Leopards Unleashed In 4-1 Win Against Holy Cross

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The Holy Cross Crusaders made the 4 1/2 hour bus trip Saturday morning to face a Leopard attack eager for its first Patriot League win!! But it wasn’t just the attack, it was combination of a relentless defense and transition than combined to create a perfect storm that was only halted by the final whistle.

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The Holy Cross goal tender responded with 15 saves in a gallant effort to stem the tide. It was a noble effort from a team that never laid down, and who managed to finally score a goal in the fourth quarter avoiding a shutout.

The Leopards launched 36 shots, the majority of which occurred in the second, third and fourth quarters after a three shot first half. Nineteen of the those shots were on goal and there were three shots that hit the post. Remarkably, the Leopards had only eight penalty corners, but the time spent in the in the offensive 25 was enough. Holy Cross managed only five shots on the afternoon and two penalty corners.

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Lafayette scored in every quarter with the first score coming late in the first 15 minutes by Filine Gerbrandij who was assisted by Simone Hefting. It was the first goal of the season and career for the freshman. The second goal from the Leopards diversified attack, came from senior Alix Talkow delivering her first of her career, with a helper from Audrey Sawers. One minute into the second half Alden Bocella got her first goal of season and career with an unassisted beauty into the lower right corner. In the fourth quarter Simone Hefting combined with Audrey Sawers to finish Lafayette’s scoring with a beautiful fake corner shot and execution that found left bottom of the cage.

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Aside from offensive fireworks the family day crowd was treated to a defense that was amazing. Sydney Woolston was part of a wall that stopped, and intercepted balls and led to offensive displays. Eighteen Leopards saw action on the afternoon as substitutions provided a seamless effort all day. The bench themselves provided nearly 1/3 of the shots on the afternoon with Ariel Shumacher contributing a team leading six with three on goal during her forty minutes. Lineke Spanns provided five shots in her time on the field with four on goal. GK Haile Abbot needed to make only one save during the afternoon.

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The Leopards will stay at home to entertain the Colgate Raiders next week who just lost to Lehigh. Bucknell also added to their Patriot League wins with an impressive overtime win in Boston against the Terriers. American has no PL games this week and will meet Maryland at American this afternoon.

Crusaders Visit The Leopards This Saturday Afternoon

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The Holy Cross Crusaders will make the trip from Worcester, Mass., as the Leopards will host in the second Patriot League game of the season. Holy Cross is 3-3 with one loss in the Patriot League as both teams would like to even their record in the League. Holy Cross lost their first game getting overrun by the defending champion Bucknell 7-2. While the Leopards lost in overtime to the league favorite, American University 0-1.Holy Cross is 2-0 at home and 1-3 away. They have managed to spread their 10 goals on the season between five players. The leading scorer is Catlin Little with 3 goals. Sporting number 8 as defender she has emerged as one of Holy Cross’ key players. Along with Sinead Walsh who took 5 shots in Holy Cross’ last game with Bryant, and Isabella Henderson who had 4 shots, they represent key factors in the “Cross” scheme.

In their last game on Tuesday they warmed up for Lafayette taking 22 shots to Byant’s (0-8) 9. Holy Cross also out cornered Byant 9-6 in the 2-0 victory. Byant was forced to make 10 saves while GK Emma Lauber needed to make 5 to preserve the shutout. Little scored off a corner and Allie McDonough caught the Bryant goalie sleeping and slipped the ball behind her for her second goal of the season.

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After watching the game on ESPN plus it looks like a very. familiar offensive effort by Holy Cross. If they can, they love to fast break off a defensive turnaround and try to hit the cherry picker sprinting down the sideline.

Their season stats ( including the Bryant game ) is 10 goals on 62 shot attempts vs 14 goals on 86 shot attempts. That all works out to 1.67 offensive goals per game vs 2.33 goals per game for their opponents. The shooting percentage is about 16 percent for both sides. They have earned 37 penalty corners in their six games vs 41 for their opponents. It appears they 25 players on their squad with two GK sharing time, Emma Lauber and Brooke Ross. It looks as though Lauber ( 51) has earned the spot having stayed in the entire Bryant game. Lauber has a .737 save percentage this season with won loss record of 1-1.

This is an important game for both teams as 0-2 in the league would put the loser in a difficulty position within the league standings and eligibility for the PL playoffs. I expect a strong effort by both squads.

