By Arman Kassam
On Saturday, No. 22 Stanford field hockey (14-6, 5-1 America East) was knocked out of the conference tournament in the semifinal game against No. 18 Maine (16-4, 5-3) with a 0-3 decision. The Cardinal, thrown off by the Black Bears’ early lead, could not secure a goal despite taking more shots and ramping up the pressure in the second half. The Black Bears went on to the final match of the tournament but lost to No. 1 Albany (16-4, 6-2t) with a 0-2 result.
Although there were a few hiccups in Stanford’s quarterfinal game against New Hampshire (6-12, 3-5), the Cardinal were still able to take the day at 4-3. That first tournament game started great for Stanford, which was able to set the pace for the game with a two-point lead by halftime, but the Cardinal let their guard down and allowed New Hampshire to rack up a hat trick in the second half.
A similar offensive barrage was seen in the semifinal match against Maine. Black Bear defender Samantha Wagg tallied up three goals within a 10-minute timespan. Wagg made a total of six shots and found the net first in the 26th minute off of a penalty corner, and then again in the 29th minute off of a deflection. The last goal, won by a penalty stroke, happened only 25 seconds into the second period; Stanford had not seen a barrage like this since the beginning of its season, when it dropped a 0-3 decision to then-No. 1 Connecticut (18-3, 7-0 Big East).
At first glance, the Black Bears appear to have dominated the field entirely, but Stanford put up quite a fight. Junior goalkeeper Kelsey Bing made six saves, including an incredible dive in the 47th minute mark that kept the Cardinal in the game. Her playing exuded her determination: Right after Bing made that jaw-dropping save, she bounced right back up, slammed her stick into her pads and celebrated with her teammates. She did not have to say anything to communicate what she meant: Stanford was going to fight.
And fight they did. Sophomore attacker Corinne Zanolli, with an astronomical 26 goals this season (second in the nation), made a game-high seven shots. Zanolli was also recently named America East offensive player of the year. Freshman defender Molly Redgrove, who scored the winning goal for the quarterfinal match, made four shots against Maine as well. Stanford’s efforts were reflected in its dominance over the Black Bears in terms of shots (13-12) and penalty corners (10-5). In the second half alone, Stanford outshot Maine 10-3 and took eight penalty corners, but Maine still did not yield.
The Black Bears’ concrete defense could not help them against Albany’s 2-0 victory the following day. The Great Danes swiped their third America East Championship in five years and automatically received a bid for the NCAA tournament.
Stanford aspired for their third America East title — last year they won the final match against New Hampshire with a 4-1 decision. Given the success of this year’s squad, another title did not seem out of reach. The Cardinal women achieved 3.10 goals per game, scored about a quarter of all of the shots they made and shot with more than 60 percent accuracy. Maine may have had a better record this season, but the Cardinal came into the game with all the finesse and talent they needed to win.
After that third Black Bear goal, it seemed like Maine was a boulder headed right down to crash into the Cardinal. It seemed like there was nothing Stanford could do. But the Cardinal stood their stance and stopped that rock. Through the muck of a goal deficit, Stanford persevered and achieved an honorable finish for such a legendary season.
This team is a pantheon of titans. They, who shook the ground with every strike and save, never had or expected a simple game. They thrived off of surprise and suspense. Every victory was hard-fought, every battle was gritty, every bout called for interventions so miraculous that they defied the laws of physics. The guardians of Varsity Turf may have been dethroned in this one clash, but they have not been dethroned forever. Only three Cardinal players graduate this year, meaning the heart of this squad will remain largely unchanged. Indeed, these titans will only grow more as they prepare for the 2019 season, and they will reign victorious and persevere just like they did this season — just like they did this game. They will fight.