The Lafayette Leopards are now 8-9, headed to playoffs with one regular season game to play with Bucknell. When did the turn happen and why? The early part of the season was certainly disappointing with the first 10 games not predictive of the final stretch. In the first ten games the Leopards scored a mere 17 goals but gave up 35. One would have expected a team that had performed well in the spring and had the additional time in South Africa to post a better record. Yes, there was the important game with Lehigh ( the first league game) that ended in an overtime victory. However losses to Fairfield, Richmond,Temple, Albany were not encouraging.
But something happened around the Drexel/ Boston University Axis. Lafayette battled to a 2-1 well deserved overtime win at Drexel, then lost to Liberty 3-1 at home. But on Sept 29 came the second half of the Boston University game. Yes it was a loss but the Maroon and White scored four goals against the vaunted BU defense. Could it be that a strong offense could also be a good defense as well?
The Leopards put that idea into practice by instituting a high press against Villanova which resulted in significant turnovers which not only stopped the Villanova attack but ending putting up five goals in the. process. Three wins later including a moral boosting 2-1 against the University of Pennsylvania sent the Leopards into a crucial game with Holy Cross who had Lafayette’s number three years running. Not this time. In a magnificent display of game plan execution the Leopards stunned the Crusader for a 3-1 loss. The only goal to be scored by Holy Cross in the remaining seconds of the game.
Holy Cross was only the appetizer as Lafayette found each other and stunned the American Eagles the following week with a 3-1 win with American’s only goal to be scored with no time left on a penalty stroke. Not only was the team on the field engaged we began to see the entire team off the bench urging on their teammates.
Cornell was not a pretty victory but the 2 overtime win emphasizes the saying that good teams can win ugly too and this has become a good team. It was a game after a long bus ride and little time to prepare.
Steve Jennings, the American coach said something that should be repeated, ” In the end the outcome was earned by their commitment to each other.” The season is not finished and there are games yet to be won. A win against Bucknell will lock up the second seed and then there will be Championship week end in Boston which could be a two game ordeal.
In the end it may be fitness or practice intensity. It could be individual heroics or the play of a bench player who in the end may determine whether the season ends there or moves on to bigger things. In any case, this is a together team and coaches no doubt will encourage that togetherness, prepare for unexpected strategies and in the end appreciate “their commitment to each other.” Go Pards!!!