How Did The Leopards Get Here??

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The Lafayette Leopards are now 8-9, headed to playoffs with one regular season game to play with Bucknell. When did the turn happen and why?  The early part of the season was certainly disappointing with the first 10 games not predictive of the final stretch. In the first ten games the Leopards scored a mere 17 goals but gave up 35. One would have expected a team that had performed well in the spring and had the additional time in South Africa to post a better record. Yes, there was the important game with Lehigh ( the first league game) that ended in an overtime victory. However losses to Fairfield, Richmond,Temple, Albany were not encouraging.

But something happened around the Drexel/ Boston University Axis. Lafayette battled to a 2-1 well deserved overtime win at Drexel, then lost to Liberty 3-1 at home. But on Sept 29 came the second half of the Boston University game. Yes it was a loss but the Maroon and White scored four goals against the vaunted BU defense. Could it be that a strong offense could also be a good defense as well?

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The Leopards put that idea into practice by instituting a high press against Villanova which resulted in significant turnovers which not only stopped the Villanova attack but ending putting up five goals in the. process. Three wins later including a moral boosting 2-1 against the University of Pennsylvania sent the Leopards into a crucial game with Holy Cross who had Lafayette’s number three years running. Not this time. In a magnificent display of game plan execution the Leopards stunned the Crusader for a 3-1 loss. The only goal to be scored by Holy Cross in the remaining seconds of the game.

Holy Cross was only the appetizer as Lafayette found each other and stunned the American Eagles the following week with a 3-1 win with American’s only goal to be scored with no time left on a penalty stroke. Not only was the team on the field engaged we began to see the entire team off the bench urging on their teammates.

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Grace Angelella speads down the sideline

Cornell was not a pretty victory but the 2 overtime win emphasizes the saying that good teams can win ugly too and this has become a good team. It was a game after a long bus ride and little time to prepare.

Steve Jennings, the American coach said something that should be repeated, ” In the end the outcome was earned by their commitment to each other.” The season is not finished and there are games yet to be won. A win against Bucknell will lock up the second seed and then there will be Championship week end in Boston which could be a two game ordeal.

In the end it may be fitness or practice intensity. It could be individual heroics or  the play of a bench player who in the end may determine whether the season ends there or moves on to bigger things. In any case, this is a together team and coaches no doubt will encourage that togetherness, prepare for unexpected strategies and in the end appreciate “their commitment to each other.”  Go Pards!!!

DiMaio Scores With 50 Seconds Left In The 2nd Overtime To Win 2-1

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Sam DiMaio steals the ball

Grace Angelella used a strong reverse stick assist to give Sam DiMaio the winning shot in the Leopards  2-1 double overtime win against a game Cornell squad. Cornell opened the scoring in the first half with a shot that hit the backboards with only 25 seconds left in the first half. Trailing by 1 goal the Leopards redoubled their efforts in the second half. Lafayette dominated the statistics but were unable to solve Cornell’s zone and strong circle defense. Using a persistent attack from the right sideline ,Lafayette was to get close to the circle but were unable to find the combination that would get around the Big Red’s circle defense. In the end, the Leopards were to have 17 shots to Cornell’s 7. Lafayette’s 12 shots on goal were turned away 10 times by the alert Cornell goal tender.

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Rachel scored the first goal for Lafayette against Cornell

Rachel Bird was to score at 53:17 during one of Lafayette 8 corners, using a Van der Geest assist. Cornell had no corners at all. The Leopards were to use the right sideline all game long to move the ball forward but were unable to turn  circle opportunities into goals. It was a long bus ride to Ithaca, and it is understandable there might be an emotional let down after Saturday’s game against American University. Three Lafayette players saw 89 minutes on the field only one being the goalie Sarah Park. There were three bench players seeing action. Cornell was equally miserly in bench minutes with two of their players aside from the goalie seeing 89 minutes. They used 4 bench players on the afternoon.

Lafayette is now 8-9 with one game remaining against Bucknell. A win will not only lock up second place but could technically tie BU for first place with a BU loss to Holy Cross. A tie breaker would still  give BU the home field. A win in Lewisburg will give the Leopards a .500 regular season. They will travel Friday for the 2 pm Saturday start.

