They say the third time’s the charm, and, on Saturday, it could not have been truer for the Franklin & Marshall field hockey team.
Facing off against Johns Hopkins for the third time this season, the Diplomats broke through in the third quarter, scoring twice in the span of two minutes en route to a 3-1 victory in the NCAA Division III semifinals at Spooky Nook Sports.
With the win, the Diplomats advanced to the national championship for just the second time in program history and the first in 38 years. Standing on the other side of the field will be two-time defending champion Middlebury, a 1-0 winner over Salisbury in the other semifinal.
The teams will meet for the title at 1 p.m. Sunday back at the Nook.
“It’s just magical. I feel like that’s really all I can say,” said junior Lily Mynott, who scored twice for the Diplomats on Saturday, breaking the school’s record for goals scored in a season. “I was sitting in my bed when the bracket came out and one second it wasn’t there and the next second it was and we were in the tournament. I even said on the sideline today after the game, these past three weeks have been a dream.”
Sixth-ranked F&M (20-3) almost didn’t make the NCAA field after falling 2-1 to Hopkins in the Centennial Conference championship three weeks ago. The score proved identical to their regular season meeting a week prior, and provided that much more motivation for F&M this time around.
“I think everyone knows how good revenge feels, so we wanted that feeling,” Mynott said with a laugh.
“We knew that we had been so close before — we might not have come out on top of the scoreboard, but we knew we could play with this team,” senior Colleen Francis added. “To kind of turn the tables a little bit and come out on top this time was a great feeling, and to do it on this stage just makes it better.”
The Diplomats got the first look at the cage, earning a corner four minutes into play, but Erin Coverdale’s shot was blocked and Addie Peters’ rebound attempt went wide. No. 5 Johns Hopkins (19-3) rattled off four consecutive corners to close out the first quarter, but F&M’s defense held strong, blocking four shots before goalie Christina Seery saved the final attempt.
The game went into halftime still scoreless, but F&M needed just 2:23 to break up the deadlock in the third quarter.
Taking the insert on the Diplomats fourth corner of the game, Coverdale passed the ball down to Darby Klopp by the right post. The freshman then found Abby Straub, who bounced one into the back of the cage.
Two minutes later, Klopp found Mynott, flipping the ball from the right wing toward the left post for the game-winning goal.
“We went into the second half not say ‘if’ we score, saying ‘when’ we score,” Mynott admitted. “We had a game plan for just possessing the ball as much as we could and we executed really well on that.”
Johns Hopkins trimmed the lead to one with just over seven minutes left in the quarter, turning consecutive corners into a goal as Katie McErlean pulled left around an defender and fired.
As Blue Jays fans began to roar, F&M’s student section responded with chants of “We’re not worried,” and the Diplomats responded on the field.
With just under three minutes left in the third quarter, Mynott intercepted a pass near midfield and took it all the way, slipping past a defender and sending her 30th goal of the season into the backboard.
Johns Hopkins tried to close the gap, even earning a corner with just 16 seconds left on the clock, but Seery and the F&M defense didn't let anything through.
“We didn't get rattled by anything that happened, we just kept pushing and doing our best to apply some pressure on them, which we were able to do really well, especially in the fourth quarter, said Johns Hopkins' coach Jane Wells, whose Blue Jays were playing in their second straight Final Four. “We played better this game than we did last year. The score didn't show it, but we really competed.”