Future Looks Bright For Lafayette Field Hockey And The Patriot League

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The Lafayette defense steps up!!!

Lafayette College and the Patriot League made major progress this season as many of the teams played right with the royalty of Division 1 hockey. Lafayette had single goal losses with several Big Ten teams and beat Indiana on neutral turf in the second game of the season. At the end of the regular season Lafayette lost to number one Rutgers by one goal.

American who won the Patriot League title by one goal against Lafayette played in the second round of the NCAA tournament losing 3 to 2 to nationally ranked Iowa.

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Abbott making one of her 13 saves against Penn State 

Even more telling was the amount of PL student athletes selected to NFHCA regional teams. All together the Patriot League had 14 athletes from all League teams selected. Noor Conan, Georgia Davis, and Bryn Underwood were selected from American in the mid Atlantic region. The mid-East Region featured Lafayette’s Audrey Sawers (PL offensive player of the year), Lineke Spanns ( PL rookie of the year), and Simone Hefting. Lehigh had Lenke Havas, Sarah Bothus and Drew Pecora as selections in the same region. Lily Nelson from Bucknell and Taylor Cassamassa from Colgate rounded out the Mid- East Team. Sinead Walsh and Caitlin Little from Holy Cross and Rachel Borzymowski showed up on the Northeast team.

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Sophomore Alden Bocello takes off in Boston

By my count, more than half of the above nominees will be back next year. Lafayette will return Leneke Spanns, a freshman and Simone Hefting a junior. There is a high likelihood that additonal players at Lafayette and the League will exercise their covid year option to play next year.

Post season honors continue to roll in for Lafayette players including Audrey Sawers who will join the Canadian National Team in Chula Vista and may end up playing against US National Team Captain and Lafayette Alum Amanda Magadan in test matches later this month!!

In addition Lafayette will be looking to improve its facilities with some upgrades and additions to their home field. Financing for Video Referral has been secured, and their are plans for other upgrades in the works!!

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Filene Gerbrandij sees Felicitas Hannes

Coach Stone has secured NLI’s from a number of excellent recruits and is working hard in the off season on rounding out the class by the spring. Spring practice and workouts in the new year are already being planned with competitions that will give us a clue on what the 2022 Leopards will look like.

There is no doubt in my mind that Lafayette will be a top four selection in the League and may even be the League favorite given it’s strong under class roster!!

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I can’t wait to see this team this spring, rested, energized and ready for challenges!!

In the meantime Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends who read this blog!!!

A Post Script

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I decided to wait several hours rather than write as I came in the door. I wanted the emotion of the moment to pass, so I had time to reflect on this season. This 2021 game was a game of champions. As I had written, this Patriot League Championship had the best field in my memory. Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell and American played three games, worthy of the name, championship series. Each game was decided by one goal, demonstrating an intensity and preparation that spotlights the best of the sport, and represented these athletes well.

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American will be a good adversary in the NCAA tournament, and it is a shame there will be only one representative from the Patriot League in the tournament. Bryn Underwood was named most valuable player, and given the one goal margins, the sophomore deserved the honor.

As to the Leopards, Coach Stone and her staff deserves kudos for their run in these 20 games. They had to overcome many obstacles ( some artificially imposed and some just fate) but they showed championship mettle all during the season. To the seniors, thank you for your individual courage and devotion to the program and your teammates, Molly McAndrew, Alix Talkow, Audrey Sawers, Hailey Abbott, Mary Gould, Kara Tiedtke and Becca Herbert. Hopefully, we shall see several return for their Covid season.

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You can go to Goleopards.com for an account of the game but I have other points I need to make. There is no other way to say it, but officiating of Field Hockey in the US is sub par, and yesterday’s match was a clear example. Officials and players did not have the benefit of video referral. The second American goal could and should have been reviewed. One official in particular refused to state the nature of multiple penalties that caused corners, when asked by a responsible player, and in one case cited a non existent rule.

