PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Sophomore Laura Buffa (Wolfeboro, N.H.) scored her team-leading 22nd goal of the season in the first half Wednesday, and that ended up as the game-winner as New England College held off Plymouth State College in the first round of the NCAA Division III Field Hockey Championship at Arold Field.
The victory advances the Pilgrims (15-2) into a second-round game Saturday in Amherst, Mass., against William Smith College (16-1). Plymouth State completes an outstanding season at 15-5.
Plymouth State outshot the Pilgrims in both halves, but was unable to crack the NEC net. The Panthers finished with 26 total shots, including 14 in the second half, while NEC was credited with 11 shots, eight in the second half. PSC also had the advantage in penalty corners, 11-6.
"It certainly is nice to take one from them on their own field," said NEC coach Susan Murray, "especially since we lost to them here just a couple of weeks ago, and that was in double overtime. This has been a good in-state rivalry, and we have been evenly matched the past couple of years. It's always been a great game."
"Boy we had our chances today," said PSC coach Bonnie Lord. "We outcornered them and outshot them, we just didn't capitalize on our opportunities. Everyone seemed to be one step or a half step behind today. We just couldn't cash in on our opportunities."
Plymouth State came out strong in the first half, peppering NEC with six shots in the first five minutes. After finally getting the ball into PSC territory, the Pilgrims connected on their first shot on goal 6:56 into the game. NEC senior Beth Howe (Bryant Pond, Maine) sent a crossing pass from the right side which Buffa deflected past PSC goalie Ellen Ward (Thorndike, ME).
"The goal was a very nice play," said Murray. "When the ball comes down the center or the right, we work on a give and go. When the ball came back across to the middle, Buffa just knocked it in. We're very happy about the goal, because that's a play we work on."
"It was a beautiful goal," said Lord. "They did a nice job and executed well. There was definitely a lapse in the defense. We play a zone type of defense, and their player slipped through and our goalie was screened. It was a nice goal."
The Panthers put plenty of pressure on the NEC cage the rest of the first half, outshooting the Pilgrims 12-3. PSC added more pressure in the second half, making but couldn't get one past NEC keeper Krista Milroy (West Springfield, Mass.). Milroy finished with eight saves, four in each half, while Ward made five saves for PSC, four in the final 35 minutes.
NEC advances to meet William Smith in one second-round game Saturday at Amherst College (11 a.m.), while Amherst (14-2) faces Cortland State (12-4) in the other game at that site (2 p.m.). The two winners Saturday battle Sunday at 1 p.m. for the right to go to the national semifinals on Nov. 11th, with the national championship game slated for Sunday, Nov. 12th.