The University of Maine’s field hockey team will seek its first America East field hockey championship and berth in the NCAA Tournament beginning Friday when the third-seeded Black Bears, 16-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference, takes on No. 2 Boston University (10-8, 3-2) in a 4 p.m. semifinal in Durham, N.H.
Top seed New Hampshire, 15-4 and 4-1, opens the tourney against fourth seed Albany (13-6, 3-2).
The championship game will be Sunday at 1 p.m.
All four teams are nationally ranked as UNH is 10th, Albany is 12th, Maine is 13th and BU is 17th.
The tournament winner gains an automatic berth to the 16-team NCAA Tournament but it is also possible a second team could earn an at-large berth.
BU beat Maine in Orono 2-1 on Oct. 9.
“We can play a lot better than we did that day,” said Maine senior Stephanie Gardiner, who was named the league’s Midfielder of the Year. “We were like a deer in headlights.”
Senior forward Kelly Newton said she is “proud” of what the senior class has accomplished in four years “but the biggest achievement would be winning the conference championship.”
Newton and Gardiner were All-America East first team picks and forward Holly Stewart was the co-Rookie of the Year. Alexa Binnendijk, Jocelyn Mitchell and Stewart were second-team picks while Zoe Berkey, Annabelle Hamilkton and Stewart were All-Rookie team picks.
Maine coach Josette Babineau said BU’s ability to drive the ball long from the back caused problems for them “but we’ve made some adjustments. We’ve got to play a little tighter defensively and create the offensive chances that we need. We like to pressure opposing team’s backs but we weren’t effective doing that against BU.”
Maine has five players who have scored at least nine goals in Binnendijk (14 goals, 1 assist), Newton (13 & 25), Gardiner (12 & 7), Stewart (12 & 6) and Mitchell (9 & 5) while BU doesn’t have any but does have balance. Macey Gaumond (8 & 4) and Jacinda McLeod (7 & 4) have paced BU.