Championships Are Made And Are Not Inevitable

On a cold November 3rd in 2012 Deanna DiCroce lifted a penalty stroke into the top of the cage, delivering a second straight Patriot League championship to the Leopards. The win solidified Lafayette’s national ranking and gave them a ticket to a game with number 2 ranked Princeton on the following tuesday. Princeton was to become the eventual national champion and both teams were to advance to the National Collegiate Athletic Association division one tournament. In both years, 2011 and 2012, Lafayette was not the preseason pick by any of the selectors in the League. The Leopards, in fact did not get any national attention until midseason, after games with nationally ranked Drexel and Albany!

In June of 2013 at the end of the school year the Lafayette Field Hockey Team and Deanna DiCroce ’13 received the Patriot League Women’s Team of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year respectively. The team had earned an at large bid to the NCAA tournament, a first from a Patriot League member. They finished with a 17-3 overall record and went 5-0 in conference play and undefeated at 10-0 at home!!  They scored 70 goals for a 3.5 goal per  game average and only gave up 1.3 goals per game for a total of 26 goals. All league goalie Jessica Deutsch and the defense allowed only 26 goals, while earning a  71 pct ga average. Dicroce  had a league leading 18 goals while defender Jenna Seybert had 10 goals. Yes, it was a “magical” season, but the effort, talent, and team work was anything but only “magic”.

DiCroce’s goal would have never happened if there wasn’t a win in the semi-final game the day before. Scoring was spread around with DiCroce, Machalick, Seybert, and Haley Keenan scoring the overtime goal, sending the Leopards onto the championship game. It was teamwork that prevailed in that game with Machalick, Seybert, Valeo, DiCroce and finally Seybert again, who provided the assists. At that point Lafayette had won 14 consecutive games.

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DiCroce finds a spot between the legs of the American goalie

The championship game was played in a cold and windy environment and both American and Lafayette battled in one of the best games of the season. A  corner with no time left on the clock successfully converted by American, at the end of the first period gave the Eagles the first lead of the game. Lafayette had led in corners 4-2 but it was American who was to open the second half with a 1-0 lead. However, 16 minutes into the second half DiCroce found a spot between American’s goalie’s legs to knot the score at 1-1. The Lafayette defense tightened and held American to no shots as the game went to overtime.

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Emily Valeo flies into the Colgate circle

Early in the overtime American’s Rebecca Treharne had a reverse stick shot from just inside the circle, but Lafayette goalkeeper Deutsch kicked it away ending the threat. She came out two more times thwarting American scoring attempts. With a minute left to play and the thermometer dropping by the second, Lafayette senior Emily Valeo was cut down by an American field player as she was taking a shot setting up the penalty stroke. After a conference at the sideline it was decided that DiCroce would take the shot and the rest is history. Ironically it was her first score on a penalty stroke that season!! The stands emptied and bedlam ensued.

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DiCroce receives the long pass against Ball State

The point is this was a team effort, not magic. There were strong efforts during the season and everyone contributed .There was a great game against Bucknell where the Leopard’s 2-0 win, and goals by Valeo and Seybert set up a regular season championship and home field advantage. Games against JMU, Albany and Drexel established their credentials and even their one goal loss to Penn State after a 500 mile bus trip to Penn State after the overtime JMU win, set a tone for grit this team was to develop. There many others that contributed and I would run out of time and space in adulation.

The pictures tell it all. The eventual losses to national champion Princeton and past national champion Maryland 2-0 didn’t diminish what this team accomplished.

Coming up next will be this year’s senior leaders and their list of requirements and goals to make THIS season “magical.”

 

 

 

Published by

William Rappolt

I am past chairman of the Lafayette Friends of Field Hockey and a former BOT member at Lafayette College. My wife and I are members of the Board of Trustees for USA Field Hockey Foundation. I am the retired treasurer of M and T Bank Corporation and a 20 year fan of Division one field hockey

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