WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Nikki Sharkin scored a pair of goals in the first half to lead top-seeded and nationally ranked No. 10 Wellesley College field hockey to victory over fourth seeded Babson College in the semifinals of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Field Hockey Championship Tournament at the Wellesley Outdoor Fields Complex.
The Blue improve to 17-2 on the year, advancing to the NEWMAC title game for the second consecutive season. Babson ends the season at 12-10 overall.
The Blue drew the first of their 17 penalty corner opportunities in the opening minute of play and capitalized to take a 1-0 lead. Courtney Peterson inserted the ball to Sharkin who took a touch inside the arc and delivered a low hard shot past Babson starting net minder Kayla Costa for her eighth goal of the season at 1:09.
The Blue held a staggering 17-1 advantage in penalty corner opportunities, drawing the first six penalty corner attempts in the opening 11 minutes of the game.
Wellesley increased its advantage to 2-0 on its fifth penalty corner as Sharkin once again beat Costa, this time on a feed from Meghan Peterson at 9:07. Courtney Peterson inserted the ball to Meghan Peterson who laid it off for Sharkin who again put the ball low and hard past the Babson netminder. The Blue carried the two-goal margin into the halftime break as the contest went scoreless for the remainder of the half following Sharkin's ninth goal of the season.
Costa made seven saves on eleven Wellesley shots on goal in the contest. The Blue held a 21-4 advantage and had the Beavers under constant pressure in both the first half and the late stages of the second half.
With Wellesley leading 2-0 to start the second half, Babson senior captain Caroline Malone led an early push to get the Beavers back into the contest.
Malone scored her thirteenth goal of the season at 45:49 of the second half to cut the deficit to one. In a great display of individual skill, Malone got free from the Wellesley defense, running through the middle of the field and into the arc. She then calmly took a touch around Wellesley goalie Lucy Hurlock and dove forward, bouncing the ball into the Blue cage before the last Wellesley defender could recover.
Malone would have tied the score just under five minutes later if not for the efforts of Hurlock. An errant Wellesley pass sent the Babson senior in alone on goal but Hurlock was quick to cut down the angle, leaving the goal line and stopping Malone with a two pad stack for her biggest save of the game. Hurlock finished the contest with a pair of saves for the Blue.
Wellesley regained its two-goal advantage at 57:57 when Anissa Sridhar notched her eleventh goal of the season. Emmy Hamilton carried the ball down the right side of the field before sliding a pass over to Sridhar who deflected it up and over Costa, who could only watch as the ball bounced into the Babson cage.
The Blue added their final maker of the game with just 4:52 remaining, once again taking advantage of a penalty corner opportunity. This time it was Meghan and Courtney Peterson who combined to make the score 4-1. Courtney Peterson inserted the ball at the top of the arc to Meghan Peterson who knocked home her fourth goal of the season to put the contest out of reach.
The Blue will take on the winner of today's second semifinal game between second-seeded Mount Holyoke and third seeded MIT in tomorrow's NEWMAC Championship game at 1:00 PM at the Wellesley Outdoor Fields Complex. The winner will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Field Hockey Championship Tournament.