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.
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.
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!!!)
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.
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!!
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.
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!
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!!!