Two days of elite field hockey come to a close from McCooey Field in Geneva, New York. Both Tufts and Messiah fought through the snowy and frigid conditions to decide who would get to be your 2016 DIII field hockey national champions. At the end of the day, Messiah earned that right.
Saturday’s semifinals began with unseasonably warm weather in upstate New York. No. 1-ranked Messiah faced No. 7 Babson under a beautiful sunny sky and 65 degree weather. It was a hard fought battle in the first half, as Messiah’s Nicole Wilkerson found Moriah Pfautz twice for first half goals. The semifinals newcomers showed their poise, as Babson’s Ashley Tango scored the equalizer as time ran out at the end of the half. The second half, however, was all Messiah, as they went on the offensive, scoring three unanswered goals to advance to their ninth finals.
The temperatures dropped and so did the rains by the time No. 2 Salisbury and No. 3 Tufts took the field for the second semifinals bout. The No. 2 and No. 3 defenses delivered in a defensive duel, as Tuft’s Dominique Zarrella — their senior captain who has been hobbled most of this season with a bulged disk in her back — scored the lone goal of the day. For Zarrella, it was just her second goal of the season after leading the team in scoring the previous two years.
Sunday was much like the second game of the semifinals, as neither team could figure out the other’s stout defense. 70 minutes wouldn’t be enough as the two top-notch defenses forced a scoreless tie at the end of regulation. 30 more minutes and two overtimes also proved to be too little to name a champion. The Falcons would prevail in a shootout. Goals by Shayna Landis and Carissa Gehman was just enough to outlast Tufts, who would get a goal from Fallon Shaughnessy, 2-1 in the shootout.
The ninth time proved to be the charm. The Messiah Falcons are no longer the belles of the ball. They are finally your 2016 DIII National Champions.