FARMINGTON – Two years ago, the University of Maine at Farmington field hockey team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III tournament with a slew of veterans.

Today, the Beavers can duplicate that feat when they travel to Williamstown, Mass. A win over the Williams Ephs would send the Beavers into Friday’s round of 16.

No longer a veteran-laden squad, the Beavers (15-2) began the season with seven new faces in the lineup. In four of their first 10 games, the North Atlantic Conference champions escaped with hard-fought 1-0 victories.

“It took us a couple of games to get things under our belt and know our roles,” said Dexter native and senior back Amanda Pullen, who earned the NAC Tournament MVP honor and is one of seven remaining members from the ’04 squad. “Early on we were playing not to lose. We’d work really hard for that one goal and hang on for dear life after that.”

“Earlier in the season, we were a defensive team,” added third-year coach Cyndi Pratt. “Now we’re well balanced, and people are peaking at the right time.”

The surging Beavers have won their last five matches while outscoring opponents by a 23-3 margin.

Sophomore forwards Elyse Cole (Winthrop) and Andrea Tyler (Augusta) have been instrumental over the five-game span.

“I wasn’t sure what my role was going to be,” said Cole. “When I found out I was starting, I was like ‘whoa.’ It took a good game to know what I was going to do. I’m more comfortable now.”

Cole and Tyler have put together quite a few “good” games of late. Cole has scored five of her team-high eight goals during the five-game winning streak, including both tallies in the 2-1 NAC Championship over Western New England College this past weekend. Tyler has a goal and eight assists in those five wins. She leads the team with 15 assists.

“Not only does she have good stick skills,” said Cole of Tyler, “but she’s a great person and is easy to work with.”

The defense is anchored by keeper Kaeleigh Barker (Chichester, N.H.). The sophomore has posted 11 shutouts and was ranked third nationally among Division III keepers in Goals Against Average during the regular season.

Another local contributor has been Jay’s Alyssa St. Pierre. She has been a top sub on the forward line during the season. The freshman forward’s second-half goal against the University of New England back on Oct. 11 gave UMF a 1-0 win.

Other key contributors have been junior forward Kristin Chambers (Gorham), who has racked up six goals on the season, along with senior forward Katie Gorham (Waterboro) and junior back Nicole Lyons (Cape Elizabeth). Gorham and Lyons earned all NAC Tournament honors.

The Ephs (12-3) entered the NESCAC tournament as the third seed only to be upset in the first round. All three of their losses have come in the last two weeks.

“They’re a very strong team,” said Pratt. “They probably have more experience than we do. The key for us is keeping our defense poised and take advantage of our opportunities.”

The teams’ lone common opponent this season was Colby. The Beavers defeated the Mules 1-0 while the Ephs used overtime in collecting a 4-3 win. The Ephs played all three of the CBB teams, but Pratt wasn’t able to collect any information on Williams from those neighboring schools.

“The NESCAC has a rule that teams can’t give out information on the other teams in the conference,” says Pratt.

Today’s winner advances to the regional site of Ewing Township, N.J., for a Friday match against Messiah (15-4).

The Beavers are hoping to extend their bus trip. With a win, they’ll just continue on in the tournament and down the road to Jersey.

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