Lafayette Is Ready For The Fall Season

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Audrey Sawers gets on eye on the ball

Ok, I confess, I am a homer. I want and I believe that this team can challenge for a championship.  What I saw this spring has impressed me with their chances.  The players had an opportunity  to improve their skills. They showed  fans and coaches  they could step up and perform well. The fall “championship” season is a test of endurance and this coaching staff can take solace ,that they have the “horses.” Everyone can be contributors to earning a championship and a winning season.

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Caroline Turnbull enters the circle for a score

First, the team has demonstrated they can perform even though they were missing key players at some point this spring. Certainly the convincer was the Towson competitions where they met last years NCAA finalist and held their own. They followed that with a good performance yesterday, winning the first game against Villanova off a Grace Angelella goal. The second game was a 1-0 loss to a surprising Drexel squad who stunned the Leopards early on with a hard high press. However, they regrouped and proved to many that they could come back with several strong offensive efforts. In the third game, not only did they play well against a young, and skilled veteran, Quinnipiac squad but came away  with a two goal victory due to second efforts by Caroline Turnbull , an all PL selection last year, who scored the two goals.

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Alix Talkow get ready for the deflection

Second, I saw, especially yesterday, many second and third shots inside the circle and the team was not intimidated by hard, physical play.

Third, the team is well led. I heard of senior players assisting the younger less experienced players in a demonstration of team solidarity. It was good to see the people not in the game, encouraging their teammates from the sidelines.

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Grace Angelella fights for possession

Fourth, they are just that good. The team was short three or four experienced players due to injuries all spring but those that were in their place  played well, adding to our overall strength. Add to that, a class of seven good incoming players means this team is ready to accept challenges and will overcome adversity should it occur along the way.

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Sam DiMaio has her eye on the goal

As I mentioned to several after the game, there was a lot to like this spring.

My only sadness is, I now have to wait until August until I can see the Leopards in action again. I suppose I can review videos of old games in the meantime.

Villanova, Quinnipiac and Drexel Arrive For Four Way Competition On Saturday April 27.

On paper in may look like the three opponents meeting at Rappolt Field, starting at 11 am on Saturday, are in a similar position. All four teams had similar records last year. Villanova was 9-10, Quinnipiac was 7-10, and Drexel was 9-9. But the won/loss records end similarities. All of course, have played Lafayette in recent years.  Lafayette beat Villanova and Drexel last year, while the last meeting with Quinnipiac, two years ago, was a loss for Lafayette  3-2. However, a deep dive into the numbers may tell us more about the challenges for each team.

Villanova plays in the Big East, and besides their 9-10 overall record had a 4-4 record in the Big East. Their coach Joannie Milhous has been with Villanova for 24 years. She had early success, but Villanova worked under difficult circumstances, having to play on field turf for many years. However, the construction of their new astro turf field, more suitable for field hockey, signaled a turn around. One should consider their signature game last year, a win over ODU in overtime 2-1. Lafayette’s Villanova game last year against Lafayette last year  could be considered Lafayette’s best game of the season. Villanova last year scored 40 goals against 55 scored on them. They had a 7-3 win against Lehigh, their only other Patriot League opponent. They are replacing 6 seniors.

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Mary Gould dodges a Maryland defender

Quinnipiac’s 7-10 record hides the fact that the Bobcats had 13 freshmen on their squad and are only graduating 3. Several years ago the school designated the field hockey team a “team of emphasis,” meaning they were to get fully funded status. That included a new field and the 12 scholarships allowed by the NCAA. Still in building mode last year their 25 year coach Becca Main, used her freshman to score 32 goals while giving up 57. Now playing in the Big East, Saturday’s contest will be the last competition of spring for them and the last chance for her rising sophomores to show they belong on the field in the fall. This could be an interesting contest, especially against their Big East rival Villanova.

The third opponent for the Leopards will be Drexel, who look like the reciprocal of Quinnipiac. They had a 9-9 record playing in the CAA and lost to Lafayette 2-1 in an exciting overtime game. Denise Zelenak, who is a 24 year veteran at Drexel, will bring her fast break offense to challenge, but she will have lost 10 to graduation this year . They did score 46 goals and gave up 49 while taking 9.8 shots per game and giving up 13.7. She will also be losing a senior goal keeper which will be a concern for her in the fall.

All in all, it looks like and interesting day for hockey and for our Leopards, and since it is the last competition of the spring it has significance. Lafayette will be missing their Rookie of the Year Molly McAndrews due to illness so there will have to be someone to step up in her place. The weather looks perfect so come on out and enjoy the day!!