Lafayette’s 3-1 Win Over American Leaps Team Into Post Season Play

The total team effort, which has characterized Lafayette’s play in recent weeks, enabled the Leopards to stay in second place in the League, while securing a spot in the Patriot League Tournament and a chance to advance to the NCAA national tournament. The fine coach of the American team, Steve. Jennings said it best in a very classy remark after the game, We ran into a very passionate and hungry Lafayette team today. I applaud them for the way they competed and in the end the outcome was earned by their commitment to each other on the field.

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Rachel Bird was all over the field

The game was pretty much a back and forth affair until Molly McAndrews broke the deadlock with a nifty strike at 33:10 receiving an assist from Theresa Delahanty. As she received the ball from Delahanty in front of the goal, the American goalkeeper went down to block, and McAndrews deftly lifted the ball over the  downed goalkeeper to give the Leopards the lead going to the end of the half.

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Molly McAndrews closes in on the ball

The back and forth action continued into the second half as both teams pressed, with American using a zone to try to surround the Leopard ball handlers. In many cases, the Leopards to found open players or dribbled through the pressing Eagles. Lisa van der Geest was especially effective with her long passes and Anna Steps, in her return to the turf, was to frustrate American’s defenders.

Rachel Bird, one of five seniors celebrating Senior Day, was especially effective, having one of the best games of her career. She had two defensive saves ( bringing her season total to 6) in the closing 2 1/2 minutes when the Eagles had 5 penalty corners.

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Anna Steps breaks the American press

The second half was marked by strong action by the Leopards, as they built their lead. McAndrews had a beautiful goal at 50:22, unassisted, striking across the goalkeeper to her left that seemed to deflate the opposition. Six minutes later senior Theresa Delahanty, who played an important role at the center mid position by aggressively establishing position and possession, struck for Lafayette’s third goal using a Caroline Turnbull’s assist to chip the ball into the goal.

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Theresa Delahanty breaks free

The game was to proceed until in the last 2 1/2 minutes and the flood of five penalty corners began, only to be stopped by the continuing great play by the Leopard goal keeper Sara Park ,and the defensive saves by Rachel Bird. As time ended, a penalty stroke was award to American and freshman Haily Abbot entered the game as keeper during the final play only to narrowly miss blocking the shot by Rafaela Rubias.

It was a wonderful outcome, as all met afterwards to celebrate the win and honor our seniors.  My wife and I were honored to be invited to dinner afterwards with the senior parents and their daughters at the CHT ( a local college hang out).  It is now on to Cornell and a final game with Bucknell to lock up a second place finish.

The Patriot League play offs will be in Boston on Nov 2 and 4th. Depending on the outcome of the game with Buckell, the Leopards could be meeting these same American Eagles in the first playoff game..

Beware The Tie Breaker

We all know the drill since we have been here in years past. If there is a tie between two or more teams in the league standings the Patriot League tie breakers kick in. However, there are separate field hockey tie breaker specific rules. At the present the Leopards have a 3-1 record in the league tied for second place. American has qualified already for the playoffs but has not locked up that second place. Although Lafayette is in a good position the playoff spot is not locked up. It may depend on tomorrows games to clarify things.

A win by Lafayette against American this week or a win next week against Bucknell would get the Leopards in with a 4-2 record. On the other hand a loss by Holy Cross would knock them out on the head to head tie breaker with Lafayette. Should Holy Cross win the next two game against Bucknell and Boston University, and Lafayette loses to American and Bucknell, Bucknell is in Lafayette is out. If Holy Cross wins against Bucknell and loses to BU and Lafayette loses to Bucknell, it’s 3 way tie and tie breakers are activated. In that case who knows??

The four tiebreakers are:

  1. Comparison of records versus out of league common opponents.
  2. Goal differential between tied teams (capped at +- 4)
  3. Goal differential between tied teams in all league games  (capped at +- 4)
  4. Comparison of NCAA RPI rating.

The answer is simple the Leopard fate is in their hands…just win!!

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Go Pards

 

 

Seniors To Play Their Last Game At Their Home Field As Playoffs Approach

It will be Senior Day on Saturday as the Leopards will meet American University in a game that may lock in their first appearance in the Patriot League Playoffs in three years. They would secure their place with a win or a loss by Holy Cross against Bucknell. A win could also determine a higher seed and chance to finish second in the league standings. In all likelihood, it may not change the ultimate opponent in two weeks but might give many of our player a leg up on much deserved recognition.

