WATERVILLE, Maine -- Three different Bobcats scored and the No. 17 nationally ranked Bates field hockey team defeated No. 18 Colby 3-1 on Tuesday, breaking the program record for NESCAC wins in a season.
Bates (10-5, 6-4 NESCAC) locks up the No. 5 seed in the upcoming NESCAC Championships. The Bobcats will visit No. 7 nationally ranked Williams (the No. 4 seed in the conference) Saturday at 1pm. The Mules (9-6, 4-6 NESCAC) earn the No. 6 seed in the tournament and will travel to either Bowdoin or Tufts on Saturday for their quarterfinal contest.
The Bobcats' 10 wins overall are their most since 1999, when Bates finished 11-4. The 1999 squad went 4-4 against teams currently in the NESCAC. The NESCAC formally became a conference in 2000 and Bates' six conference victories this year pass their previous high mark of five, first set in 2002 and matched in 2017.
"I am so happy that this group of 21 gets to hold that record and honor in Bates field hockey history," head coach Dani Ryder Kogut said. "They have worked incredibly hard, kept their focus on one game at a time, and are great teammates to each other. They have earned it!"
In rainy conditions Tuesday, the Bobcats struck first against the Mules. Bates earned a penalty corner with 9:55 left in the first quarter. Senior captain Grace Fitzgerald (Larchmont, N.Y.) inserted the ball and Bates worked it down low to junior Emily Gianunzio (Darien, Conn.), whose shot was deflected by the Colby keeper right to junior Elsbeth Caulo (Amherst, N.H.) at the back post. Caulo got a stick on it as she got hit to the ground, scoring her third goal of the season.
The Bobcats added to their lead with 10:32 left in the second quarter. For the second straight game, Fitzgerald stole an opponent's pass in their end of the field. She delivered a perfect feed ahead to Gianunzio, who flipped a beautiful backhanded shot past the Colby keeper for her team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Gianunzio's goal turned out to be enough but the Mules did score before halftime, cutting the Bates lead to one. The Mules worked the ball into the shooting area and Georgia Cassidy dove for the ball. With the Bates keeper basically on top of her, Cassidy somehow wrapped the ball around her for the goal, trimming the edge to 2-1 with 3:33 left in the half.
Bates held Colby to just one shot in the second half and the Bobcats added an insurance goal in the fourth quarter.
First-year Paige Cote (Auburn, Maine) received the ball in the shooting area and ripped a shot from straight on that sophomore Bridget Thompson (Newtown, Pa.) tipped home with 8:38 left in the game for her fourth goal of the year.
"Anyone can score and that shows our strength as a team," Ryder Kogut said. "It's not about individuals, it's about all 21 of them, and that's a great feeling."
First-year Grace Biddle (State College, Pa.) played all 60 minutes in the cage and made four saves, earning the win for Bates.
With the win, Bates has defeated Colby in field hockey four of the last five years.