At Some Point It’s All About The Little Things

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An athlete trains to become faster and stronger. They learn the elements of their sport, and when it finally comes to game time you may come up to an opponent who is equally as strong and fast. It’s at that point where the “little things” begin to matter. It may just be in the execution, a funny bounce of the ball, or even an officiating mistake. But often you hear an athlete explain their performance afterward as using their “instinct,”

Let me say upfront, I do not believe in instinct, but instead I see it as the ability to detect the intentions of your opponent through a “tell.” Maybe its the eyes of the opponent to give away intentions, or a repeated movement that gives away the next pass or shot. Often times you hear of defensive backs in football who are not only watching the person they are guarding but watching the quarterbacks eyes to see where he intends to pass. As a counter, the best quarterbacks learn to “look off” receivers to fool the defender.

In field hockey, the better goalkeepers look where the shooter means to place the ball. The shooter on the other hand will look to deceive the goaltender by looking one way and placing the ball somewhere else. One of the improvements in Lafayette’s play has been their ability to place passes where their teammate will be, rather than passing directly……….one of the little things. Deception is an important part of any game, and Field Hockey is no exception. Yes, you can overwhelm an opponent with speed and strength, but with two equally prepared teams sometimes the unexpected deception can be the difference. Consider the words of Noor Coenen as she described her winning goal last Saturday. She placed herself on the dashed line. The ball on the corner was delivered to her on the insertion. At that point the corner is officially over having reached the dashed line and the restrictions on the height of the ball on a subsequent shot is no longer operative. She is free to flick or lift using, as she said in her words, ” whatever the defense is giving me.” It’s an example of the little things.

Right now the Patriot League is bifurcated into two groups. Bucknell’s dominating win on Saturday certainly puts them in the upper group. Lehigh’s win should alert the Leopards that their game with Lehigh combined with the Rivalry emotions makes it competitive. The final emersion into the playoffs may well depend on doing the” little” things well.

Lafayette is refining their play. Half this team did not play in a college game before the season. They are a work in progress for this talented group. They will be better in the end than the beginning and I am sure their opponents will take notice.

I sincerely believe this Lafayette team may the best that has ever arrived on the Hill and is filled with excellent athletes and skillful players with the desire to win, but a championship in the end could be decided on who can deliver “little” things to the field of play. ( And maybe a win against ranked opponents like Rutgers and Penn State). The Leopards may well see American again before the end of the season, and for this fan I will look forward to it,

Lafayette Drops A Tough One In DC 0-1 In Overtime

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Noor Coenan was clearly on the line at the moment she struck for the winning goal

Lafayette did everything but find the back of the cage today, losing a hard fought battle with American. American’s star midfielder Noor Coenan delivered on a corner in the first overtime period. As she described it after the game, she stopped the ball at the dotted line outside the circle then drove inside and delivering the goal with a shot right on the line reading what the defense was giving her. Pictures afterward did indeed show her inside circle at the moment she struck the ball. Previously American’s goal tender became co-hero of the match making 10 saves including perhaps on a winning penalty stroke in the second half. Lafayette won the battle of the stats, outshooting the Eagles 16-6 and out cornering them 9 to 7. In part due to Bryn Underwood’s career day ( it was the most saves by her in her career) the Leopards couldn’t seem to crack the American defensive wall.

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The corner offense on one of their 9 tries

The Leopards outshot the Eagles in every period but the overtime period. The second half was especially fruitful in shots as Lafayette outshot their opponent 8-2. This is the fifth consecutive loss for the Leopards against American and the third consecutive overtime loss. American now leads the PL at 1-0 along with Lehigh, and Bucknell. Four wins in the Patriot League probably would ice a spot in the playoffs. Despite the loss against the PL favorite American University, Lafayette has to be well considered going forward.

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Feliicitas Hannas rushes to get in position for the rebound

The game was a physical affair with both teams expending energy on both side of the midfield. At one point there was enough stick hacking to chop a cord of wood!! At the end of the third quarter the officials got both captains together to calm things down. At several points in the contest the officials were heard to admonish the players to calm down. There was one unusual call on a corner when the official called both sides for starting too soon????

