This afternoon, the two participants in last year’s Division I championship — Liberty and Northwestern — found themselves in adverse situations in their respective road games. But this is to be expected: make a national championship final, and everyone on next year’s schedule will bring their best game and work every possible tactic in order to win.
Northwestern traveled to Princeton, a team which had a pair of immense results last week, They beat a good Syracuse team 5-1, then knocked off a Rutgers team which had been the No. 1 seed in last year’s tournament by a 4-1 score.
Princeton was able to get a Beth Yeager dragflick goal in the 31st minute, and held onto the lead deep into regulation before a Peyton Halsey deflection on the doorstep tied the game.
The teams headed into overtime and the game ended on an innocuous play. In the 67th minute, Alia Marshall carried the ball up the left wing and sought a scoring opportunity. She flipped the ball off the stick of Princeton back Gabby Andretta and the ball somehow found its way over the shoulder of goalie Robyn Thompson from that tight angle, ending the game.
A few hundred miles south in Harrisonburg, Va., Liberty was playing a non-conference game against in-state foe James Madison. The Flames raced out to a 2-0 lead and were seemingly bossing the game.
But Emily Harrison answered twice for the host Dukes, setting up the game-winner from import Eveline Zwager shortly before the interval.
James Madison, a school which needs as many Ratings Percentage Index points as it can get in order to make it into the NCAA Tournament, was able to hold on for the balance of the second half, even as Liberty pulled its goalie for an 11th field player for the last seven minutes of the contest, winning 3-2.
These sets of results reinforce the notion that not only is nothing easy in NCAA field hockey, but it seems to me as though it is going to take a special effort in order to make the Division I championship game this year.