Lafayette Earns A 2-0 Opening Win Against Hofstra

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First year Filine Gerbrandij chase down a Hoftra mid

Opening day wins are usually earned after brutal hard fought contests with each team trying to set the tone for the rest of the season. The statistics for game might persuade one to believe that this was an easy dominate win for the Leopards. That was far from the truth. Lafayette earned this one with skill and hockey smarts.

The Leopards outshot the Pride 12-2, with 10 of those shots on goal. Corners were even 2-2. The Hofstra GK, Merilijn van der Vegt was forced to make 7 saves, while Hailey Abbott from Lafayette preserved the shut out with a spectacular save in the third quarter. Lafayette did dominate time of possession for most of the first quarter, and delivered 4 shots “goalward”.

But Hofstra was to come up with the first corner with only 1:47 having run off the clock. The corner defense turned the volume, up blocking the shot, and Lafayette was to travel into the visitor’s circle several times in the quarter getting off 4 shots in the process. One of those shots turned into a goal came at 13:02 into the quarter, from Felicitas Hannes after a feed from Simone Hefting…..the scoreboard lit up, showing the Leopards with a 1-0 lead.

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Audrey Sawers pushes the ball downfield

The second quarter was to frustrate Lafayette, as they used their considerable stick skills, managing to get 6 additional shots several hitting the post in the process. The half ended with the 1-0 advantage showing on the scoreboard.Hofstra came out determined to even the score in the third quarter but shots were still in favor of the Leopards by only 2-1. But one of those shots was to find the back of cage off the stick of captain Audrey Sawers. Sawers muscled her way into the center of the circle and delivered the strike unassisted.

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Felicitas Hannes zeroes on Hofstra mid

The visitors tried valiantly to close the gap but the Lafayette defense stopped them multiple times. Neither team was to get off a shot but the action was still back and forth. Lafayette’s passing and stick work was a fan pleaser all game long. The depth and strength from the bench was reassuring.

It was Lafayette’s first athletic win of the season and Athletic Director Sherryta Freeman was in attendance, along with brand new President Nichole Hurd with her husband Bill. The Leopards will get one day’s rest before taking on the Wildcats of Villanova at Rappolt Field at 3 pm on Sunday. Villanova defeated Lehigh tonight 4-3. They came back from a 2-0 deficit in first quarter, to score two in the second. A 2-1 fourth quarter was to give Villanova the win. Lehigh outshot Villanova 13-12, and out cornered them 13-7. The score was tied with 5 minutes left in the game when Villanova’s Emma Schwarz was to deliver the game winner, her second goal of the game.

Around the Patriot League, American was to defeat VCU 2-1 in overtime, Boston won their opener 2-1 over Monmouth, and Holy Cross bested Merrimack 3-1. Colgate was to drop their opener 5-1 against Albany and Bucknell was to lose 0-3 against JMU.

Storm Locks In Albany, So It’s For Real Against Hofstra On Friday

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Albany was unable to make the trip to Pennsylvania so Sunday’s game with Albany had to be cancelled. Now the Leopards will be concentrating on starting the regular season against the Long Island based Hofstra Pride. They arrive 27 strong at Rappolt Field after a spring season of 4-8 and 1-3 in the CAA conference. The 4 pm game will be televised on ESPN +.

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Ironically, Hofstra did play Albany on August 17, but I have no report on the outcome. They are scheduled to meet Columbia on Monday for a final tune up before their opening game with Lafayette. So the Leopards are at a slight disadvantage having only the one exhibition game.Coach Courtney Veinotte is starting her 3rd year as head coach and has gone far afield to populate her team. In last year’s abbreviated season the 4-8 team managed 16 goals vs 25 for their opponents. That works out to a 1.33 GPG vs 2.08 GPG. Their Junior GK Merlene Van der Vegt from the Netherlands has a 61% save percentage with 119 saves. The 5’9″ GK will be challenged for playing time with Blue Bell, Pa. red shirt keeper Meagan Rielly who had a 85% save percentage her senior year in high school.

They will be led on the field by Jasmijn Verdoes who scored 5 goals last spring. She will be a sophomore and will try to better her 27 shot record with 15 points. The Pride got off 80 shots against 120 shots for the opposition which works out to 6.7 shots a game vs 10. They are picked tied for 6th with Towson in the CAA preseason polls. Lafayette is the only Patriot League team they will play this season

The Leopards will be working this week on defensing against the counterattack and polishing a very potent offense. Hopefully, the weather will be cooler and dry and a nice crowd will greet our players. Move in is the 27th to the 29th, I hope everyone finds time to see their first Leopards athletic contest!!Opening games are always intense, and after the faux season last spring, each team will be wanting to get off on the right foot.