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Molly McAndrew gets SOO close to be stopped by Underwood

Despite the outcome the Leopards will have to prepare for the next opponent who will be at Rappolt Field at 3:30 next Saturday. Their opponent, the Holy Cross Crusaders, lost to Bucknell 7-2 today. Beware, the Crusaders have a habit of surprising us when you least expect it. But this game now becomes crucial and one game the Leopards need in order to get one of those 4 or five wins to get into the tournament or a get a high seed.

We are not even halfway through the schedule and the Leopards will be showing us how good they really are!!! So one game is put to bed and we move on. GO PARDS

Leopards Travel To DC For Opening League Contest

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The Leopards will meet the Eagles for the third time this calendar year for the opening game of the 2021 Patriot League season. The previous three meetings have resulted in losses by one goal, the last game being a loss on a controversial penalty stroke in the second overtime period. It will be American’s first home game of the current season and the two teams sport records that promises this will be a very competitive game as usual.

Lafayette has played six games against good competition as has American in their five games to date. So we will concentrate on the per game statistics. Lafayette sports a 5-1 record and American is 3-2. Lafayette has 2.83 goals per game while holding their opponents to 1 goal per game. American has 1.8 goals per game and holding their opponents to the same number per game. Lafayette takes 14.6 shots per game against giving up 7.6 per game for the competition. American takes also take slightly more than 14 per game and gives up 11.4 per game. Lafayette averages about 7 penalty corners and gives up 4. American earns 6.5 corners per game and gives up 4 per game. Lafayette’s shot percentage is 19 percent while holding opponents to 12 percent. American’s shot percentage is 12 1/2 percent while giving up 15.6 percent. Shots on goal by opponents is 46 percent for the Leopards and 54 percent for the Eagles.

American scores most of their goals in the first period while Lafayette scores an equal amount in the first and second period. Lafayette earns most of their corners in the second period and American also earns the. most corners in the first, but gives up the same amount in the second.

So what can we glean from the data? Clearly the second period is the most crucial for both teams, but Lafayette has a slight edge in first period goals. The Leopards defensive unit will play a key role, while their offense may be a crucial in the first half in forcing the Eagles out of their defensive sets.

Lafayette has thee players who have scored the most goals McAndrews, Sawyers, and Hannes. Noor Coenen has scored three goals on 23 shots and is clearly the go to player for the Eagles. The rest of the goals are spread among six other players with single scores to their credit.

I like our strong midfield in this one, led by Audrey Sawers but I am sure American has already figured that out. American has had no shutouts this season while the Leopards have had 3.

These are two very well coached teams so it should be exciting for fans to watch and is certainly the “game of the week” in the Patriot League. I will be watching closely on American offensive corners, and I see a few surprises by the Leopards!!! So at 11 am Saturday…see you there/ or on ESPN plus!! Post Script: Neither team is ranked in the NFHCA poll while Lafayette is tabbed 20th and American at 25th on the Bolster Field Hockey ELO rankings.

Lafayette has announced for home games that evidence of vaccination is required for admission or a negative Covid test no later than 72 hours before the contest. Masks will also be required.

Lafayette Bests The Quinnipiac Bobcats 2-0

Defense Shines In Shutout

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Lafayette struck for two goals in the first half. The first was beauty by Molly McAndrew at 5:!4 in the first quarter off a rebound. It was the fifth goal of the season for the senior captain who is a threat every time she touches the ball! The goal followed a penalty corner shot by Co-Captain Audrey Sawers.The Bobcat GK stopped the shot as it rebounded back into the circle when McAndrews found the handle and delivered it back to the cage and beyond the goal keepers reach.

The second goal came 10 minutes later in the second quarter as first year player India Ralph took a. pass from Sawers again during a penalty corner to make the score 2-0. The team was playing like a machine, changing offensive sets, confusing the Bobcat defense, all the while getting off 17 shots during the afternoon game, and earning 11 corners. Quinnipiac only managed 3 shots and two corners all day. There were no shots on goal for Quinnipiac while Lafayette managed 7.

In order to play for Jennifer Stone you must play defense regardless of your position, and play they did!!! Quinnipiac only managed to squeeze off their first shots by the 4th quarter and two of them came off their penalty corners which also didn’t happen until the final minutes. The defense is led by Simone Hefting who is normally in position to start play from the backfield. Defender Sydney Woolston seems to be everywhere plugging holes when needed!! Lineke Spanns continues to excite even on the defensive side of the field stopping play and turning it into an attack! Mary Gould is solid and can be seen inserting on offensive corners when needed. Shea Balderson had 23 productive minutes in the game. Alex Darrah was effective in 26 minutes. In all cases, the team did not lose a step no matter who was in the game!!!