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Building A Worthy Infrastructure To Match The Effort On The Field

For some of us, we are charged to improve the game and the infrastructure that these young talented athletes compete in. As many of you know, both my wife and I are on the Board of Trustees of USA Field Hockey, as such, we will continue to use our influence to improve the game in the United States. We believe there are several important efforts that could do that. There are initiatives that could improve officiating and the overall game day experience.

First, encourage and even mandate the use of video referral at least at the division one level.

Second, once video referral is established, encourage the use of a third official to interpret those referrals.

Three, mandate a requirement that calls ( especially on referred calls and always on corners) are recognized and transmitted via loudspeaker to the crowd to have them understand the reason for the call. This is done in American football, and since corners now have the clock stopped it should not be a burden. It is done in FIH games, it should be done at the intercollegiate level.

Fourth, officials should be fairly compensated. Patriot League official are compensated less than other leagues.

Finally, I urge Lafayette to be true to their plan to create and encourage championships, which includes the installation of video referral. I have been on a mission for two years to get that done. It’s time to step up and be a leader in the League. My sense in conversations with other PL coaches is if we were to do it, others would follow!!

I also urge the college to reward coaches who have done well and encourage others by example to follow. Again, the college should be an encourager rather than an obstacle to success. Covid was a serious concern but unwise and overzealous administration of protocols was and is more of an obstacle than an assistance.

The college should be helpful for those who choose to exercise their Covid season.

The college should be mindful of the fan and not ignore needs like adequate bathrooms and press and video facilities to have parents, alumni, and ordinary fans participate in the experience. This will enhance the fund raising capabilities and pay for itself!

With these modest improvements the “program” can continue to prosper and earn the championships these athletes deserve. Doing less is not acceptable!!!

I was so proud of our team in yesterday’s game. They gave everything they had……we should be doing no less!!!

Fourteen Seconds Adds To Lafayette Field Hockey Lore

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Alden Boccella lines up a pass

With fourteen seconds left on the clock in regulation I must admit it looked pretty bleak but THIS team was not finished. Short handed, due to a late card, the Leopards had pulled their goalkeeper but somehow managed to earn a corner and lined up what was perhaps the last play of the game. The first shot went to the top of cage bouncing off the crossbar….damn I said to myself. But Alden Boccella, sophomore midfielder, who had been sidelined with an injury since the Lehigh game stepped up and smacked the ball in to tie the score….overtime.

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Filine Gerbandij fights for possession

But this game was filled with additional heroics and character. Senior attacker, Molly McAndrew opened scoring with a rocket squeezed past the Bucknell goalie only 4:46 into the first quarter. Bucknell later answered with a goal at 9:38 and 32:54, which gave them a 2-1 advantage by the third quarter.

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McAndrews goes after the ball

The final heroics began in the fourth quarter, as rookie of the year freshman, Lineke Spaans took control at midfield, turning on her afterburners, and scoring an unassisted goal at 48:25. Spaans was clearly on Bucknell’s mind all game as she was marked closely, but her speed was evident on both defense and offense along with her ball control.

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Spaans outruns the Bucknell defense

Bucknell was to respond with about 7 minutes left in the game with their own freshman ace scoring on a corner, making it 3-2 Bucknell, setting up the last minute tying score by Boccella.

Overtime, with its 7 v 7 format, opened up space for the Leopards and they patiently waited for their opportunity. The Bucknell aggressive play was to backfire, as a Bison player was cited for a hard tackle near the circle causing not only a card but a corner!! Audrey Sawers took the game in her hands, delivering a hard shot to the right side of the goal in a small space left vacant by the Bison goal keeper as she went down.

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Offense Player of the Year Audrey Sawers shows some offense

As we left the field, I thought of the difference in this Lafayette team. It occurred to me it can be explained in the meanings of sport and athleticism. Good athletes exhibit skill which enable them to play their sport. How they apply their athletic ability allows them to be successful!

This 14-5 Leopard team, who will play for a championship this Saturday, understands character and the objective of their sport. Team sport in particular builds team memories and program “lore.” Everyone, fans, players and coaches had that added to their DNA on November 4th!!

