Hartford, Conn. - The Trinity College Bantams, coached by Michael Smith (21st Season), have qualified for the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Women's Soccer Championship Tournament for the 12th time and the fifth year in a row, and will face the Tufts University Jumbos in the opening round for the second consecutive season on Saturday, October 28 at noon. The Bantams finished the 2017 regular season with a 7-6-2 overall record and a 5-4-1 mark in the league to secure the No. 5 seed in the tournament, and edged the Jumbos at home in the 2016 quarterfinals, 1-0, on their way to the NESCAC Finals. No. 4-seeded Tufts finished the year 8-4-3 overall and 6-2-2 in the league and downed the Bantams, 2-0, on October 15 in Medford during the regular season.
Trinity recovered from a 1-4 start and an 0-3 beginning against NESCAC teams to climb its way back to the top half of the conference standings. The Bantams used a four-game win streak and a 5-1-1 mark over the final six matches to gain some momentum and make a push for the playoffs. Trinity seek its third consecutive trip to the NESCAC Final Four on Saturday. Trinity is in the NESCAC Championship for the fifth straight season and look to make its third straight semifinal appearance. The Bantams were the NESCAC Runner-Up last season after knocking of top-seeded Williams on penalty kicks to earn the program's first trip to the finals. The winner of the NESCAC Championship Tournament will determine the league's automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. Top-seeded Williams (13-1-1, 8-1-1) hosts No. 8-seeded Bowdoin (9-5-1, 4-5-1), No. 2-seeded Connecticut College (12-2-1, 7-2-1) hosts No. 7-seeded Amherst (8-6-1, 4-5-1) and No. 3-seeded Middlebury (11-2-2, 6-2-2) hosts No. 6-seeded Hamilton (9-4-2, 4-4-2) in the other quarterfinal games Saturday.
On Wednesday, Trinity closed the 2017 regular season with a 1-0 win over Amherst to end a two-game winless streak and avenge a 2-1 loss to the Mammoths in the 2016 NESCAC Finals. Bantam sophomore midfielder Tricia Pollock (Beverly, Mass.) scored the game's only goal in the fifth minute from first-year forward Samantha March (Glastonbury, Conn.), and senior tri-captain goalie Julia Pitino (Littleton, Mass.) totaled seven saves to earn her fifth shutout of the fall and her 16th over the last two seasons.
Pitino, the All-NESCAC First Team goalkeeper in 2016, has allowed nine goals while logging all of Trinity's 1,054 minutes in goal for a 0.77 GAA to go with 46 saves, a .836 save percentage, a 5-4-2 record and five shutouts, while first-year Taylor O'Connor (Danvers, Mass.) has earned 364 minutes in goal and recorded a 2-2 record with one shutout. In the Bantam backfield, senior tri-captain Sarah Connors (Winnetka, Ill.), O'Hara, and fellow sophomore Kelly Lucas (Ludlow, Mass.) have each started every game, while senior back Alexa Barbaresi (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) has come back strong from an early-season injury. The stingy Trinity defense has yielded just three goals and shut out four opponents in six October games.
Pollock leads the Bantam scoring attack that has scored nine goals in its last eight games after tallying five in the season's first seven games. She has four goals for eight points, including three game-winners, while sophomore back Rhone O'Hara (Woodstock, Conn.) has been prolific from the back line three goals and one assist, and rookies March and Amelia Kroschwitz (Byfield, Mass.) have added four points apiece. Rookie Cami Beath (Kennebunk, Maine) has started all 15 games in the midfield, while junior forward Shannon Kennedy (Hartford, Conn.) and March have been dependable starters from day one at forward. Versatile rookies Blake Crawley (Laguna Beach, Calif.) and Kroschwitz have also played their way into the lineup, while senior tri-captain midfielder Maddie Snyder (Montclair, N.J.) leads a deep and useful Bantam bench.
Tufts, coached by Martha Whiting (18th Season), are making their fifth straight appearance and 17th overall in the NESCAC Championship. The Jumbos, which are hosting a quarterfinal round for the first time since 2011, captured their only NESCAC title in 2002, and a quarterfinal victory over the Bantams will give them their first semifinal appearance since 2013. After starting the season with a six-game unbeaten streak, Tufts suffered three losses over the next four games. The Jumbos, ranked No. 6 in the New England region, have have won three of their last five games, including a 1-0 victory at Bowdoin to end the regular season. Sophie Lloyd has a team-high seven goals for the Jumbos, while Emily Bowers is a seasoned goalkeeper has allowed 12 goals this fall with 64 saves and a 0.76 GAA in goal for Tufts. Tufts and Trinity are 1-1 all-time in the NESCAC Tournament.