American University Ambushed By Fairfield 3-1 In NCAA Game

Fairfield University used their home field advantage, and a well thought out game plan to end American University’s season in a game that represented their 19-2 season. As expected, the game was a stalemate for the first half resulting in a 0-0 tie, but with Fairfield getting 3 shots to American’s single shot in the first half. Neither team substituted very much during the game, but if there was an index of bandage to player ratio, American would have won that statistic hands down.

The atmosphere was super cold, with a stiff breeze that make it all the more difficult. Zoe Rosen, the excellent Fairfield GK, made 3 saves on American’s four shots on goal. Fiona Minter the freshman GK for American wasn’t nearly as good, as she only stopped 3 of Fairfield’s 6 shots on goal.

If the first half was all about defense. the second half was about which offense was going to dominate. Fairfield came out smoking in the second half, and scored with only 37 seconds having ticked off the clock. Emma Matlack received a cross from Luzi Persiehl and delivered the goal to put Fairfield ahead.

The Eagles scrambled to find their footing, and wasn’t until 5 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter  were they able to tie the game off a play familiar to the Leopards,  Noor Coenen delivering the ball to Josie Formica to tie game at one to one.

American tried to push for the second goal but in the process left their defense exposed. Fairfield for the first time this year, used a long arial that caught the eagles without any defense. An NFL quarterback could not have made a better pass. Midfielder Malen Iglesias found Julianna Kratz perfectly who passed to Danielle Profita for the two on one break….Fairfield takes the lead again with less than 8 minutes left.

The proverbial coup de grace was a goal from Mackenzie Boyle from the Malen Iglesias with about 2 minutes left in the game. The last eight minutes saw American desperately trying to get into their rhythm, but never quite getting there.

Both teams are young, American will only graduate one starter and Fairfield has only two seniors on their team. I have to admit I thought American was the easy choice to win…I was wrong Fairfield was motivated and well prepared. They will now move on to play in state rival UCONN on Friday.

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NLI signings began rolling in yesterday at various Division one schools. Lafayette has not yet announced those early signings, but it has been their practice to announce when the class is complete. Max field hockey has been posting verbal commitments. They include Emma Garvey a GK from Massachusettes and Buckingham Brown and Nichols school, Ariel Schumacher M/F from Texas and Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, Kelly Baitenger M/F Perkiomen Valley, Pa. Alden Bocella M/D from Gwymead Mercy Academy in Pa., Alexandra Conway F, the Hill School, Pa, All three Pa. recruits also played for WC Eagles.

Later on I will be reviewing all the Patriot League recruits as we move through this month and next. ln the meantime a hearty welcome to our new recruits and their families to Lafayette Field Hockey!!

Division One Field Hockey Teams Begin To Reload

There have been over 1300 Division One games played to date and the final 18 teams have been selected for the NCAA tournament but come Nov 13, there will begin National Letter of Intent signings providing teams with new players to replace graduating seniors and more. The recruiting process has no doubt been stressful but in reality many pre-NLI  commitments have already been made as long as a year ago.

The NLI is just the end of the process and no doubt head coaches already know what 80-90 percent of their class will look like. Although they are prohibited by NCAA regulations from announcing or disclosing recruit names until after the NLI is signed, recruits themselves, or their clubs have already revealed the plans of these recruits. ( I guess this is another example of NCAA minions discovering useless work for an industry of compliance administrators…but that’s a subject for a whole new article. Coach K from Duke was dinged last week by NCAA for revealing the name of a recruit by him in Chicago. The recruit had announced publicly for months he has committed to Duke).

It is easy enough to find the names of recruits, even in field hockey, through Club news releases or services such has Max Sports. So armed with my trusty computer, without relying on information from any Patriot League school or coach I will as I did last year report on commitments for these League schools. Foreign commitments are more difficult to find and they tend to commit later on in the process.