Why I Love The Leopards This Post Season

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Hefting was there when needed

The Leopards have not a won a League Championship since 2012 and last participated in a Championship Game in 2019. Last year, in the spring season that substituted for a real season, each Patriot League team did not play every other team. The Leopards were hobbled with Covid misadventures last spring, that limited the number of squad members. Despite all that, they lost a number of games by one goal.

Despite the obstacles, Lafayette returned for a season to remember. They returned this fall with a deeper and effective bench, and a first year class that contributed right away. They have the best overall record in the League at 13-5 and didn’t back away from any challenge, completing a schedule that included two of the top five teams in the country. They suffered injuries before a key game with Lehigh that ended in a controversial call in overtime. They stood tall at the end of the season beating Bucknell and giving the number two team ( by some reckoning) in the nation, Rutgers, all they could handle.

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Spaans uses her moves

This is the strongest field for a Patriot League tournament in my memory but Lafayette brings perhaps their strongest team in their history. They are fast, and they are skilled, and may be beyond the injury bug that plagued them late in the season. In my estimation anyone could end up the winner on Saturday afternoon. No doubt I am a partisan but there is reason to think the Leopards are ready.

First, they are peaking at the right time which is so crucial this part of the year. Their last game was with a tough Rutgers team, American beat Colgate 3-0 on Friday, Bucknell lost to Drexel and Lehigh lost to Wagner on Sunday.

The Leopards captured every category in the weekly player of the week awards this past week. Audrey Sawers and Leneke Spaans earned season awards as the top offensive player and rookie of the year!! All league honors went to Sawers, Spaans, Hefting, Abbott, and McAndrews. But that is not the full story. The Leopards have scored 48 goals for a very good 2.67 goals a game but other side gets little press, they only allowed 1.22 goals per game. They take 15.8 shots a game and allowed only 9.9 goals per game. Abbott has a .767 save percentage and looks stronger every game.

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Filene Gerbandij know how to get around a Drexel defender

There will be challenges. Bucknell is a fine team and is always dangerous once inside the circle and they are the defending champion. First games are always intense and expect the two games will be worthy of the moniker of a championship playoff series.

Lafayette has that inner desire to win that makes for the intensity that is required in a championship series.

Make no mistake the first game between Lehigh and American will be no less intense as they try to cap off their most successful season in recent years. Anything can happen and a Lehigh/Lafayette championship would be this fan’s dream!!

But most of all I believe in the energy, skill, and experience of the Leopards…..Go Pards!!!

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Sawers Scores OT2 Goal With Spaans Assist

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Audrey Sawers shows her stuff to Bucknell

This game was billed as having no consequences for Bucknell. They would be part of the middle seeds, no matter what, but for Lafayette it was a 2 seed or a 4 seed playing the number 1 seed American. This was championship hockey for both teams with the skill and tempo of a late season rivalry game. With 1:49 into the second overtime Leneke Spanns started a 2 on 1 break towards the Bison goal. She spotted Audrey Sawers positioned perfectly and passed the ball allowing Sawers to bury the game winner and sending the Leopards to a repeat game on Thursday and a Lehigh meeting with number 1 American University.

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Spaans uses her moves

The game started out with a neat break and tip in from Alix Talkow off a pass from Spanns giving the Leopards an early lead. But Bucknell less than 9 minutes later, was to execute a corner with feeds from Kile to Mackenzie, to Kaur, to Noor and finally to Stefanowicz knotting the score at 1.

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Talkow intercepts ball

It was to remain 1-1 until Spaans sped into the circle for the Leopards pulling around and scoring a solo goal 8:39 into the second period. The score remained 2-1 at the halftime break.

With less than 3 minutes to go in the game Emily Doyle tied it for Bucknell with an assist from Reanne Burgess and the game went to OT.

The first overtime was to see Lafayette gain an upper hand with 3 shots for the Leopards and none for the Bison. The second overtime again saw Lafayette with 3 shots to none for Bucknell the final shot being the winner from Sawers.

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Hefting was there when needed

The tale of statistics had the Leopards with a 21- 13 shot advantage while Bucknell had 6-4 lead in penalty corners with 3 in the third period. Hailey Abbott had another great game with 8 saves many at critical times.

