#6 Field Hockey to Battle #5 Saint Anselm in NCAA First Round

Skyhawks aim for return to home turf and third straight trip to national semifinals

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The top two goalkeepers in the NE-10 will square off on Sunday, with Freedman a second-team All-NE-10 selection who made a career-high 13 saves against Saint Anselm last month. (PHOTO BY Jan Volk/SportsPix)

EASTON, Mass. (November 11, 2016) – Third-seeded Stonehill College, ranked sixth in this week's Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division II poll, opens its eighth NCAA Tournament appearance when it visits second-seeded and No. 5-ranked Saint Anselm College in first round action at Grappone Stadium on Saturday at 1 p.m.

General admission for Saturday's game is $5.00. The Stonehill Spirit Committee is sponsoring a free fan bus to the game, which will leave the Duffy Parking lot at 11 a.m., and students are encouraged to sign up in advance at the info desk in Roche Commons. A free live video webcast will streamed through the Saint Anselm Athletics YouTube Channel, with links to the webcast as well as live stats also available via stonehillskyhawks.com.

Stonehill (14-5, 9-3 NE-10), making its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and eighth in program history overall, seeks to reach the national semifinals for the sixth time (third straight), which the College will host at W.B. Mason Stadium next weekend, November 18-20. The Skyhawks also earned bids in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015, reaching the national semifinals in 2005, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015. Stonehill fell to NE-10 rival Merrimack College, 1-0, in last year's national semifinal in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and have never reached the national championship game. Saint Anselm (16-4, 10-2 NE-10), the Northeast-10's regular season champions, is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Saturday marks Stonehill's fifth first round match in program history, having last played a first round matchup against Merrimack in 2013, when it fell 4-3 in overtime at W.B. Mason Stadium. The Skyhawks are 2-2 all-time in first round contests, with Saturday's matchup with Saint Anselm marking its first first round game played on the road.

The winner of Saturday's first round matchup will advance to the national semifinals, to be hosted by Stonehill, and face top-seeded and No. 4-ranked LIU Post (15-3, 9-3 NE-10), the NE-10 Tournament champions, at W.B. Mason Stadium on Friday, November 18, at 5 p.m. Saturday's Atlantic Region first round matchup features third-seeded, but No. 1-ranked Shippensburg University (17-3, 9-1 PSAC) at second-seeded and No. 3-ranked East Stroudsburg University (15-4, 9-1 PSAC), the reigning National Champions, at 1 p.m. The winner of that game will head to Easton, Massachusetts, to face top-seeded and No. 2-ranked Millersville University (17-4, 7-3 PSAC) in Friday's first semifinal at 2 p.m. The 2016 NCAA Division II National Champion will be crowned at W.B. Mason Stadium on Sunday, November 20, at 1 p.m.

Stonehill enters its second NCAA Tournament under second-year head coach Susan Ciufo looking to bounce back after seeing its run of back to back Northeast-10 Tournament championships halted with a 3-0 setback to LIU Post in the semifinals on Friday. Despite the loss, the Skyhawks are winners of five of their last seven and ranked third in the NE-10 and sixth nationally in Division II with 2.5 goals per game, while ranking fifth in the league (11th nationally) with a 1.42 team goals against average and eighth with 7.3 penalty corners per game.

Smith leads the NE-10 in scoring and was named the Conference's Player of the Year. (PHOTO BY Jan Volk/SportsPix)

Sophomore Kacie Smith (Norwood, Massachusetts/Norwood), the NE-10 Player of the Year and a two-time All-Northeast-10 selection, leads the Northeast-10 and ranks second nationally in Division II in scoring with 49 points and goals scored with 22, having scored a team-high seven game-winning goals (2nd NE-10), and dished five assists (6th NE-10) in 19 games for Stonehill. Her 22 goals rank fourth on the program's all-time single-season list, while her 49 points rank fifth and her gamewinning goals fourth. Smith has started 38 of the 40 games she has played in her two seasons at Stonehill, totaling 36 goals and 12 assists for 84 points, already ranking seventh in program history for career points and sixth for career goals.

Senior co-captain Shea Healy (Greenfield, Massachusetts/Pioneer Valley), a first team All-Northeast-10 selection this season, is among three Stonehill student-athletes tied for second on the team in scoring with 17 points (14th NE-10). She has totaled six goals and five assists (6th) this season, having totaled ten points (4 goals, 2 assists) over the last six games. Junior Alexandria Sylvia (Brockton, Massachusetts/Brockton) and sophomore Carly Andersen (Cheshire, Connecticut/Canterbury School) join Healy with 17 points, with Sylvia dishing out a team-high seven assists (2nd NE-10/7th nationally) to go with five goals and Andersen ranking second on the team with eight goals (10th NE-10) and an assist.