Three seniors, Theresa Delahanty, Rachael Bird, and Kristen Taylor are the only players who have playoff experience, having played in the last game against American 3 years ago. All five seniors have been contributors these past years and have had to battle bad luck, injuries and tough times to finally get there again. I don’t believe they will let this opportunity slip by. Delahanty, Bird and Taylor have overcome game missing injuries in the past two years, but along with seniors Adriana Pero and Liza Welch will not let this opportunity get by them again. Saturday’s game could be a statement for them and the team for 2018.

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Adriana Pero sprints after the ball

Number 3 Adriana Pero

Adriana came to Lafayette via Harleysville,Pa and Mount St. Joseph Academy.  Her experience in High School was punctuated with post season success making the district playoffs for four years and state playoffs for two years.  She improved her play by playing for the highly touted WC Eagles and winning the gold medal at the Disney Field Hockey Showcase. As a key member of the defense this year she made significant contributions in games she started in, Fairfield, Boston, and wins at Villanova and Colgate. She has had one defensive save as well this year

Always known for her fitness and determination, Adriana first caught my attention two years ago in a game with Boston University as a smart canny defender. She is a team player who has learned to play for the benefit of all not just herself. But she also stands out in the classroom who at last reckoning had a 3.85 average as a Neuroscience major. She entered Lafayette as National Honor Society member, nominated for the Diocesan Scholar Program, and was an AP Scholar with Distinction. Her academic excellence continues at Lafayette. Last year in preparation  to apply to medical school she has already taken the MCATS. I’ve spoken with two of her neuroscience professors and they speak with great admiration for her scholarship and determination. All agree she will make a great physician in the future.

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Liza Welch moves the ball along the baseline

Number 4 Liza Welch

Liza hails from Sutton, Massachusetts, not far from Holy Cross, and we are glad she found Lafayette to her liking. In High School she scored 61 goals and was named to the Central Mass Super Team. She was the DVC Player of the Year and also played tennis. Academically strong, she earned the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship for advanced MCAS scores. She continued her excellent academic work as a Dean’s List student in Chemistry.

Liza made her first start against Harvard in 2016, and during the year had several assists. She plays with precision. In 2015 she appeared in 8 games, the first of which was against Ball State. This year was a breakout year, which actually started at the Women’s National High Performance Championships at Spooky Nook where she scored a goal in the opening game.

Her reverse stick shot has served her and the team well, as she has reached the back of the net 3 times so far this season with goals against Maine, Villanova and Colgate. She also has had assists against Temple and Holy Cross. She is a danger to opponents near the goal with 9 shots on goal.

She impresses me with her intelligence on and off the field and I can hear her on the field helping her teammates. We are lucky to have her at Lafayette and a member of the Leopard squad.

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Senior Kristen Taylor plays her usual tough defense against Fairfield

Number 9 Kristen Taylor

Kristen Taylor has been a mainstay and contributor to the Leopards virtually from her arrival. Her stick skills serve her and Lafayette well. Especially this year, Kristen can be seen weaving her way through the opposition and finding an open teammate, to get the ball in scoring position. She exhibits amazing fitness and combines it with  determination that makes her an elite athlete.

Kristen’s home is in West Vancouver.B.C. and played High School field hockey at the Crofton House School.

One of  three seniors who have been on the field during a playoff, Kristen played in all 19 games in 2015 getting her first two goals against Sienna. In 2016 she had 10 starts in 18 games, scoring against Temple. In 2017 she saw action in 18 games with 4 starts.

Her skill should be no surprise as she arrived at Lafayette after playing 5 years of Hockey at the Crofton House School. As Captain her team won the  British Columbia  High School Provincial Championship. She was a member of the Field Hockey British Columbia Regional Squad representing British Columbia at the Canadian National Championships for three years. She was hampered this year for 3 games due to a broken thumb, but returned to the lineup in a reserve role at Colgate and had an assist. In a crucial game with Holy Cross she started and scored an important goal. Altogether, she started 10 games out of thirteen and will be a crucial factor in the remaining games this season, hopefully including the playoffs.

