BIDDEFORD — Sure, the stage was bigger than ever. But other than that it was more of the same for the University of New England field hockey team Wednesday.

And that’s just fine with the Nor’easters.

Erin Bibber scored in the first half and Beth Sullivan added a penalty stroke in the second to lead UNE to a 2-0 win over Simmons in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament at UNE’s Big Blue Turf.

“I think (being a tournament game) distracted us the first five minutes,” midfielder Hannah Warren said. “After that we settled down and realized we know what we’re doing, we know how to play our game.”

That game is grounded on teamwork and unselfish play. It worked well enough for UNE to win the Commonwealth Coast Conference regular-season title and the CCC tournament.

“We went out and played our best and worked together as a team,” Sullivan said. “This is the first time we’ve played in an NCAA game and we won, so it’s definitely an experience.”

The Nor’easters (17-6) move on to a second-round match at 11 a.m. Saturday at Middlebury. The Panthers (17-1) are the NESCAC champions and are making their 12th straight appearance in the national tournament.

“It’s a matter of sticking to our style of play and working as a team the entire time,” UNE Coach Danielle Collins said. “That’s what’s gotten us here. We don’t have one individual player that teams focus on. All 23 of our players are a factor in our success.”

After an anxious opening 10 minutes Wednesday, which included four straight penalty corners for the Sharks (13-6), UNE began to take control.

Bibber made it 1-0 off a scramble with 19:26 remaining in the first half.

The play started with Brooke Marshall’s drive off the left post. Simmons goalie Brianna Rastello (13 saves) kicked the rebound to her right, where Bibber was waiting.

“The rebound came right to me and I just forced it in and it trickled past the goalie,” Bibber said.

“I was really excited but I didn’t do it myself. The entire team got the ball down there, the team got the corner, the team got the shot right on goal and we were able to finish.”

Sullivan made it 2-0 with 15:59 to go when she lifted a penalty stroke past Rastello.

It was her fourth goal on five penalty stroke attempts this season. She scored a big one in the second overtime Saturday to send the Nor’easters past Endicott 4-3 in the conference final.

“I don’t really pay attention to the goalie (on penalty strokes),” Sullivan said. “I know where I’m putting the shot. I just take the shot and if it goes in, it goes in.”

The goal was only part of an impressive performance by Sullivan, the league’s defensive player of the year. She anchored a back line that held the Sharks to two shots on goal, which keeper Holly Smith handled with confidence. It was the second time this season that the Sharks have been shut out.

And now it’s on to the second round. This is UNE’s second berth in the tournament since 2010, when the Nor’easters lost to the College of New Jersey in the opening round.

“Middlebury will be the toughest team we’ll see all year,” Collins said. “At this point anything can happen. If we continue to play our style of play, we’ll be able to battle against anybody.”

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