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Mackenzie Hall makes her self known to Bucknell

This was another character win as the Leopards needing the team as a whole to step up. Play by a returning Simone Hefting and Shea Balderson, whose 60 minutes were played with great skill and intensity. Lafayette used only 4 substitutes while Bucknell used 9 from their bench.

The PL tournament looks to be the most balanced and talent filed field in my memory. In the meantime, Lafayette will be playing the number three team in the nation in Rutgers tomorrow while Bucknell will be meeting Drexel.

Bucknell and Lafayette Will Battle For Seeds In The PL Tournament.

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Filene Gerbandij know how to get around a Drexel defender

Bucknell vs Lafayette games have always been competitive and Saturday’s game will be no exception. Even though Bucknell has an 8-7 record and Lafayette is 12-4, Bucknell’s in conference record is 4-1 and Lafayette is 3-2. Bucknell’s last game was a 4-2 win against Colgate while Lafayette beat Colgate 5-1 earlier in the season. Lafayette lost to Lehigh on a penalty stroke last Saturday and bounced back to beat Temple 1-0. Bucknell’s 6-1 victory against Lehigh was in a veritable monsoon!!

Other season stats are interesting Lafayette has 44 goals on 259 shots while Bucknell has 37 goals on 190 shots. Lafayette has 18 goals scored against them on 153 shots while Bucknell has 33 goals scored against them on 144 shots. Bucknell’s Clara McCormick has a 2.10 GAA average for a .648 save percentage. Lafayette’s Hailey Abbott has a 1.06 GAA average with a .77 save percentage. Lafayette has 100 corners on record and Bucknell has a 107 corners. To compensate for the lower number of shots Bucknell has a 19.5 shot pct compared to Lafayette’s 17 % shot percentage.

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Defense will obviously have a big role on Saturday stopping Bucknell while Buckenell’s task will be to stop Lafayette’s high powered offense. Lafayette will have the home field advantage, in what will be a light drizzle at game time!!

This game is not without significance, as a win for Lafayette will lock Bucknell, Lafayette and Lehigh in a three way tie….the loser having the probability of facing League leading American. This game will be the last appearance by the seniors at Rappolt Field so this may have an extra incentive to win!! Bucknell seems to score the majority of their goals in the second period while Lafayette seems to pretty much spread it out all game 11,10,9 and 12 in the respective periods. Lily Neilson is big threat with 13 goals to her credit, the next highest goal scorer is Mk Stanfanowicz with 6. For Lafayette goals can come from anywhere as Sawers, McAndrew, Hannes, Talkow and Spanns have scored 9,8,8,6 and 5 goals respectively.

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As usual this will be a hard fought game just as it should be late in the season. It’s tournament tempo!!!!

Breaking : Audrey Sawers Named To Canadian National Team

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The Canadian National Team announced that Audrey Sawers is named to the Team. The team will train in Chula Vista in November and will play Team USA later for a series of test matches. The US Team captain is Lafayette alum Amanda Magadan. Congratulations to Audrey!!!

Night Time Rivalry Game Becomes A Loss

I debated during the drive home whether to write when I got home, after being bummed out after the game. Lehigh had their mental face on when they arrived on the field tonight. They tackled well and moved around making space to execute a well thought out game plan. The Leopards on the other hand yesterday suffered several game changing injuries decimating their defensive lineup yesterday. One need only look at the box score to discover who was missing. Some players were playing in key positions who were not there before.

So before I go into some other elements of the game I have to salute the efforts of India Ralph, Sydney Woolston, Hailey Abbott, Molly McAndrew and Felcitas Hannes in this Rivalry game. Not so much the referees. The cardinal rule for a referee in any sport is not to become part of the outcome of the game.

The Leopards were awarded 3 green cards and one yellow card meaning, for 11 minutes, nearly a whole quarter, Lafayette played one short. There were numerous calls for penalty corners outside of the circle. And finally to end the game the deciding call was a penalty stroke on a non-shot for a deliberate foul inside the circle, an unusual call under any circumstance with seconds remaining in overtime.