She is a tough competitor and fearless on the field and uses her skills to great advantage. She is another Neuroscience major with a Dean’s list average of 3.33 at the last accounting.

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Rachael Bird shuts down a Penn attacker

Number 10 Rachel Bird

Rachel has been a key contributor when healthy. She has always had a “big hit” and very strong in the backfield. This year her skill and strength is demonstrated by her ability to launch the ball in the air over the opposing defense. Additionally she has a Patriot League leading 4 defensive saves. ( I actually counted one more against Colgate). Her reliability is reinforced by her role as the “kick back” goalie when the coaching staff pulls the regular goalie, hoping to score a needed goal in closing minutes. She only played in 8 games last year due to injury, and has been  a captain for the last two years.

She was MVP of her High School team and played in numerous national tournaments being name MVP in the Polar Bear Tournament. She comes from West Vancouver and played for West Vancouver Secondary where she was named the Outstanding Senior Female Athlete.

She manages to put herself where needed on the field, and her reemergence as a key player has been an added benefit to the squad. She is a graduate of the Oaks Leadership Academy and at last reckoning had the highest GPA on the team of 3.93, majoring in economics and German.

She is as engaging as she is brilliant, and demonstrates a plethora of skills that will serve her well, it whatever she attempts in the future

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Theresa Delahanty shows her fight competing for the ball

Theresa Delahanty Number 17

“T’ is an all Patriot League midfielder who is known for her aggressive style and competitive spirit. It is no wonder she was elected a co-captain this year. It’s not hard to see her ability, and for that reason she was named to the Women’s National Championship at Spooky Nook and is a member of the US indoor squad. Early on in the season she broke her thumb.and was forced to the sidelines but as soon as she was able to play, her impact could be seen. She started in 13 games scoring 11 points while delivering seven shots on goal connecting for 3 goals and 5 assists. Theresa is the first Leopard opponents have to deal with as they cross the 50 yard line and she often finds herself double teamed.

During the Villanova game she delivered for 2 goals and one assist with three shots. She has a 33 percent shot percentage. She is a natural leader, but is known for her big heart. She volunteered last winter to cut off all her hair in a campaign to raise money for children’s cancer.

Theresa is a native of Washington Crossing Pa. and went to Council Rock North High School and played for the Mystx Field Hockey Club.

She is another veteran of the last playoff game the Leopards were in. I except to see a lot of energy from her and inspiring her teammates in the remaining games. No doubt her opponents will be keying on this playmaker.

She no slouch in the classroom as a Mechanical Engineering major. She arrived at Lafayette as member of the Distinguished Honor Roll, National Honor Society and the Science National Honor Society.

******. Just announced Theresa has been selected to play in the Division One all star game in Louisville. Congratulations!!

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Leopards Fans always behind their team!!

The 12th Team Members

I have to recognize the parents of all these outstanding young women who have supported them at Lafayette and before. Playing a division one sport is difficult and the preparation is rigorous…for that.. thank you parents. Your are your daughter’s rock that helped them through their most difficult moments. The outcome in the next few games are unknown, but I know they will be leaving it all on the field, which will be a tribute to you all. In June they will be alumnae and will begin their life’s journey, but they will bring with them the experiences of the last 4 years…. which will make them stronger. GO PARDS

 

Leopards Do Everything But Find The Back Of The Net

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Liza Welch speeds down the center of the field in the first half

Lafayette did a lot of things right at Providence this afternoon, except find the back of the cage. They led in shots, shots on goal, and penalty corners. On several occasions they found themselves point blank at the Friars goalkeeper but could not get a handle on the ball or the Providence fine senior goalkeeper found ways to block or deflect shots away. That, in effect was the whole frustrating afternoon as these teams battled in what might  have been a defensive game, for a majority of the minutes.

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Adrianna Pero get ready to receive the ball

Providence scored in both periods finally ending the game with a 2-0 win on their senior day. The Leopards again used their high press which served them well in their previous game against Holy Cross, and it did deliver several opportunities which were turned away. Providence’s counter attack worked well as both goals, one at 15:18 and the other at 64:57  proved to be enough to defeat the Leopards despite the Leopards having 6 shots on goal to Providence’s 4.