Lafayette FH Stumbles In Third Competition Of The Spring

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Grace Angelella settles the ball in the first half

After last week’s showing what they are capable of, this week became shot of reality for our Leopards, after losing to Columbia University 6-2.  Lafayette gave up more goals today, than they had all spring, giving the Leopard coaches plenty of fodder to review with the team this week. This team is certainly capable of challenging for a Patriot League title, but winning championships is as much mental as it is physical.

Lisa van der Geest returned to turf after a week’s absence, and was her old self. Molly McAndrews was absent due to a bout of mononucleosis, Kara Tiedtke and Sophie Carr are still nursing knee surgeries. So there  was moving around with some players in unfamiliar positions. But there was a spark missing, which manifested in Columbia’s ability to defensively jump on the Leopard players , almost seeming to know where a pass was to go.

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In addition, Columbia was to dominate the second half getting more corners and shots which eventually resulted in scores. Lafayette’s scores occurred in the second half with a penalty stroke by Van der Geest and a nifty deflection by Anna Steps. Whereas, the second half had limited scoring  opportunities, the first half was marked by missed opportunities.

Perhaps it was overconfidence, which should be a cautionary tale for the regular season. You must respect each opponent, lest you can lose games that should have been competitive. The Leopards seemed hesitant on passes, and failed to move after receptions, allowing the powder blue Columbia  players to take advantage.

The game was played in a light rain virtually the whole contest, only to let up with a few minutes left to play. As the saying goes, it rained on both teams so the weather could hardly be blamed.

This is an opportunity to leave in the minds of the team, the reminder to play every game like a playoff game. There is nothing wrong with confidence but a lot wrong when confidence turns to being desmissive of your opponent. Spring is a learning period to learn a variety of lessons, perhaps this lesson might be one of the more important lessons to take into the fall campaign!!!

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Two on one in front of the Columbia goal

There is one more competition next Saturday…we shall see how well our Leopards absorb today’s reminder. Quinnipiac, Drexel and Villanova will travel to Rappolt Field for an 11:00 am start. I would not want to be any of next week’s opponents!!

 

 

Leopards Make Progress In Towson Spring Contests

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Cam Costello controls the ball against a Maryland defender as Jen Delongis clears out for a reception

In the third spring outing for the Leopards, one could see the progress being made as the 2019 version of “Pard Hockey,” is developing a personality. There was a modification for the afternoon due to injuries for VCU personnel and a very short bench. They really could not field a full team so it was decided that in the games with VCU, Lafayette,  Towson and Maryland  would play 8 v 8 and a shortened field for the two 15 minute quarters.

However, all the teams were showing signs of vigorous spring training. Maryland came with four players unavailable ( I did not see Niki Lorenz on the field). Lafayette was missing 3 wounded, including their all American Lisa van der Geest who was sidelined as a precaution after suffering a mild concussion in the Penn game last week. Cam Costello was nursing a sore hip and shortened her time on the field. Sophie Carr was still rehabbing her knee and was in Florida representing the Patriot League at a NCAA student athlete conference and Kara Tiedtke was still rehabilitating her knee but was present  walking without any noticeable impairment.

Despite the difficulties the Lafayette coaching staff had to walk away pleased with the afternoon. The Leopards scored 5 goals and gave up 2. They showed the ability to get second shots and used tip ins and redirections to great advantage. I was especially pleased with the hustle and tenacity on defense. Sarah Park may have had her best effort as a Leopard in goal which should have brought a smile to the coaching staff. On the afternoon Sam Di Maio  had two goals, one against VCU and one against Towson. Audrey Sawers, Grace Angelella, and Ana Steps added one each against Towson.

The game against Maryland which ended 2-0 in Maryland’s favor ( the same score from 2012 when Lafayette and Maryland last met) was highlighted by a strong defensive effort in front of the goal by a determined Lafayette defense. Lafayette had several chances to score but in many cases missed by inches, a defect I am sure will be worked on this week.

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The coaching staff was not happy with the effort in the first game and the energy showed  in the first Maryland half as it ended in a 0-0 tie. The Maryland coaching staff turned up the volume in the second half getting several corners and converting two. The Lafayette side had several fast breaks that saw good chances go awry as connections were not quite made.

