Mechanicsburg, Pa. – The No. 11-ranked Trinity College field hockey team fell to top-ranked Messiah College, 5-0, on Sunday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Division III NCAA Tournament at Anderson Field on Messiah's campus in Mechanicsburg, Pa. The Bantams, who reached the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time since 2009, end their season with a 14-7 record while Messiah improves to 21-0 and advances to the Final Four for the second-straight year and the 16th time overall.
The Falcons struck first with 27:55 showing on the scoreboard in the first half after working the ball deep into Trinity's zone. Kezia Loht (McClure, Pa.) sent a pass to Carissa Gehman (Holtwood, Pa.) who fired a shot on goal that hit off a stick and redirected past Trinity goalie Lori Berger (Scottsdale, Ariz.) for the early 1-0 lead. Messiah had another scoring chance just a few minutes later, earning a penalty corner, but a shot off the stick of Gehman was blocked by Bantam junior Madison Guiffre (Wellesley, Mass.) to keep the deficit at 1-0.
Kristin Donohue (Holland, Pa.) gave the hosts a 2-0 advantage 16 minutes into the opening frame after a nifty pass into the circle from Gehman. Donohue fired a shot that Berger put padding on, but was unable to knock it away as the ball bounced into the back of the cage for the score. Gehman and Donohue connected again less than two minutes later, this time with Gehman on the scoring end, as Messiah opened up a three-goal lead still with 17 minutes left to go in the first half.
Messiah played a smothering defense in the opening half, holding the Bantams without a single shot in the game's first 33 minutes. Trinity earned a penalty corner in the 34th minute which prompted a shot attempt by senior co-captain Kelcie Finn (Weymouth, Mass.) but the Bantams were whistled for a foul which ended the scoring threat. The Falcons made one last offensive push in the final seconds of the half but Trinity's defense, led by Guiffre, junior Allison Slowe (Medfield, Mass.) and rookies Ellie Tate (Carlisle, Pa.) and Jessie Midlige (Bernardsville, N.J.), kept Messiah from adding to its lead.
Messiah nearly made it a 4-0 game when Gehman intercepted a Trinity pass in the Bantam zone. Gehman launched a shot on goal but Berger came up with a clutch save, knocking the ball out of mid-air out of harm's way. Berger made another impressive save a few minutes later on a Falcon penalty corner to keep Trinity in it.
The Falcons added to their lead with two goals within 1:09 of each other, the first of which came at the 58:25 mark. Loht found the back of the cage thanks to an assist from Donohue after Messiah's 14th penalty corner of the afternoon before Donohue picked up her third assist on the day with a helper on a score by Nicole Wilkerson (Ephrata, Pa.), also off a penalty corner. Trinity made one last push in the waning minutes but Messiah's back line never wavered as they completed the shutout in front of goalie Shelby Landes (Telford, Pa.).
After the game, Trinity Head Coach Anne Parmenter reflected on the game and season as a whole. "We started the season 1-4 and we were struggling to make our own conference tournament at that point," she said. "We came back together thanks to the players just saying that was not acceptable. We started five first-years today which is a testament to them. It was a great experience for them and we told them now you see what you have to work towards."
Finn, last year's National Player of the Year and two-time New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Player of the Year, also shared her thoughts on the team's run and her time in a Bantam uniform.
"Today was another chance to play and compete as a team. Against the number one team in the country, there's nothing more, as an athlete, that you want to do," said Finn. "70 minutes we told ourselves to work hard and we did for every single second on the field today."
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to coach a player like Kelcie," added Parmenter. "I haven't had an athlete like her before and I doubt I'll have a person like her again."
"I don't know how many times I've said it the past two weeks when each game could have been the last, but there's no jersey I would rather wear," said the senior co-captain. "No team I would rather play for."