DUDLEY, Mass. - Making the first appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament in program history, the MIT field hockey team picked up a hard-fought, 2-1, decision over Nichols College on Wednesday night at Vendetti Field. The Engineers opened up a two-goal lead in the first half and withstood a furious, late rally to advance past the host Bison. Kimberly Barker and Ekavali Mishra found the scoring column and Keri Dixon had another spectacular performance in net to help the Cardinal and Grey earn its 18th win in this record-breaking campaign. Nichols' season comes to an end at 18-4.
MIT began attacking from the opening whistle, outshooting the Bison, 15-3, in the first half while controlling possession for most of the frame. Barker put MIT on the board early, tipping a shot from Kameron Klauber past the Nichols goalkeeper just five minutes into the game. It was the 20th goal of the season for the freshman, who was recently named to the NEWMAC Second Team All-Conference.
Nichols threatened midway through the period, with a sequence of five consecutive penalty corners but Dixon and the defense withstood each try.
Danielle Smith nearly doubled the lead with 11:43 remaining but Nichols keeper, Krista-Jean Forand, tipped her shot wide, thwarting the scoring opportunity. However, after the Engineers earned a penalty corner of their own five minutes later, one of nine in the opening stanza, they finally broke through for a second tally. Mishra entered the ball on the corner and, following a scramble at the top of the circle, received it back from Molly McShane, pushing it home for the 2-0 advantage.
Nichols would not go quietly, getting an unassisted marker from Barbara Roy just over seven minutes into the second half. Dixon made a pair of saves on the initial attack but MIT was unable to clear the rebound and Roy was there to convert the rebound.
Neither team was able to generate much offensive momentum until the final minute, when Nichols had a pair of chances to tie the game. The Bison earned a penalty corner with 45 seconds to go but Dixon, once again, picked up a key save to preserve the one-goal lead. As the clock ticked down, the teams battled in MIT's defensive zone. Tech had a few opportunities to clear the ball and clinch the win but was unable to get it downfield. As the clock hit zero, the Engineers' bench erupted thinking they had advanced. However, the referees awarded the Bison one final corner with no time remaining. The defense stood tall, once again, just as it had done all game, and sent the Cardinal and Grey into the Second Round.
Dixon made 10 saves, including seven in the second half. The junior has now given up just five total goals in the last nine games, all MIT wins. The nine-game winning streak is also program record. Forand had 10 saves in the losing effort. MIT outshot the Bison, 22-12, and had a 14-13 advantage in corners.
The Engineers now move on to the next round of the Championship, earning a date on Saturday, November 14 with Tufts University. MIT will make the short trip to Medford, Mass. for an 11:00 a.m. start Saturday morning. Skidmore and Amherst will play in the other game Saturday, with the winners facing off on Sunday.