Lafayette has been hard at work replacing an excellent senior class and as you will see have commitments from Massachusetts to Texas. But I will also be looking at all Patriot League commitments in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile American University will be competing in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. They are playing Fairfield at Fairfield tomorrow and I expect an easy win for the Eagles. They will then return to Conn. on Friday for a much tougher game with UCONN.

Leopards Fall 2-3 In Championship Battle

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Cam Costello played key roles in today’s game

The Lafayette Leopards ended a dream season battling to the very last, against the American Eagles. The game started with all the momentum going Lafayette’s way. The first quarter saw Lafayette aggressively going after the ball, and blunting any counter attack by the blue clad Eagles. Time of possession was clearly in the Leopard’s favor as they entered the attacking third using interceptions. American was clearly on their heels and to drive the point home at 6:48 into the game Lafayette drew first blood. As is the usual scheme, the play started at the Leopards outstanding back line with Lisa van der Geest working into Audrey Sawers who quickly shed a defender and fed to freshman Tara Hamilton speeding into the circle. There she found senior Cam Costello who placed the ball to the left side for the opening score.

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Eva Kaplan makes her contributions fighting past an American defender

This was the first time in ten games that the Eagles have been scored upon first in the opening quarter. All looked bright entering the second period. However, 36 seconds into the second quarter the Leopards were to give up a corner. Upon looking at the video this evening the ball was launched clearly close to Grace Angelella waist which would result in the ball for the Leopards not a corner. ( PLEASE. PLEASE PATRIOT LEAGUE install video referral like NCAA, Big Ten, ACC, MAC and other leagues have adopted). In any case, the corner was converted successfully by American’s Josie Formica with an assist by American’s star Noor Coenen. It was at that point it looked like a little air went out of the Leopards play.

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Freshman Simone Hefting was a welcome returnee for the playoff season

The half ended in one to one tie. Three minutes into the second half the Eagles struck again taking the lead on another penalty corner strike, this time by Coenen assisted by Lauren Fredricks, and Gaby de Kock. The final goal for American came early in the fourth, on a strike by Atina Pagani on the right corner. American had multiple corner opportunities which were turned back by goalkeeper Sarah Park and the Lafayette defense.

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Audrey Sawers did what was needed all season and especially in these final two games. No doubt a future star!!

The Leopards were not done as they were able to get a final goal with 48 seconds left, on a Lisa van der Geest rocket to close the score to within one. The subsequent push off was controlled by American and eventually led to a final corner when Coach Jennings decided to play it safe putting 9 players back on defense and delivering the ball to the corner to be trapped and to run out the clock.

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Lisa van der Geest does it all and more

Sarah Park was to have six saves on nine shots on goal. Lafayette was to have two shots on goal which resulted in zero saves and two goals. Overall Lafayette had five shots to American’s 13 and American had 6 corners to Lafayette’s lone corner with less than one minute left. Given this statistic it demonstrates what Lafayette needed to do. American protected their goalie and shielded her from Lafayette’s strong corner offense. American’s third quarter with six shots was crucial.

Lafayette had 4 cards, three green and one yellow and American had two greens. All in all this was a worthy championship game. The game could have gone either way and had opportunities go either way.  This is an extraordinary senior class that has shown not only skill but leadership that may well be felt after they graduate. In addition, the underclassman stepped up when needed. Audrey Sawers to my mind, was the unsung hero scoring the lone goal on Friday and was involved in key plays in both games. A close second was Cameron Costello who showed all season her skill and importance to the team and who scored the opening goal of this game.

This was a team that was certainly qualified to be a champion and as a fan of these young women and of the sport I feel their disappointment. But there is no doubt this team will be remembered well, and can be used as platform for future success.

There were many alumni and their parents in the stands today, and I hope these emerging alumni return to see how they have contributed to future success. It is an eclectic group with numerous talents and will make their marks in whatever they do.

I also have to mention the leadership of Lisa van der Geest who now will play in the Division one all star game at Wake Forest. Lisa could be considered an on the field 5th coach directing play and as captain, mentoring the younger players. Something tells me we have not heard the last from Lisa as there will be more awards and would certainly be considered a Hall of Fame candidate at the appropriate time. She will certainly garner additional awards before she graduates.