We all have waited for this day and hope for a good leap into the 2021 campaign!!

Next Up University Of Albany

The Great Danes of the University of Albany will travel down route 287 to eventually arrive at Rappolt Field on Sunday for a 2 pm exhibition game. As a very successful program, coach Phil Sykes usually carries a very lean roster and Sunday will be no exception. The roster has 19 on it consisting of 8 freshman, 3 sophomores, 4 juniors and 4 seniors. They have experience in the cage with the return of senior Sheriden Messier who had a 66.7 save percentage.

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It is apparent their scoring strategy is to collect penalty corners. They had 60 penalty corners last spring and gave up only 32.  They did manage an average 10.5 shots on goal vs 6.5 for their opponents. They turned their shots into 13 goals but did give up 16 on the way to a 5-5 record last spring and 4-4 in the American East Conference. 

Albany was picked to finish 3rd in the American East Conference behind Monmouth and Maine. They intend to open up with Colgate in several weeks.

The Leopards look forward to another good game on the way to their August 27 open with Hofstra. Should be an interesting Sunday!!

Leopards Show Well In Exhibition Against Delaware Blue Hens

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It is hard to judge the outcome of preseason games as each coach has their own objectives, but Coach Stone and her staff saw a lot to be pleased about and a number things that can be improved upon. If you count shoot out goals, Lafayette ended on top with two more goals than the host Blue Hens. During the regular game Lafayette came out firing on all pistons scoring a sweet goal early in the first period by senior Audrey Sawers. It was followed by a strong goal from Molly McAndrew.

In between Lafayette’s two goals, Delaware was to have a breakaway that put Delaware within one at the half. In the second half, as the temperature rose, the Blue Hens were to find themselves behind the Leopard’s defense to score two more goals, one by their all American Femke Strien.

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Lafayette was to use their stars to take advantage, Audrey Sawers was all over the field. Simone Hefting anchored a defense that kept the Delaware offense off balance. Unfortunately, Delaware got one more goal minutes before regulation time. They played two overtime periods to a stalemate and went to practice shootouts, where Lafayette was to get a three goal advantage highlighted by two circus like goals from Molly McAndrew.

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I always like to see how our unfamiliar names would do and there was half the team that was playing in their first Division one contest.There was a plethora talent on the field which will challenge future opponents. I saw stand out performances from Alden Boccella, Lineke Spanna, Filine Gerbrandij, and Mackenzie Hall.

Goaltenders Haile Abbott and Becca Herbert, who was playing against her old teammates did well, collecting numerous saves on the day. In the regular game I counted six shots and three corners.

So the Leopards will lick their wounds, correct their mistakes and build upon a generally good showing against a good team.

Meanwhile the Patriot League Coaches voted today in a preseason poll picking Lafayette to finish fourth. Audrey Sawers was picked as an all league player. American was picked first, Bucknell was in second position, Boston third, Lafayette fourth, Lehigh fifth, Holy Cross sixth, and Colgate ended up seventh. I normally don’t put much stock in preseason polls but it is what it is.

Lafayette’s first Patriot League game is with American University on Sept 18th at 11 am!!!

.Finally Albany comes to Rappolt Field on Sunday and Lafayette will look to polish their skills before meeting Hofstra for a regular season game on August 27th

It All Begins Thursday

The Lafayette field hockey team will climb into their vehicle on Thursday for a 1 pm meeting. It will be the first competition of the fall season, albeit an exhibition game. The Delaware Blue Hens were the winners of CAA tournament and went to the NCAA  tournament, only to lose in the first round to Northwestern 1-4. On the way to the tournament they accumulated a 6-4 record with numerous post season award winners and gaining a wealth of experience along the way.

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Femke Strien will need to be marked

They are picked to finish second in the CAA and the game with Lafayette is their only preseason contest. However, there is a lot experience returning to a fall with none more important than graduate student Femke Strien from the Netherlands  a second team all-American ( number 21). She was also named pre-season player of the year. JMU is the team picked to win it all.

