GENEVA — The William Smith has lost to the eventual national champion in the last two NCAA Division III field hockey tournaments: Tufts in 2012 and The College of New Jersey in 2011.
SUNY New Paltz played like a champion Wednesday.
The Hawks used their high-scoring offense and the hot goaltending of Antonija Pjetri to pick up a 5-2 win over the 10th-ranked Herons in a first-round game at McCooey Field.
Danielle Conklin scored four goals and set up another for New Paltz, which came in averaging 3.95 goals per game.
Cory Connolly had a goal and assist for the Herons (15-5). Senior Taylor Cappello also tallied, moving her into sixth place on the all-time points list (119). Classmate Margaret McConnell handed out an assist. Amy Feda and Biz Chirco (4 saves) each played in goal.
“(New Paltz) came very prepared and were very relaxed on our surface,” William Smith coach Sally Scatton said. “They came in ready to play, and I give them enormous credit. They played almost a flawless hockey game. And we couldn’t seem to get going. I won’t fault our team for any lack of effort, but we did things today that we haven’t done all season.”
The Hawks (14-8) made their first appearance in the NCAA tournament last season, losing 6-1 to Bowdoin in the first round. This year was a whole different story.
“Our goal this year coming into the tournament was to make sure we were focused. We knew our strengths and we capitalized on them,” New Paltz coach Shanna Vitale said. “When we won the SUNYAC championship last year, we were very excited about that and really didn’t look past that.”
Conklin scored with a slick backhand shot from a tight angle 9:49 into the game to break the ice.
“The goal that started us off really set the tone,” Vitale said. “Danielle’s reverse chip into the corner; it’s one that should be on ESPN’s Top 10. The energy from that goal lifted the whole entire team.”
Conklin banged home a rebound less than 10 minutes later, and five minutes after that fed Dani Ackerman to make it 3-0.
Connolly finished off a pass from McConnell off a penalty corner, but the Herons had trouble solving Pjetri’s aggressive style of play. She charged off her line on a number of occasions to challenge the ball.
“Their goalkeeper came out and made some really nice saves,” Scatton said. “We know that she plays aggressively and we talked about how we were going to work the ball around her. We weren’t able to finish the opportunities we had.”
Conklin and New Paltz rebuilt its three-goal lead just before halftime. She tacked on her fourth goal — and the Hawks’ fifth — 1:23 into the second half.
William Smith put pressure on the Hawks’ defense over the final 10 minutes and got a goal back on Cappello’s 15th tally of the season, but could get not closer.
“I’m very excited about what the future holds for us,” Scatton said. “We’re very young in a lot of ways. We got contributions from a lot of people this year. That’s what we’re going to focus on and be proud of. It’s been a great season.”