I will certainly be at my computer to record and memorialize more Leopard Field Hockey news as we move to recruit signings, and the spring season. Meanwhile we wish those that have been injured a quick recovery and rehabilitation, as the next season will at some point begin.

****Just announced American will meet Fairfield on Wed. and the winner will play UConn on Friday in the NCAA tournament.

 

 

Sawers Sends Leopards To Sunday Showdown

Audrey Sawers muscled the ball past the excellent Bucknell goalkeeper with 8:52 left in the game in a play that was a metaphor for the whole afternoon. Both sides played with emotion and character,  that gave the words,”championship effort,” meaning. For those 51 minutes and 18 seconds, it was a see saw battle which had observers on the edge of the their seats or walking along the sideline. It was the dominant second half by the Leopards which moved the momentum in the Leopards favor, and led ultimately to Sawers second and third effort ending in a 1-0 lead.

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8 corners eventually lead to victory

The game had all the expected drama, as Bucknell opened the contest emulating American’s strategy of last week,  using quick starts from free hits, and an attacking style. The Leopards responded with an early high press, that by the last two quarters was to put Bucknell on their heels, and expose them, and the their defense to an onslaught of shots that ultimately led to victory. It was that 12-1 advantage in shots in the second half that was to ultimately determine the final outcome.

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Cam Costello closes in on Kaelyn Long

The Leopards coaching staff and team learned lessons well from last week, and were able to overcome the disappointment  of not getting to the circle against American last week, with a well orchestrated attack. However, the first half of yesterday’s game, which produced only a 3 to 1 difference in shots between Bucknell and Lafayette, would not be a preview as to how the rest of the game would go. Bucknell was to the receive an early opportunity with a corner with only about 3 minutes gone in the game. It would be Bucknell’s only corner of the game. Lafayette responded with a corner of their own in the first quarter, and a scrum later  in front of the cage. That activity looked to many observers like a goal was scored during that scrum. The near official ruled it hit a Lafayette player before entering the cage. ( I reviewed the video and looked to me like a good goal by Angellela on the deflection. Please, please can the PL go instant replay!!!)

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Lisa van der Geest advances the ball

The second half, unlike the first, was to see the Leopards gain control.  Lafayette numerous  shots did not find its finish during the second half.  The Bucknell goalie, Olivia Harris ( the Patriot League goalie of the year) turned away 7 shots during the game, six alone in the second half.

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Midfielder Grace Angellela uses her orange footwear to speed down the field

The Lafayette defense anchored by the Patriot League defensive player of year Lisa van der Geest was to extinguish threat after threat by the game Bucknell attack before they could reach the shooting circle. Freshman Simone Hefting, playing in only her second game in about 3 weeks was always there as part of the defensive wall. All league mid Anna Steps seemed to be at the ready to consistently halt bison attacks before they got started. But this was not the effort of single players, as the  17 players who saw action displayed the character of this team as the game wore on.  The  entire team was into it as the bench encouraged and no doubt helped prepare their teammates for this weekend!!

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American Coach Steve Jennings takes copious notes during the game

The encouragement and preparation by the Coach of the Year Jennifer Stone and her staff was perfect, as the team seemed well prepared and up for challenge. American coach Steve Jennings was seen watching the entire game from a building at the end of the field. Coach Stone also watched the previous Holy Cross v American game which ended in a 5-1 win for the Eagles of American University.

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American offensive player of the year Noor Coenen will no doubt have the attention of Lafayette defenders on Sunday

In that first game Holy Cross got off to a slow start in which American and their star junior attacker Noor Coenen dominated the game. The game had none of the drama of the afternoon game.

This sets up a 12 noon match for the Patriot League Championship which not only gets rings for the winner and trophies, but the right to move on to the national division one tournament. The Leopards celebrated, with a team dinner, and will return to the pitch on Saturday to prepare for Sunday’s match!

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Lafayette fans feeling it !!!