Looking over Delaware’s schedule, it is sprinkled with ranked teams. Princeton, Harvard, American, ODU, JMU and others are highlighted in their very aggressive 18 game schedule.

Lafayette will be playing a second preseason game with Albany on Sunday. For we fans, we will see a very skilled team that has yet to play together. I will be looking at our ability to counter attack and how many good shots we can get off during the afternoon!!

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Audrey Sawers is returning for her fifth year and will be the leader on the field. However, Simone Hefting, Sydney Woolston, and Molly McAndrew will provide experience and skill for the Leopards.

Looking forward to it all!

Lafayette Gets Ready

The sun was barely breaking the horizon, when my wife and I decided to climb into the family chariot, and drive to Easton. We were assuming Coach Stone would beat the heat, and begin practice around 8 am. We guessed right, and the team was already on the field “warming up” under the already 75 degree heat when we arrived.

After about 10 minutes of stretching, jumping and whatever else the trainer had them do, they came to the sideline to pose and greet us. The picture is mounted here for your pleasure. and as you can see all are in fine fettle anxious to begin. They are keeping in mind that in one week, they will have their first challenge against the University of Delaware.

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They did a series of sprints and we tried to keep tab on the fastest players. Not surprisingly, Sydney Woolston and Alex Talkow consistently had the after jets on as soon as the whistle blew. Although I don’t usually pick out individuals at preseason practice, it’s nice to see the all around intensity on the field. After coming together as unit, this team could be very deep and the coaches will be pleased with options the team will present during this fall!!

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The presence of Audrey Sawers on the field is also a plus for this team, of which one half have yet to play a Division one game. I am confident the mix of experience for this team will be less of an issue as we approach Patriot League play. More about that in later blogs.

In the meantime it was great to be in the stands this morning, and gives us confidence we are really going to see a real season!!! It may even be an exceptional one!!

Go Pards!!

The Adjustment To Division One Field Hockey

I am often asked by parents of rising college first year athletes about the adjustment to a Division One level. The jump to any elite college level sport can be difficult and challenging whether it be in football, basketball or field hockey. The first adjustment is to speed and tempo of the game. At first glance, they may seem like similar characteristics but they are not. Clearly, whereas many first years will have played their high school game with a good team with some good players. It’s not a stretch to imagine that given only the best players rise to this level. Everyone will be good!!

It is not to say, that some will be better than others, and many will be more experienced on a veteran team. After an initial Division One season there will be some faster, stronger, bigger players,  more in tune with the current team. So when I write the word tempo, I mean there is less hesitation on passes, self starts and even on penalty corners.

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As to speed, many will be just faster. Unlike high school the condition of water based astro turf just makes the ball faster and more like an ice hockey game. The new player will have to get used to finding space where their teammates will be, rather than where they are at the moment. 

Passing is more accurate and designed to create one on one situations, which makes defense a very important part of the game. Playing defense does not mean you are out of the offensive schemes. Many of Lafayette’s finest players were in the backfield and played key roles in counter attacking and on offensive and defensive corners. The counter attack can start many offensive scoring opportunities, and likewise defending against the counter attack is important.

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Finally, especially in the United States version of the game, fitness plays a key role. Speed, tempo, and skill cannot be executed with out being physically ready. Most if not all coaches will be absolutely intense about the level of fitness. Players should expect extra sessions in the strength center, which not only increases strength and conditioning, but plays a role in injury prevention.

It goes without saying players are selected with their ability to handle the academic rigors as well as the athletic demands of Division one. A player on academic probation will not be helpful to the team.

President Hurd’s First Pronouncement To Faculty Is To Get Vaccinated

President Byerly left unresolved the requirements for staff vaccinations, even though students were compelled to be vaccinated or not be allowed to attend Lafayette. As of today, all staff are required to be vaccinated. If they are not vaccinated by a date this fall they will not be employed by the school. Kudos to our new president!!!

Ready….Set……

Collectively, the Lafayette Field Hockey team will have traveled over a distance half the circumference of the planet, to arrive in Easton, Pa. It is August the 9th, one day before the official report time, and already they have begun arriving for the 10th reporting date. It will be the first normal preseason in almost two years. There are new dorms, restaurants, school stores and classrooms ready to begin a semester which will greet the largest freshman class in Lafayette history.