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Rachel Bird and Christine Turnbull close in on Friar attacker

The weekend was still successful as the Leopards are now 6-9 but own a 3-1 League record with a very favorable position to make the playoffs. The terrible Connecticut route 95 traffic gave me lots of time to turn over several permutations regarding the playoff picture. Boston University is 4-0 with two games left and looks solid to host, but there are absurd scenarios where they might lose that position. After that its closely bunched, with American and Lafayette tied for second at 3-1, Bucknell and Holy Cross are  tied in fourth with identical 2-2 records, and Lehigh and Colgate are virtually out of it.

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Kristen Taylor lets one go as Theresa Delahanty follows

Next week Holy Cross plays Bucknell. A win by Bucknell or win by Lafayette next week or the following week would lock up a tournament spot for the Leopards. Holy Cross is meeting Bucknell and Boston University to finish the regular season League games. Lafayette has American next week, followed by a season finale at Bucknell. Holy Cross would need to win against Bucknell and Boston while Lafayette would have to lose against Bucknell and American to throw the race for the playoffs to a tiebreaker scenario between Bucknell and Lafayette in which case the Leopards would not be in the playoffs.

After figuring that all out, the seedings become another matter. So to summarize, a win e against American or Bucknell puts a lock on the postseason, as does a loss by Holy Cross next week against Bucknell or Boston University a week later.

 

 

 

A 3-2 Win At Holy Cross Puts The Leopards In Control

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Molly McAndrews speeds towards the goal

It’s been an amazing turnaround and the game today at Holy Cross  demonstrated every aspect of Leopard play that has brought on Lafayette’s strong recent success. I hesitate to type this, but this was as strong an all around performance I have seen from a Lafayette squad. The Leopards came to play, and from the opening whistle they made a statement. First, Coach Stone and her assistants should be congratulated for an excellent game plan. Second, the execution of the plan by the team from the get go was inspiring. Holy Cross was stymied by the Lafayette high press and had  trouble getting any offensive rhythm going.  The 3-2 score was deceiving, Holy Cross had tremendous difficulty crossing the Lafayette 50 yard line.

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Theresa Delahanty challenges defenders as she approaches the circle

Lafayette had a decided shot advantage (24-7), with shots on goal  (12-4), and corners ( 8-1). Quite frankly, from my vantage point there should have been at least 4 more corners. The second goal became controversial  when an official waived it off, despite a clear deflection from Kristen Taylor, which saw the ball change direction on its way to goal from Kristen’s position inside the circle. After an appeal that official was overruled by the second official who had a better view.

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Sam DiMaio steals the ball

Scoring began at 10:34 as Caroline Turnbull unleashed a strike following an assist by Liza Welch and Lisa van der Geest on a penalty corner. Going into the half, despite controlling the tempo and location of play, the Leopards had a tenuous lead of 1-0. It was the Taylor goal following a long DeLongis pass that was to put the Leopards in a more comfortable 2 goal lead. Why it was necessary was brought home, as Holy Cross’ Oliva Versey at 48:45 placed a rebound in the back of the net. It was Molly McAndrew however, that was to put the game out of reach, with a high rebound at 66:04. Holy Cross’ Emily Loprete was to get a goal with 50 seconds left but the Leopards were to frustrate the Crusaders by finally heading to corner to run out the clock.

The Leopards are 3-1, tied for second with American who they will meet this Saturday at Rappolt Field. Next in the standings comes Bucknell and Holy Cross at 2-2. It’s a little late, but going through the permutations in my head, I don’t see a way the Leopards will be left out of the postseason. Lafayette will play American and Bucknell as two of the four remaining regular season games. Holy Cross will play Bucknell and  Boston University . and Colgate and Lehigh have been eliminated.

Lafayette is playing it’s best hockey of the year and it is not beyond comprehension that they could still end up with a winning record. There remains out of conference games  with Providence ( Sunday at 1) and Cornell a week from Monday.

Given the quality hockey being played so far, the Patriot League Tournament is really up for grabs. It could be an exciting two days come November.

After the game the Welch’s graciously hosted the team and their fans for a tailgate at their home. The faces reflect the celebratory atmosphere.

 

 

 

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