Hopefully, many of our injuries will heal, and there will be a second chance at Lehigh during the playoffs. That will require a win against Bucknell next week or we will meet American in the first round.

There are no pictures because the Lehigh field is a terrible place to try to take pictures. Congratulations to Lehigh on winning the rivalry game at the moment under those circumstances. Hopefully the outcome is different on November 4th. Now let’s concentrate on Bucknell.

It’s “The Rivalry” On Friday Night

Both Lafayette and Lehigh will enter Friday night’s contest with a place in the Patriot League tournament. But there are still things to be settled. Lafayette still has an outside chance of hosting with a win over Lehigh and Bucknell and American losing to Boston and Colgate. Boston lost to a very good Harvard team on a penalty stroke Monday night….maybe with an end of season surprise with Colgate…I can dream can’t I.

On a more realistic plane there is still the seedings to be decided. If Lehigh were to lose they would most likely have to play American in the first round, while Bucknell would duke it out with Lafayette to play in the championship game. BUT THIS IS THE RIVALRY and Lehigh has been improving year by year. Lafayette has a 41-14-3 record against the Mountain Hawks but since 2015 each of these games have been one goal affairs with two of them settled in overtime. Since that date the games have gone back and forth with Lafayette having a 4-2 edge.

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Tomorrow the two teams will have the two leading offenses in the Patriot League with Lafayette having a 2.93 average and Lehigh having a 2.80 average. Sarah Bothus and Lenke Havase are the leading goal makers with the former having 9 goals and the latter 10 goals. ( Lehigh has one more game on its books). Lafayette has a diversified attack with Audrey Sawers collecting 9 goals, Felicitas Hannes getting 7 goals, Molly McAndrew and Alix Talkow collecting 6 each, and Lineke Spanns getting 5.

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Lafayette has played 3 ranked teams and Lehigh has played only one ( American). Lehigh has 217 shots in 15 games and Lafayette has 234 shots in 14 games. The big difference to my mind is Lafayette’s defense which has allowed 125 shots and Lehigh has allowed 150 shots. Hailey Abbott Lafayette’s goalkeeper has a .767 save percentage while Maddie Kahn from Lehigh has a .719 save percentage.

This will be senior night for Lehigh which will just add to the intensity and they are giving out towels to the first 100 students who show. Lehigh is pulling out all the stops as will Jennifer Stone and her Lafayette Leopards. It should be a great game we need our fans to be there.

Go Pards!!!

Power And Finesse Describe Sawers And McAndrew

Lafayette’s offense has reached levels not seen in recent years. They are averaging nearly 3 goals a game and scoring seems to come from anywhere on the field. Audrey Sawers and Molly McAndrew represent a large part of that improvement. Any opponent would be committing field hockey malpractice ignoring these two seniors. They contribute even if they are not scoring, by attracting attention to allow Lafayette to create opportunities.

Molly McAndrew

The Cherry Hill native brings a lot to the team. She was freshman player of the year, has more that 55 points including 22 goals in her 59 games played. She made the all Patriot League team in 2018 and 2019 including numerous several PL weekly awards. Combine that with making the NFHCA National academic squad makes this economics major an all around person.

Opponents will never know where and when a shot will come from. Her highlights include game winning goals against Lehigh and a splendid shot winning overtime reverse stick shot again Drexel her freshman year. But she is also a team player helping her teammates and the team to be in a position to score.

One need only to talk to her for one minute to experience her intensity and commitment. She spends much of her summer training and I have seen her play in numerous USA field hockey events. In all respects she is a winner!! No doubt she will be an asset to anyone who decides to employ her. However, her accomplishments are not done yet and I predict there will a lot for her to add to her resume before the end of the season.

Audrey Sawers

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I suppose I could write this year was Sawers 2.0, given her extra year of eligibility brought on the NCAA making allowances for the Covid season

Audrey was always an important member of the team. She brings 75 games played 16 goals scored and even 3 defensive saves. She is an all Patriot League selection as well as selection on the all Mid East Region team. However, the North Vancouver native has also distinguished herself by being selected for the under 21 Canadian National Team.