The last game was with Towson and lessons  from the Maryland game were applied in a 4-0 ending with numerous scoring opportunities bearing fruit. I have to hand to the team. They rose to the occasion and at least in this fan’s eyes demonstrated promise for the fall season. DiMaio of course had a good game but I must note a good effort from Eva Kaplan who had not seen any action in her previous two seasons and seems to be taking advantage of her opportunities. She contributed on the last score as she delivered a nice cross to Sam who tipped it in for the score.

Grace Angellela had a good game bringing the ball up the field and scoring as well. She played at a high level the whole afternoon. I wouldn’t want to diminish the effort by the whole team, especially after a slow start against VCU. The weather like the early play was a little cloudy but it brightened up as the afternoon progressed.

Next week, Columbia arrives in Easton for what I believe will be a regular four quarter game. I look forward to Saturday and seeing it all come together!! Go Pards!!

 

Leopards Test Themselves Against Towson, VCU and Maryland This Sunday

It what appears to be their most challenging weekend of the spring, the Lafayette Leopards will load the vans again to travel down I-95 to Towson Maryland to play on Towson turf to take on three challenging games.

First up at 11:45 will be VCU. I can’t remember the last time we played them but it could be when Ann Gold was still the coach. Since then they have had several coaches. Their most recent coach is Stacey Bean who will be in her third season this fall and may be their most successful. She has had two winning seasons so far, last year getting to the conference final in the A-10 against a very good St Joseph’s team. They were 12-7 on the year and 7-1 in the conference. Last year they lost close games to American ( 3-2 in double overtime) and Bucknell by the same score. They had two big wins agains ODU and Wake Forest. It appears they like to score as they got the ball in the net 55 times but only gave up 29 goals. They have only 12 underclassman including two rising sophomores in the goal. Perhaps we shall see some of their seniors play??

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Nike Lorenz

It certainly doesn’t get easier with National Finalist University of Maryland. The first push off will be at 1:15, and daunting would be an understatement. The Terps will bring their usual excellence to the Towson turf in the person of 19 underclassmen. On their way to Louisville and the National Championship game last year, they were 22-3. They scored 81 goals while only giving up 33. They had 142 penalty corners. They took an average of 16 shots per game  against 8 for their opponents.

Their schedule was tough, meeting 19 nationally ranked (top 25) teams. Behind it all, is the 31 year veteran coach Missy Meharg who has been the national coach of the year nine times.  She has coached 6 olympians and 51 all Americans. She has won 8 national championships and 23 conference championships. ( Two conference championships and won a national championship with my daughter in 99-00, where ironically they played Lafayette in the first round).

The last mutual outing was in the 2012  NCAA tournament, Lafayette was ranked 10 and Maryland was the defending national champion ranked 7. Maryland beat Lafayette 2-0.

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The third game will be against host Towson University @ 2:45.  Towson is in the grips of a building program highlighted by the addition of their new field. They are working hard to improve on their 1-17 record. Only one game was played on the their new turf field against Lehigh last year ( they lost 2-3) Their other Patriot League opponent was American who showed no mercy  with a 0-7 final score.

The good news here for their coach, E.A. Jackson, who is entering her third year, is that she has 16 returning players  including Haile Abbott’s (Lafayette GK) twin sister. They will only lose 2 seniors. Towson scored only 19 goals and gave up 67. and took 107 shots but gave up 253. It’s a game that would be easy to overlook, but given it’s the last game of the afternoon I would be cautious.

 

Other News:

Holy Cross has announced their new class, and the additions since I last reported includes Rachel Perry from Holden Mass. She is an all state forward and Captain of her team. The second recruit is from Sarasota California, Isabella Henderson who appears to be a midfielder. As reported earlier Holy Cross did reach across the Atlantic for a South African Sinead Walsh from Port Elizabeth. All three seem to be excellent athletes playing several sports. So Holy Cross brings in a total six recruits. We will meet them this fall on Rappolt Field.

 

A Fine Day For Leopard Field Hockey

 

 

After about 4 1/2 hours of scrimmage our Leopards should be pleased with the outcome. They took on the University of Virginia and held them scoreless, they then scored two  goals against Penn and held them scoreless, and to finish the afternoon, tied with a game Rider squad who scored 57 goals last year 1-1. If you add it all together a 3-1 afternoon of hockey. The Maroon and White can walk away with a well done!! Aside from the outcome, everyone ( aside from the walking wounded), made it on to the turf giving the Leopard coaching staff a good look at everyone.

Those Pards who did not see a lot of action last fall got a chance to show their skills against good competition. In addition, veterans can say they are getting ready. I know I am a “homer,” but this team is showing me a lot. There is no reason they could not make a lot of  noise this fall in the Patriot League and beyond.

