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.
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.
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.
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.
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.