Lafayette fans, for the most part, will extend their stay in Washington ( no doubt with the hope that the broken water main that deprived residents in DC of potable water is repaired). They will brave the cold hoping that parking will be more available, and long walks to avoid tickets will be a thing of the past. But unlike five of their  Patriot League sister schools Lafayette will be playing on! Go Pards!!!

 

Handicapping A Playoff

In case you haven’t noticed, I do have a fascination for numbers. Perhaps its derived from  a career in finance, first as a foreign exchange trader on Wall Street, looking for arbitrages and later as a Treasurer of a good size bank evaluating enterprise risk. However, I have over the years also had good respect for exogenous factors that may drive unexpected outcomes. The expected result doesn’t always happen. The Nationals win the World Series, or the Eagles win the Super Bowl. The NCAA basketball tournament has its share of upsets. The “one and done” format especially, is prone to surprises.

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Lafayette breaks the Bucknell defense’s press

There are several elements to winning which I described in an earlier article. Part of winning is convincing your opponent, they can’t, which to my mind is taking away the things they do well or isolating and neutralizing a key player. So perhaps we should look at the things our potential opponents do well, and focus how each team might approach their opponent.

Teams will approach each opponent differently at different stages of the season considering variables such as injuries, weather and  venue. It will be cold on Friday. Each team has key injuries, whether they want to admit it or not, We are playing the tournament at American. It is a one year old turf which is much improved from the previous surface they owned. Their crowd size during the year was hardly overwhelming, and the first games will be played during class time.  Lafayette just played there last week, so counting practice time Lafayette would have spent four days out of the last eight on that surface by the time of the Bucknell game.

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Molly McAndrews and Sam Dimiao challenge a Bucknell midfielder

Starting with statistics ( I can’t help myself), I will use in conference stats only. They are recent and against common opponents. Scoring margin reveals American and Lafayette at first and second. American’s average is 2.50 plus and Lafayette is 2.25. Bucknell and Holy Cross are third and fifth at plus 1.67 and minus 1.17 respectively. American averages 3.33 goals per game, Bucknell 3.17 , Lafayette 2.89, and Holy Cross 2.17.

Lafayette has three shutouts and leads the field in that category, along with a goals against  average of .64 and Holy Cross’ 3.33 at the bottom. American takes 16.5 shots per game while Lafayette takes 15.83 per game, Bucknell 12.17, and Holy Cross 10.  Holy Cross has had to make 8.5 saves per game, Bucknell 3.5, Lafayette 2.67 and American 2.5.

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Cam Costello chases down a ball against Bucknell

Penalty Corners  are an important aspect in scoring for Bucknell and Lafayette. American gets 6.83 corners per game, Bucknell  5.5, Lafayette  4.67, and Holy Cross  3.33.  Lafayette must get to the circle and get corners. Last Friday they had 0 corners. Here’s why, Bucknell gets 1 goal per game on corners, Lafayette gets .83 per game, American .5 and Holy Cross .33.

Now the intangibles, and individual player stats. American has momentum having gone undefeated in the League and they are playing at home, but they have played , one goal games against Lafayette and Holy Cross. The Bucknell win was by two goals (3-1).

Noor Coenan leads the League in shots while Bucknell and Lafayette have a more diversified attack with McAndrews and Van der Geest contributing for Lafayette and Leah Fogelsanger and Britany Willwerth providing the scoring strength for Bucknell. American has Coenen at first in the League in points and Hannah Moser at 10th. Molly McAndrews is second in the league in points and Van der Geest is seventh, Bucknell has four in the top ten Fogelsanger at 5 and Kaelyn Long at 8 and Allie Christopher, and Megan Keeney tied for 10th.

Goalkeeper is the last line of defense and Lafayette’s Sarah Park leads the league in shutouts, goals against per game, and save percentage (.78).The save percentage for Holy Cross’ LaPlante is .735, Bucknell’s Olivia Haris is .70 and Fiona Minter from American is .688. Minter did not play in last week’s senior day game at American.

