Lafayette Propels Into The Playoffs Behind Colbourne Goal And Arnold Saves

With only 27 seconds having run off the clock sophomore midfielder Ellen Colbourne sprinted down the sideline and headed to the circle. She took focus at the prize. Reversing her stick she launched a high shot reminiscent of a missile, as it streamed over the head of the Colgate goalie into the back of the cage. The Leopards were to follow that, during the 70 minute game with 19 more shots, a season high, but were stymied by 12 saves from the Colgate goalie, Maria Krull. The Leopards themselves came up with an outstanding defensive effort,  and Katelyn Arnold was to make key saves giving  her the third shutout of her career. After the game, Colbourne described her feelings scoring her first goal of season, and how excited she was to do it in front of her family, who had traveled all the way from Vancouver to witness her heroics

The game was typical of a Colgate/Lafayette struggle. Three years ago in the playoffs the Leopards had to get beyond the Colgate Raiders to reach the Championship game in an overtime struggle that ended in a 4-3 victory. That season ended with rings for everyone, when the foliowing day the Leopards played a second overtime game to win the championship. Last season Colgate put the hammer to Lafayette’s hopes for a championship in a one-nil game where Lafayette was to have over twenty shots to only low single digit shots for Colgate. Lafayette lost 1-0. The team was looking forward to this chance to avenge that loss but, it was to take a stout defense from the team and Katelyn Arnold’s key saves to bring home the win. The game ended with two Colgate corners with no time on the clock. The team was able to turn them away and preserve the victory.

Hannah Millen shows her offensive skill against a Colgate defender
Hannah Millen shows her offensive skill against a Colgate defender

The win put Lafayette into the Patriot League playoffs as a third seed. All week, fans were using the best of their math and logic skills to envision a path to Boston and a chance for a championship. Lehigh was to make the calculations easy as they defeated Holy Cross 2-1 in a game that started one hour before Lafayette’s game. This left Holy Cross 2-3 in the league and on the bad side of tie breakers. In the end, the Leopards were to put talk of tie breakers aside as the Holy Cross defeat got the Leopards the last place on won/loss record alone,  ending their regular season league campaign at 3-3 and firmly getting their ticket punched for a playoff spot. As they were tied with Bucknell, a Buckell loss to American during the afternoon moved Lafayette to the third seed on the basis of a head to head win against Bucknell earlier in the season. So the season has not ended for our heroes, and a trip to Boston to meet the American Eagles in an afternoon contest on friday for the Patriot League semi-finals is in the offing.

The Lafayette corner offense sprints into action
The Lafayette corner offense sprints into action

The team was not to learn of their fate until after the game when Coach Stone announced it. Hugs and cheers were the result. The regular season is not over as Lafayette is to play Yale in a non-conference finale this afternoon. It is also senior day, as the six seniors cap their careers with their last home appearance in a Lafayette uniform. I usually highlight the careers of the seniors at this point, but since there is still hockey to be played I will leave that until after the final game is played.

Let’s Remember This Is A Team Sport

I know I have written this before, but I love team sports. It’s one thing to run in circle to see how long it takes to get back where you started. or accepting the winning trophy because you hit the little ball into the hole in a smaller amount of strokes, but organizing a group to act and perform as one is an achievement. Strong societies are built on collective achievements, something that seems to have escaped many today. Yes, we look for heroes to carry the day, but  truly great things are done by teams today. Team playing in governing, scientific accomplishment by building on research of others, and winning wars working together are examples of team effort today.

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Katie Birle chases down a ball as a Temple player is in hot pursuit.

Women’s sports are no exception. It has only been in the last 20 years or so that women’s sports actually have begun going beyond the idea of a recreational club. Field Hockey in the United States first arrived at the turn of the 20th century, and it really took the invention of astro-turf to have it start to look like a sport rather an up tempo game of croquet. The women look like athletes instead of like the “Belles of St. Trinians.” ( That movie still cracks me up especially the field hockey game.)