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Eighteen players saw action and only the injured and the two reserve goal keepers were on the sideline,

The Leopards must now prepare for their first Patriot League contest in Washington, DC against the Eagles of American University who beat a very good UMass team today 3-2 in overtime. The last meeting with the Leopards was in spring and ended in a controversial penalty stroke goal in overtime. The previous game was at Lafayette which also was won by American by one goal. The year before in the PL playoffs American won 3-2 after Lafayette had the first goal and American responded with three straight goals before Lafayette scored their second goal with 48 seconds to go!!

The game is to start at 11 am and I hope the team is traveling the day before to be ready for this important meeting. This should be game filled with tension and exceptional play. But more about that later this week.

First Year Players Spanns And Schumacher Score In Overtime Thriller

Spanns Scores To Deliver Overtime Win

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Lineke Spanns delivered the game winning goal as the Leopards took a 2-1 overtime win against a very fast and skilled Yale squad. It was an intense and entertaining game for fans as they were treated to a display of fine hockey from both sides. However, aside from the final score Lafayette was to garner many stats.

They led in corners 11-1 and shots 16-3, as the defense rose to the occasion, while Lafayette’s goalkeeper, Hailey Abbott was take home her 4th win and was required to make only one save on the night.

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The final goal was a thing of beauty as Lafayette stars, Molly McAndrews, Audrey Sawers brought the ball to the circle in the 7 on 7 overtime. It looked like Yale was to take the ball away, when Leneke Spanns picked the pocket of the Yale defender and delivered a shot to the right corner ending the game early in the OT period.

Lafayette’s first goal was to come at the 11:51 mark in the third quarter by Schumacher, using a tip in after receiving a reverse sweep pass from senior Audrey Sawers. It was the rookie’s first goal of her collegiate career.

That lead was not to last for long, as only 20 seconds had elapsed when Yale’s Lena Ansari found the back of goal, evening the score once again. The score was to remain knotted for the remainder of regulation at 1-1.

This team showed again and again their determination and ability to overcome diversity. From a fans point of view, there are so many talented Leopard players that the exceptional has become the common. Sawers is the leader out there no doubt, and it’s a privilege to watch such emerging talents like Spanns and Schumacher perform on the field. One should not forget the efforts and talents of the whole team.

There was an active and enthusiastic crowd at the game consisting of parents, siblings and students. In addition, there was a plethora of administrators and faculty in attendance along with President Nicole Hurd and her husband!!!

On to New England where Quinnipiac awaits the Leopards for their next game. I expect we will travel well, as the saying goes. GO PARDS!!

Who To Believe….A Poll Or A Rating??

One of the neat occupations of sports fans is to follow the rankings of their favorite teams. It provides occupation and conversation as to who is better before the actual teams meet. What game is an upset, betting lines are established in some sports, recruiting in colleges is effected, and Bowl matchups are decided, as is seeding in tournaments on the basis of polls and ratings.

A poll is basically a survey of people who should know the relative strength of teams. Polls are subject to bias since the respondents may only see teams within their own conference or region. The NFHCA produces a poll every two weeks in field hockey. It is a survey of coaches and relies on respondents that may or may not be the same every polling period. Each conference uses a preseason poll of SID’s and coaches who may or may not be influenced by past games and familiarity with other teams in the conference.

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Woolston and Boccella charge stop a Villanova corner

In many sports there are mathematical rating systems which use statistical algorithms to arrives at an unbiased result. It relies on observations of actual games and assigning values based on actual results. It’s weakness is early in the season where the observations are small it can be unreliable. Fans of other sports will recognize the Sagarin system as a rating system for football and basketball.

The rating system used in field hockey is used by Chip Rogers and appears in fieldhockeycorner.com and has not been published as yet since I believe he thinks not enough game have been played. Chip calculates a team’s RPI, Strength of Schedule, Margin of Victory, and other variables to come up with a variety of rankings.