Sophomore Sara Freedman (Hopkinton, Massachusetts/Hopkinton), a second team All-NE-10 selection, has been the backbone of the Stonehill defense all season, playing all 1,334:56 of the Skyhawks minutes in goal and posting a 1.42 goals against average (6th NE-10/13th nationally) and .813 save percentage (3rd/7th) with an NE-10 high eight shutouts, which is just one shy of the program's single-season record, and 6.2 saves per game (3rd/11th).

Senior All-American and co-captain Sarah Morse (Westminster, Massachusetts/Oakmont Regional), an All-Northeast-10 first team selection for the second straight year, spearheads Stonehill's defensive line in front of Freedman, along with junior Alexandra Dillon (Canton, Massachusetts/Canton) and sophomore MacKenzie Greenberg (Mendon, Massachusetts/Hopedale).

Saint Anselm enters its first NCAA Tournament also looking to bounce back from defeat after falling to LIU Post, 2-1 in overtime, during the Northeast-10 Championship on Sunday. The NE-10 regular season champions had won eight of nine leading into its NE-10 Championship loss. Carolyn King-Robitaille, the NE-10 Coach of the Year, is in her fifth season at Saint Anselm. The Hawks rank second in the NE-10 with a 1.03 team goals against average (7th nationally), and fifth in scoring with 2.3 goals per game (10th), averaging 9.4 penalty corners per game (2nd NE-10/11th nationally).

Morse is a two-time All-NE-10 first team selection and leads the Skyhawks defensive unit. (PHOTO BY Jan Volk/SportsPix)

Senior Katherine Sears (Northboro, Massachusetts/Algonquin), the NE-10 Goalkeeper of the Year, is the backbone of Saint Anselm's stout defensive unit, having played all but 39 and a half minutes in the Hawks goal this season. She has posted a 1.06 goals against average (2nd NE-10/6th nationally) and .806 save percentage (5th/10th) with 4.4 saves per game and five shutouts (2nd NE-10) in 1,389:47 over 20 starts.

Sears was among three Saint Anselm defensive players to earn All-Northeast-10 honors, along with classmate Elizabeth Alie (Franklin, Massachusetts/Franklin) and junior Erin Collins (Auburn, Massachusetts). Junior forward Allia Connolly (Westford, Massachusetts/Westford Academy) rounds out the Hawks All-Conference selections and is their leading scorer with 18 points (11th NE-10) with a team-high seven goals (13th), netting five gamewinners (3rd), and ranking second on the team with four assists.

Freshman Hannah Friend (North Easton, Massachusetts/Oliver Ames) shares the team lead with seven goals (13th) in her first collegiate season, adding two assists for 16 points, while junior Mia Vecchione (Chelmsford, Massachusetts/Bishop Guertin) leads Saint Anselm with five assists (6th) to go with four goals for 13 points.

Saturday marks just the second postseason meeting between the two programs and the 27th all-time. Stonehill notched a 2-1 win over Saint Anselm in the first round of the 2015 Northeast-10 Tournament in Easton, with Smith netting and goal and Freedman posting four second half saves for the Skyhawks, while Sears registered 11 stops in the Hawks cage.

Stonehill holds an overwhelming 24-2 advantage in the all-time series between the two programs, but Saint Anselm claimed the regular season encounter between the two with a 3-1 triumph in Manchester on October 12. Collins, senior Rose Mooney (North Attleboro, Massachusetts/North Attleboro) and junior Jamie McNamara (Auburn, Massachusetts/Auburn) scored the goals to lift Saint Anselm to the key NE-10 win. Sears preserved the win with two saves in the Hawks cage. Saint Anselm posted an 18-8 advantage for shots on the night, while holding a 14-5 edge in penalty corners. Freedman finished with a career-high 13 saves for Stonehill, while Smith netted the Skyhawks lone goal.

For the latest on Stonehill Athletics, follow the Skyhawks via social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Fans can also download the Stonehill Skyhawks "Front Row" mobile app, powered by PrestoSports, on iTunes and the Android Market.

2016 NCAA Division II
Field Hockey Championship 

First Round
Saturday, November 12
#6 Stonehill (14-5) at #5 Saint Anselm (16-4), 1 p.m.
#1 Shippensburg (17-3) at #3 East Stroudsburg (15-4), 1 p.m.

Friday, November 18

Hosted by Stonehill College
W.B. Mason Stadium, Easton, Mass.

Shippensburg/East Stroudsburg winner vs. #2 Millersville (17-4), 2 p.m.
Stonehill/St. Anselm winner vs. #4 LIU Post (15-3), 5 p.m.

National Championship
Sunday, November 20
Hosted by Stonehill College
W.B. Mason Stadium, Easton, Mass.

Semifinals winners, 1 p.m.