Each team has their solid leaders in Van der Geest, Coenen, Willwerth and LaPlante. All four teams have been here before. These teams will bring intensity, irrespective of their records. In the first games. Holy Cross must find their way to the goal cage and test the American goalkeeper. An early lead on a defense minded team may be the key to this game.  In the second game on Friday against two very similar teams Lafayette clearly must find their way to the circle to get corners and shots. They must continue their dominant defense while Bucknell will try to high press and get turnovers and keep Lafayette away from the attacking third. This game could be decided by midfielders and the transition game.

Bring your warmest clothes and be thankful we are playing in the afternoon!!  Go Pards!!!

Championship Time…..There Is No Future If You Don’t Win the Next Game

 

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Andrey Sawers battle with Kali Williams from Colgate

Eighteen games have been played and  brought Lafayette into the position to win a Championship. Winning  the game last Saturday would have been big. We would have had a crowd of about 1,000 supporters, good parking, and the team could sleep in their own beds. Unfortunately that didn’t happen…forget about it..start thinking about the NEXT game and its not American. The Leopards will be playing Bucknell, a worthy opponent and you can believe they are thinking about the 2-1 loss they had to Lafayette several weeks ago,  just as Holy Cross is thinking about their one goal loss to American about the same time.

The “learning” is over and it’s the “result” that counts from now on!!! One and done as they say. One loss and the season is over. Make no mistake about it, I believe the Leopards can win this tournament and even make a statement in the NCAA tournament, but it’s the Bucknell game at 2:30 that matters. Overall this is as fine a team Lafayette has had over the years, but Bucknell comes in with 12 straight appearances in the PL tournament. Several years ago, they were the PL regular season champion and lost to BU in the tournament at their place.

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Grace Angelella speeds down the middle of the field

There can be no walking around, free hits must be defended and executed with alacrity. Neither team can give the other time to get organized. Records don’t count anymore, only the results this weekend. Eight years ago the Leopards won the championship against Bucknell at American. A year later American met the Leopards on Rappolt field and American lost on a penalty stroke.

It doesn’t matter what sport, in whatever season, tournaments are intense. It could be a World Series, the World Cup in soccer and field hockey, or the NCAA basketball tournament. There is no next game!!

More, later this week on Bucknel,l who beat Holy Cross 2-1 this past weekend to set up the field for the tournament along with the Lehigh win over BU!!

“Talent sets the floor, character sets the ceiling”—–Bill Belichick

Lafayette Falls To American In Defensive Battle 0-1

American loves to base their offense from their ability to stop the transition game of their opponents and thats what happened today. Lafayette had no corners to American’s four and they were able to intercept and attack Lafayette keeping them out of their attacking third of the field. Lafayette did get off 3 shots ( all on goal) to American’s 4. But otherwise American got off a total of 11 shots to Lafayette’s 4. Sarah Park was kept busy coming out of the cage several times to disrupt the attacking American offense.

The Eagles were quick off the ball and able to disrupt long passes by Lafayette and the lack of corners was critical to keeping the Leopards off the board. You have to say the defense on both sides was good as Lafayette kept American’s top scorer and the patriot league’s leading scorer Noor Coenen from scoring. But she was effective in moving the ball upfield.

The patriot league tournament begins next week in DC and although it looks to me like the field will be Lafayette vs Bucknell  in the first game and American vs BU in the second game. Bucknell beat Holy Cross today 2-1 and Lehigh beat BU. 2-1 in overtime. Since Holy Cross lost 5-4 last week to BU Holy Cross is out based on the tiebreaker.

Lafayette should not take Bucknell for granted, neither should American discount a Boston upset.  Practices for all four teams should be interesting this week.

Boston Out Of Tournament

So it appears that Holy Cross will own the last seed due to tiebreakers according to the Boston University web site. American will play Holy Cross in the first round of the PL tournament!!  The first game will be at 11:30, American vs Holy Cross the second game on Friday is at 2:30 Lafayette vs Bucknell at American