Recently BolsterFieldHockey.com is publishing rankings on a running schedule and uses a system based on the ELO SYSTEM. It is a system based on the efforts of Arpad Elo who developed his approach to rank chess players. Elo was professor of physics at Marquette University and a chess master. In 1960 he developed his system to replace the Harkness Rating system and was approved by the United States Chess Federation.

Eventually his system was adopted by association soccer, American football, basketball, major league baseball, table tennis, and several e-sports. An Elo rating is a comparative rating and is valid within the pool where it was established. So you can’t measure the rating between UNC field hockey and the Dutch National team.

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Hefting delivers the ball downfield

I now come to my final point. The Elo system results can be different than a NFHCA poll. In fact it’s more likely than not. However, it does produce a result I like. ( Is my bias showing). BolsterFieldHockey.com ranks LAFAYETTE 24th in the nation this week whereas in the poll Lafayette does not appear in the Top 25.

Now… about those games with Yale and Quinnipiac this weekend!!!!

As a post script Colgate has cancelled their second game because of Covid restrictions. They have rescheduled this game with Cornell. They are down to 14 games this season. Holy Cross lost to Vermont in their rescheduled game from Sunday

Three Patriot League Out Of Conference Games Postponed Due To Covid Protocols

While Lafayette was in Columbus, Ohio on Sept fifth beating Indiana, three other Patriot League team postponed their game due to Covid protocols. Holy Cross was to play at Vermont, Colgate was to host Lock Haven and American was to play their first home game with William and Mary. All cited Tier 1 protocols as the reason. Tier 1 is described as consisting of individuals for whom physical distancing and/or face coverings are not posible or effective during athletic training or competition, including student athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials.

It was indicated that the problem occurred within Holy Cross and the Colgate programs, while William and Mary pointed out the problem was within their field hockey team and swimming teams. William and Mary said the field hockey team would be able to continue practicing and resume games this week. Holy Cross will play their game with Vermont today, September 7th. Both the American/William and Mary and the Colgate/Lock Haven games have yet to set a date for rescheduling.

If the American game is not rescheduled it will leave American with only 15 games ( you need 13 to qualify for the NCAA’s) and the Lafayette game, will not only be their first Patrtot League game, but American’s home opener.

Meanwhile Leopards collected most the hardware as a result of their outstanding work this weekend. Audrey Sawers was the outstanding Patriot League Offensive player for her goals and assists and Haile Abbott was the outstanding Goalkeeper for the second week in a row which included another shut out for her!! In addition, Simone Hefting was named honorable mention for her defensive work.

The NFHCA poll came out today. I thought Lafayette had a shot at cracking the top 25. In my opinion it’s probably the weakest and most political of the polls. I did see some on there who we would give a hard game. Delaware is still there, as is Maine and JMU. Ohio State dropped from the list. Several year ago I wrote about the pools and likened the struggle for recognition like the song from Aretha Franklin….RESPECT. It sort of became a theme for the rest of the year. Maybe its time to drag it out again.

Meanwhile Yale pulls into Rappolt Friday evening and Quinnipiac is hosting Lafayette on Sunday. These are two opportunities for Lafayette to earn some more RESPECT.

Lafayette Dominates In 4-0 win Against Indiana

Playing against their second BIG TEN opponent in three days the Leopards took on the undefeated Hoosiers from the University of Indiana. It wasn’t as if Indiana had played the Little Sisters of the Poor to arrive at Columbus with that zero in the loss column. There was a quality win against a pretty good Miami of Ohio team last week that made me take notice.

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Taking that all into consideration, this was an outstanding performance by Lafayette. The Leopards took multiple shots on goal led by captain Audrey Sawers who had 7 shots, with two of them finding the back of the net. She also had 2 assists demonstrating her versatility, leadership, and skill. It was teammate Molly McAndrew who started off the scoring in the first quarter, hitting on a goal in one of 3 shots during the game. Felicitas Hannes had the fourth goal and the “coup de grace” to ice the game for the Leopards off a Sawers feed.

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McAndrews breaks away

In total, the Leopards were to outshoot the Hoosiers 17 to 7, scoring a goal in each period. They had 10 shots in the second period alone. Meanwhile they out cornered Indiana 9-6. Haile Abbott put in another sterling effort with 2 saves and earns the shutout. The Leopards earned this one after a disappointing loss on Friday. But the coaches and the team demonstrated their character and inner strength. They next take on Yale at Rappolt Field on Friday!!

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