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Field Hockey and Women’s Soccer Teams Set for NCAA Tournament

Women’s Soccer Players and Coach Lyons react while watching NCAA Tournament selection show
Women’s Soccer Players and Coach Lyons react while watching NCAA Tournament selection show

With Little East Conference championship awards safely secured in the trophy chest, Keene State College field hockey and women’s soccer teams will now set their sights on their first-round NCAA tournament opponents.

For the Keene State field hockey team there’s no place like home. Not only did the Owls earn an NCAA tournament berth to the 24-team field, but we’ll be hosting a first-round game on Wednesday (2 p.m.) against Gordon College, a member of the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) from Wenham, Mass.

The Keene State women’s soccer team wasn’t as fortunate. Huddled in front of a large screen in the College’s athletic department, KSC Coach Denise Lyons and her Owl players put their arms up in the air and cheered after finding out they’d be facing Haverford College of Pa., in a first-round game in the 64-team tournament on Saturday (Time TBA) in Williamstown, Mass.

KSC field hockey coach Amy Watson said she wasn’t surprised that her team, which has a 13-0 mark at Owls Athletic Complex; will be staying home for its NCAA opener. “We got a home game two years ago, so I wasn’t’ shocked,” she said. “I’m excited. It’s always nice to get the first one at home.”

“We’re really excited because we feel a lot more comfortable at home than we do away,” said senior captain Aimee Donaruma.

While the KSC field hockey team found out its opponent on Sunday night, the Owl women’s soccer team got to watch the NCAA Division III selection show Monday afternoon.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking watching all the names pop up on the screen and see who we’re going to play, but I think we got a good draw,” said junior Bev Cole. “Seeing their record, it looks like we match up well.”

“You see those teams that are 19-0 and I don’t want to play those teams in the first-round,” said senior captain Kelsie Bailey. “I want a chance to win the first game.”

“It’s exciting going up against a team you never played before,” said senior captain Hayley Kenyon. “It will be a good test for us to round out the season.”

A member of the College of St. Rose’s Division II national championship team as a freshman, junior Maggie Grayson said she felt more involved this time around. “My previous coach didn’t say too much and Irish (KSC Coach Denise Lyons) was bouncing up-and-down and excited and my heart was beating.”

The Keene State field hockey team (20-3), which captured the Little East championship with a 2-1 win over Plymouth State last Saturday, will be making its ninth trip to the national tournament, and first appearance since 2011. Keene State went to the Division II tournament in 1983, and earned its initial Division III berth in 1998. The Owls, who are riding an eight-game winning streak, made five consecutive trips to the Division III tournament from 2004 to 2008.

They won their first NCAA game in 2011, beating Endicott College (2-0) at home before losing to top-ranked Bowdoin College (4-0) in the second round. The winner of Wednesday’s game will move on to the face Skidmore College (17-3) in Middlebury, Vt. on Saturday.

Gordon College (17-5) will be making its first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The second seeded Scots upset top-seed the University of New England to claim their first CCC title in 12 years last Saturday.

Earning its NCAA berth with its 1-0 win over Eastern Conn. in the LEC finals last Saturday, the Keene State women’s soccer team (17-4-1) will be making their first national tournament trip since 2004. The Owls earned six NCAA berths as a Division II member, reaching the finals in 1989 and 1990. KSC returned to the NCAA Division III tournament in 1998, losing a first-round game to Colby College (5-1). The Owls also made NCAA appearances in 2002 and 2004. In 2002, they advanced to the regional finals before falling to Wheaton (3-1). Two year later, they got to the second-round before losing to Middlebury (2-0).

Haverford (10-3-6), who earned an at-large berth to the nationals, will be making its second straight appearance in the NCAA playoffs. The Fords finished second in the regular season standings of the Centennial Conference and played its way into the championship of the postseason league tournament before falling, 2-0, Saturday to sixth-ranked Johns Hopkins University, which earned the conference’s automatic bid with the victory.

Keene State and Keene State are scheduled to play in one of the two contests slated for Williams, with the host Ephs set to battle Lesley (Mass.) University in the other game. Saturday’s winners advance to a second-round battle Sunday afternoon at Williams.

Watson and Lyons will now do their due diligence, putting together scoring reports for their respective teams. Watson should have an easier time getting the scoop on the Scots. Gordon and KSC played four common opponents during the season, including LEC teams Southern Maine, and Salem State.

Lyons on the other hand will have her work cut out for her trying to get information about Haverford. “I’ll contact all the teams that they played and see if they’re willing to share information,” she said. “It’s going to be hard because we don’t have any common opponents, but I’ll do the best that I can.”

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