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Poet of the Court
What a difference a year makes. The Tufts field hockey team
finished the 2004 season 10–6, nearly reversing their
record from last year.
It’s a dramatic turnaround that has a lot to do with
sheer talent, but team members are also quick to credit the
arrival of a new coach and the chance to compete on new home
turf—a state-of-the-art playing field.
“Having a new coach and a new field brought an excitement
that we could grow from,” said senior midfielder/back
Jayme Heller. “It was a new beginning.”
A year ago, Tufts finished with a 5–10 record and lost
6–0 to Bowdoin College in the first round of the New
England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament.
It was the third consecutive season in which the Jumbos lost
During the off-season, the field hockey/lacrosse coaching position
was split, and Tina McDavitt was hired to coach field hockey.
Carol Rappoli, who had coached both squads for 19 seasons,
remained as the head coach for lacrosse and as a field hockey
Around the same time, construction began on an all-weather,
synthetic turf field located just behind the baseball field
opposite Cousens Gym. John Bello, A68, co-founder of the South
Beach Beverage Company (SoBe) and an athletics overseer, and
his wife, Nancy, J69, made a $1.8 million naming gift for the
new field (an anonymous donor has contributed an additional
$500,000). The field doubles as a canvas for a “charging” Jumbo,
and the unmistakable mascot most likely contributed to Tufts
With this show of support from the university, the team made
tremendous strides. The Jumbos won at Wesleyan University,
2–0, in the first round of the league tournament, advancing
to the NESCAC semifinals for the first time in four years.
The conference title was won by Williams College, a team Tufts
defeated 1–0 during the regular season.
“There was a change in attitude and expectation,” McDavitt
said. “I expected to win every game, pushed them hard
at practice, kept the standard high, and they met it.”
McDavitt came to Tufts from Holy Cross, where she was an assistant
coach. She was previously a member of local field-hockey powers
in the town of Walpole and at Boston University. She is a member
of the USA Field Hockey national indoor squad that is aiming
to qualify for the World Cup in 2006.
“Her intensity and love for the game really helped us,” said
senior tri-captain Dana Panzer. “Every practice she was
out there, loving every minute of it, and it was definitely
contagious. From her experience and because of the amazing
player she is, she brought so much skill and knowledge of the
Bello Field gave the Jumbos home advantage for the first time.
They previously played on the grass in the baseball outfield
at Huskins Field, which made for a slower game. Adjusting quickly
to the turf, which allowed for more finesse, Tufts won its
first four games on the field and was 6–2 overall there.
“The new field gave us more consistency, especially when
we had to play on Astroturf,” said junior tri-captain
Lea Napolitano, referring to the fact that most schools now
play on turf. “It was easier to play on other people’s
surfaces with ours being better this year. It’s less
a hit-and-run game; there’s more accurate passing and
Tufts displayed talent both offensively and defensively. Panzer
led a revived offense that scored 32 goals, the most by a Tufts
team since 1996. She broke the team’s single-season scoring
record with 33 points on 12 goals and nine assists. The Jumbos
were also excellent defensively, earning eight shutouts for
the team’s best total since 1997.
The combination of coaches McDavitt and Rappoli gave the Jumbos
expertise in both areas. McDavitt was an all-star at BU known
for her scoring prowess, while Rappoli’s teams at Tufts
were always strong defensively. What could have been an awkward
situation, with a young coach taking over for a veteran who
would become her assistant, instead was a factor in their success.
Plus, Rappoli, who had recruited the entire team, was around
to enjoy it.
“With Tina coming in, she didn’t really know where
we were in the past,” Heller said. “With Carol,
she knew how far we had come. When we beat a team this year
that we hadn’t beaten last year, or that we never beat,
the excitement that we got from her was great because she knew
where we had come from.”
The team looks now to move beyond the respect they gained this
year and become annual contenders for the conference title.
“As a first-year coach, I had no idea what to expect,” McDavitt
said. “Now I can push them even harder. They far exceeded
my expectations on how athletic they were. Now I want them
to far exceed my expectations of them as field hockey players.