 

 

To give you some perspective, Rider had there way with Lehigh last week 5-1 and Penn played a tough Bucknell squad ( however according to the Penn parents they played their current seniors).  Lehigh will be bringing in a large class of 8-10 recruits and Bucknell looks to have 5-6 recruits to replace a talented senior class.

The first game was the second of the day and the first game for Lafayette and Virginia. They played equally between the both sides of the field. Virginia’s passes were crisp and Lafayette began to work together well. Our defense, led by Lisa van der Geest held the Cavaliers scoreless and even more impressively, held them to zero corners. Both teams,. had good chances for goals  Virginia’s chances were turned away by Sarah Park. Grace Angella came close in the second half only to have her shot thwarted  as Sam Di Maio was there hoping for the deflection.

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Virginia is playing in the final four game in basketball, tonight so they wanted to return to Charlottesvile As a result, elected to play three games in a row. This left Lafayette to play Penn and Rider back to back in the finale in the afternoon.

After a long break Lafayette met Penn, and started quickly as DiMaio found the baseline and with a nifty reverse stick flip, found the back of the cage making in 1-0 with barely one minute having run off the clock. The second goal came on corner with Lisa van der Geest launching a rocket past the Penn goalie for a 2-0 lead. The leopard defense again rose to the occasion keeping play mostly on the Lafayette offensive side of the turf.

The final game was against Rider who has several scorers who can find the net. They looked to find a fast break off turnovers and did manage to get a two on one break with a Rider forward flying down their right side and managing to find the crossing pass to a teammate on the left side. Haile Abbot who had replaced Sarah Park had made several veteran level saves during the game but was put in a difficult position.

But the Leopard offense was again to use their skill in the second half when Jenn DeLongis delivered a bouncing shot past the Rider goalie to tie the game. That was how it ended.

The weather was great, the competition  was good, and the Leopards should have had a satisfying ride back to Easton. All our subs acquitted themselves well, Mary Gould, Greta Kullby ( who saw a lot of minutes), Eva Kaplan, and  Alex Talkow played impressively. Hailey Abbott was up to challenge in the cage while she took her turn in the last game against an aggressive Rider squad.

Next week the Leopards travel to Towson to be challenged by a VERY tough Maryland squad, a good VCU team and an improving Towson team. The Abbotts will be in evidence and Hailey’s twin sister plays for Towson. ( Their mother is sewing a shirt that has Lafayette on one side and Towson on the other). Last information is the games start at 11:00 next Sunday at Towson.

Leopards Travel To Penn For Spring Tournament

The Lafayette Field Hockey team will load up the vans for a Saturday tournament in Philadelphia at Penn. The action will start at 11:30 with a round robin between four teams. Lafayette, Penn, Rider and Virginia. For Penn, this will be their last competition of the spring having already met Penn State and Bucknell. The other teams have not published their spring schedule. Lafayette met Monmouth the last week in a full game with practice shoot outs afterwards.

Each team will be looking to improve from last year and provide a more consistent winning posture. Lafayette was 8-11, Penn was 9-8, Rider was 11-8 and Virginia was 9-10. Penn had a very ambitious schedule with a signature win early in the season against Wake Forest. However Lafayette was to beat them 2-1 in Easton during the Pard late season resurgence. Rider was 11-8 having won against VCU, Lehigh,  and Lock Haven while absorbing losses to Drexel, Colgate, and App State. Virginia was 9-10 while playing in the tough ACC. They did lose out of conference games to ODU, Penn State and Liberty but did pick up a win against Maryland who is now a Big Ten School.

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Our Leopards surround Virginia during a spring tournament.

The differences in stats are interesting. Lafayette scored 39 goals, Penn 22, Rider 50 and Virginia 29. Goals against Lafayette 55, Penn 29, Rider 38 and Virginia 30. Shots taken were similar only Penn took 189 while the rest were around 235. Keep in mind the Ivy League does not have a league tournament.  Saves percentages were similar with Penn and Lafayette in the 60’s, while Rider and Virginia were in the mid 70’s.

It should be an interesting afternoon as the Leopards will again test their bench and depth. I wlll be looking to see a tightened defense against these competitive teams. Penn will certainly be stepping up as this is their last competition until the fall and against Lafayette will want to avenge last year’s loss. Rider will be interesting as they will want to keep their high scoring offense going. Virginia will try to build consistency in their attack as well.

Here’s hoping for some good weather .