Unlike the last two semesters it will have classrooms filled with young learners, and in person teachers. Vaccinations are mandatory, therefore College Hill will be a safe refuge from Covid. Fall teams are already at work. The football team has been hard at work since Saturday, and the women’s soccer team has already had its first scrimmage with Villanova ( a Lafayette 1-0 win).

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Since the team for all practical purposes are in the environs, tomorrow will lack many of the first day awkwardness. It will be a fun day of medical checks, instruction, and the first opportunity to wear their game uniforms as they pose for publicity pictures. The hard work begins the following day, if it follows previous practice.

There will be two a day practices as our young women greet two new coaches, who join Jennifer Stone’s brain trust. They bring to Rappolt Field skills accumulated over the last several years, but it all needs to be meshed together to make the whole better than the parts. They are intelligent ( or they wouldn’t have been enrolled), athletic and at this point hopefully fit.

There are 9 days until the first test as a team against the University of Delaware…no time to waste!!!

…..Go!!!!!!

Lafayette Adds Two Field Hockey Stars To Their Coaching Ranks

Madison Maguire and Ashley Mendonca Add Wealth Of International and National Experience

Maguire_092217FH22 Madison Maguire will add a wealth of offensive experience. She recently has been playing with the US national team as a striker receiving 5 caps in the process during NIH play!! The Rumson N.J. native earned her collegiate accolades at the University of Maryland. In 2019 she was named the Big Ten Preseason Team and named offensive player of the week. She was also Big Ten all academic Team, all NFHCA Mid Lantic Region, and played on the the Maryland Big Ten championship team as they became the NCAA runner up!!  She was named all American in 2019 and was the Maryland team Captain scoring 34 points with 12 goals and  10 assists! She had two appearances in the National Championships while at Maryland.

Her favorite sports quote is from Derek Jeter, ” There may be people who have more talent than you, but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” And I believe that.

I hope every Leopard repeats that every day!!!

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Ashley Mendonca comes by way of the University of New Hampshire and was an all NFHCA northeast region selection. More recently she served as a graduate assistant coach at Springfield College in Massachusetts.

At New Hampshire she was also on the American East all championship team and all rookie team. She was also a member of the U21 Canadian National team from 2010 -2017 and qualified for the Pan American Cup in 2016.

As captain of the Wildcats in her senior year and a key defensive player she had  career goals of 16 and 14 assists and an impressive 8 defensive saves. Looking at her stats, I believe she was key member of the offensive corner unit where she led the team in shots!!

The two will meet the 2021 fall Leopard squad on August 10 after which they will. begin preparing for the fall season. The first scrimmage will be at the University of Delaware on August the 19th.

To Vaccinate Or Not For Collegiate Athletes

As reporting day fast approaches, colleges, are beginning to form a policy position for student athletes who will soon be reporting for class. Athletes may be traveling to areas of the country where Covid is starting to surge, and public vaccinations are slowing. There is serious doubt that the US will soon approach herd immunity.

Most the of worry is with regard to variants, but if vaccinations were universal, the variant would not have a chance to emerge. There is good evidence that the two multi-shot vaccines ( Pfizer and Moderna) provide excellent protection against getting the virus and secondly, if you get it, prevents serious outbreaks.

It is in this environment schools are evaluating protocols for the fall. At a large state school the field hockey coach said to me that vaccinations are optional but unvaccinated student athletes must travel and live separately. Team meetings will be done virtually for those students as well. For all practical purposes the unvaccinated will not really be participating fully.

Harvard. Princeton and Yale have stipulated all students must be vaccinated by August 1, and provide evidence of that fact to the school. In the past week, that mandate has been extended to faculty and staff. At all three schools, vaccinations are provided on campus, but a student in residence can not move in without being fully vaccinated. Medical exceptions are granted as are religious reasons judged by a health committee.

In an email to all students, Lafayette College is requiring a completed copy of the Covid 19 vaccination card be submitted to their health portal by August 1, before they will allowed to move into residence halls. Those not in compliance risk their fall enrollment status. If the second dose is after August 1, students are asked to email covid-19.lafayette.edu/covid-19vaccinations. Exemption request were due yesterday July 21. Failure could jeopardize course selections and housing assignments.

Oddly, unlike the Ivies, faculty and staff vaccinations are not required. I think students should be aware of faculty who may not be immunized for their personal safety. Perhaps that will change in the future.

I have been vaccinated and I believe those who are able should be vaccinated for their own safety, the safety of the community and their own family.