Woe to the defender trying to guard her one on one. She is a combination of speed, finesse and power. I have seen her leave an opponent stunned by her moves and power. I was at a game sitting near a Big Ten Coach who remarked at the amazing abilities of number 16.

She picked up a second major which enables her to get two degrees when graduating. She wiil graduate with BA’s in economics and art.

Perhaps more than her play on the field she is a leader on the field, directing play and encouraging others. I have several times seen her hug and encourage her teammates after an extra effort or first goal. She is the captain’s captain.

She is as distinguished as she is skilled and no doubt in my mind the team would not have been as successful without Sawers 2.0.

Abbott, Gould And Talkow Take Advantage Of Their Opportunities To Exel

Hailey Abbott

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Hailey Abbott came to Lafayette with some terrific credentials. She had finished her high school career with 49 shutouts, was team captain, U-17 national team and made the U-19 in 2016. Despite all her accolades she bided her time during her freshman and sophomore seasons, awaiting her time. The highlight of her first two years was an appearance in a Boston University game and she stopped a penalty stroke. In her junior year Covid struck and her opportunities seemed to diminish due the limited schedule offered in the spring ersatz season that the Patriot League offered. Starting in four of those games she took advantage of every opportunity gaining confidence.

As every game progressed this season her confidence progressed. She faced the very best including a stand out performance against then number 4 ranked Penn State. She has been named Goalkeeper of the week several times this year and her statistics, goals against and save percentage solidifies in my mind her claim as the leading goalie in the Patriot League. She is not finished yet!!

The mathematics and economics major from Malaga,N.J. has made the NFHCA D1 National Academic Squad, most importantly has gained the confidence and admiration of her teammates. The season may be in its ending sprint to the playoffs but I am sure Hailey will continue to excel and earn additional plaudits going forward.

Mary Gould

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The pandemic may have been an obstacle for many but Mary, like her teammates made her opportunities work for her and her team. She became a regular fixture in the lineup during the covid spring season and became an  important feature of our defense. She is easy to pick out with her bright red hair but it isn’t her most distinguishing feature. She is intense and committed in everything she does. Aside from being a student of the game she has taken advantage of her educational opportunities. A neuroscience major in Lafayette’s acclaimed program she has immersed her self in the intricacies of the brain while excelling on the field.

She is fun to watch as she has become a dominant and enthusiastic defender. It makes no difference if her opponent is a lesser team or a nationally ranked team she puts the same effort into her performance. She was a member of the team Leadership council. She has played in 39 games and last Sunday scored her first goal of her career against Drexel using a reverse backhand expertly delivered to the back of the cage.

My impression is that there is no place she would rather be the on the field than with her teammates. Her enthusiasm, dedication and loyalty will take her far in her future endeavors.

Alix Talkow

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If there is a story of hard work, dedication and patience it is the story of Alix. She spent two years on the bench appearing very sparingly on the field. In one brief moment in her first two years she was excited to finally have “stats.”  She loves her teammates and demonstrates enthusiasm in whatever she attempts and has gained a reputation around the school as a bright and engaging spokesperson for the team and athletics in general. She is president of SAAC and earned the appreciation of the athletic admnistration as well. Covid may have been downer for most athletes but she took advantage by gaining playing time and confidence in the process.

When the fall arrived she was thankful for the playing time in the spring but assumed she would be helping her team from the sideline. But her speed, ability and intensity won out as she became and important contributor in this amazing run to the playoffs. Alix’s confidence arrived the same time she scored early in the season. She is a leading goal scorer with perhaps her highlight being the two goals scored this past Sunday. She has knack for being in the right place at the right time.

She is always ready to credit her teammates and coaches for their success but my vision of her diving to turf, defending against the best in country, and her encouragmet to her team is inspirational. She is a consistent member of the 2019 and 2020 NFHCA  D1 national academic Squad and PL honor roll. Rumor has it that Alix has already secured a job with a major financial institution in New York. Look out world Alix is on her way!!