By Arman Kassam
No. 22 Stanford field hockey (14-5, 5-1 America East) triumphed over the University of New Hampshire (6-12, 3-5 America East) in a close 4-3 quarterfinal game in the America East conference tournament. The Cardinal started off strong with a 2-0 lead at the end of the first half, but the Wildcats retaliated with a hat trick of their own. Stanford was finally able to secure the victory after a late-game finisher by freshman defender Molly Redgrove.
The Cardinal have been on a roll this season, claiming the top seed in the conference tournament after earning a 5-1 intra-conference record and recording a flurry of phenomenal individual performances. Among the superstars of the Stanford squad, junior goalkeeper Kelsey Bing has thwarted countless enemy shots with jaw-dropping reflexes, and sophomore attacker Corinne Zanolli, who was recently named America East offensive Player of the Year, has dominated the field with a whopping 24 goals this regular season (second in the nation). All things considered, Stanford was in position to start off this tournament with an easy win.
In the third minute of the first period, Zanolli scored a goal off of a penalty corner and set the pace of the game. Stanford’s early lead was backed up by another goal from senior attacker and team captain Emma Christus, who shot in the top-left corner and landed her seventh goal of the season. The Cardinal’s exceptional offensive plays were also coupled by Bing’s bulwark, which did not let a single Wildcat attempt through.
But just when the Cardinal thought an easy win was within their grasp, the second half of this game became anything but easy. Twenty seconds into the period, Wildcat attacker Finn Caron cut the Cardinal lead in half with a deflection into net. Five minutes later, attacker Bloem van den Brekel tied the game with a goal off of a sneaky penalty corner. The Cardinal were locked in a back-and-forth with a feline opponent that came out like a passive Persian cat and then somehow transformed into a passionate panther.
The stalemate was finally dissolved in the 49th minute after Zanolli scored her 26th goal this season, capitalizing on a penalty corner and putting the Cardinal up 3-2. This momentary high was promptly subdued by another goal from the Wildcats’ Finn Caron. Kelsey Bing dove towards the ball, attempting to confront the action before it confronted her. Caron was just able to slip past Bing, notch the point and tie the game, 3-3.
Shortly after, the gritty back-and-forth resumed. This deadlock was broken only after a penalty corner for the Cardinal, which resulted in the sixth goal of the season for freshman defender Molly Redgrove. Both teams knew what was at stake with only seven minutes left, and the Cardinal kept up the pressure. Stanford almost scored again off of a penalty corner and Zanolli made another marvelous attempt a little later on, but the intensity of the game reached a maximum after the Wildcats subbed out their goalie to increase their chances of an offensive play. Senior midfielder Kennedy Schumacher broke away towards the empty Wildcat net and shot on goal, but out of nowhere, one of the Wildcats threw themselves forward to block the shot at the last second. The game finished not as an easy Stanford victory, but as a close match between a traditional favorite and a tireless underdog. As predicted, the Cardinal drove the Wildcats back to their frosty New Hampshire forests, but not without a little trouble along the way.
On Saturday, Stanford will gear up for a semifinal match against the winner of Friday’s game between No.18 Maine and Berkeley.