UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) – The Utica College field hockey team will advance to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in program-history after a convincing 4-1 victory over visiting Endicott College Wednesday night at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium. After a scoreless first half of play, the Pioneers exploded for four consecutive goals in a span of less than 20 minutes in the second half to pull away from the Gulls. Sophomore sensations Hannah Mackey and Louise Steele-Norton each netted two goals to help the Pioneers advance their overall record to 15-5 on the year.
Utica, which tied the school-record for wins in a single-season set back in 2004, will now travel to Middlebury College on Saturday to take on DePauw University (19-1) in second round action. The contest is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
Endicott (15-5), the Commonwealth Coast Conference Champions, received a late goal from the program's all-time leading scorer Hannah Thornberg with just over six minutes left in the contest, but the comeback fell short as the Pioneers won by three.
The first half was a stalemate with the Pioneers earning an 8-6 shot advantage. The second half proved to be much different as Mackey got the home squad on the board 3:28 into stanza with her first of the evening off an assist from Steele-Norton. Less than five minutes later Steele-Norton rebounded her first of the game and broke the Empire 8 Conference record for goals in a single season (25), to put the Pioneers in the driver's seat, 2-0.
Mackey kept the pressure on in the 46th minute as she netted her 16th of the year, after an impressive dribbling display, driving the Pioneers' third goal of the game into the back of the cage past EC netminder Taylor Teixeira from ten yards out. Steele-Norton wrapped up the Pioneers' scoring effort, off an assist from junior Ally Sanders, when she tipped home her 26th of the year to put the Pioneers on top 4-0 in the 57th minute.
UC goalie Kells Casey stopped seven shots in the cage for UC, while Teixeira made nine saves for the Gulls. Endicott's lone goal of the afternoon, from the stick of Thornberg, was assisted by Taylor Matties. Thornberg finished her senior campaign with 22 goals.
Utica earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Empire 8 Conference Championship on Sunday (4-3 win over Stevens). The Pioneers, who also advanced to the NCAA First Round in 2005, were hosting an NCAA Tournament contest for the first time in program-history.