was granted what is termed as a pool B selection.
Pool B are institutions that are apart of a conference that does not receive an automatic bid. Pool A are institutions that do belong to conferences with an automatic qualifier such as the case with Fisher, while Pool C is designated to teams that deserve to make the NCAA tournament despite not earning the automatic bid in their respective conference.
Fisher’s Growney Stadium will host a NCAA tournament game in field hockey for the first time ever on Wednesday, Nov. 9th, at 12:30 p.m.