When I first proposed an astro-turf field at Lafayette 15 years ago, the response I got was, “yeah great but really, stands for actual fans??” Today the team even in down years averages more than 200 fans a game and if we have an important game 500 to 1000 might show up. There are many in the academe who mourn that women’s athletics is getting more like the male sports but they miss the point

Plaque dedicated to two year old Lucy
Plaque dedicated to two year old Lucy

Saturday we dedicated a tree in memory of a recent alumna whose little two year old died of leukemia. All her teammates were there to support her. One friend even gave her daughter a middle name after the little girl! This is what team is all about. You care for each other, you trust one another, you believe in common goals, and that never goes away.

Teammates always, Abby Stefanides, Katie Birle, Hannah Millen, Kirby Szalkowski, Paige Macrae, Kendall Weedling
Teammates always, Abby Stefanides, Katie Birle, Hannah Millen, Kirby Szalkowski, Paige Macrae, Kendall Weedling

Next Sunday we will celebrate Senior Day as they will play their last regular season game together. Hopefully after playing Colgate the day before they will come together and perhaps again qualify for the League Tournament. It will happen because they were a team and were not running circles to see how fast they can end up at the same spot they started from.(No offense to our track athletes). If we win its because we care for one another ( enough to put in the extra effort to help each other out), that will engender trust to know your teammate will be there when you see a space, and you believe and want that common goal, not for yourself but for your team. Go Leopards!

Lafayette Falls 3-2 In Key Match-up, Official Calls Remarkable 10 Minute Yellow Card At Key Moment

I have been writing this blog on this format and for a newspaper for years. I have also been an observer of college division one field hockey for 25 years, and yesterday I observed something I have never seen in the hundreds of games I have attended, including games ranging all levels of skill. At 58:30 into this important game an official called her first card of the day of a generally well played match. It was a yellow card against Hannah Millen,  Lafayette’s key defender and captain. OK, stuff happens, and the card was a judgment call. But then we found out she had assigned her a 10 minute penalty! Meanwhile Millen would not return until 1;30 was left, which she did, and scored on a penalty stroke. However, in the meantime Holy Cross was to score using the  extra player advantage which they had for almost the remainder of the final period.

I would assume a ten minute card would be reserved for the most egregious foul, with perhaps a player on the ground. Not so, as you will see in the enclosed video. You make the call. Games are better played when officials do not become part of the outcome. In this case this official became a factor in the eventual result. Not good, especially at this level. It was the first yellow of the game and only second card of the entire game which included a green for Holy Cross.

I don’t want to take anything from Holy Cross who played an inspired second half scoring 3 goals to win and stay in the hunt for a playoff spot, but there are 22 contestants on the field and it should be decided there.

Ami Turner breaks upfield in the first half
Ami Turner breaks upfield in the first half

Lafayette started off strong scoring after only seconds were run off the clock in the first period on a corner with a Magadan strike via a Turner to Millen assist. Things looked good for the Leopards as they used the speed of Ellen Coulbourne and Kendall Weedling to advance the ball upfield into scoring position . However, Lafayette had several scoring chances thwarted by Inch, the Holy Cross goalie.

Kendall Weedling cover all angles
Kendall Weedling cover all angles

The second half saw Colbourne double and triple teamed as the Crusaders during halftime planned to take away the Leopards speedy weapon. Having only gotten 4 corners in the first half Holy Cross managed to get 10 corners in the second and at one time 4 corners succeeding in a row were called against the Leopards. The Crusaders were tenacious guarding Lafayette closely and taking advantage of opportunities. Mauren Conolly was active scoring two goals in the second period while Michelle McNeil was to get the go ahead goal on a corner at 55:51. The all important insurance goal was made at 59:58 after the 10 minute yellow.

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Ellen Colbourne speeds up the field with a phalanx of Maroon and White

The game ended on Millen’s goal on a stroke called with five seconds remaining highlighting the importance of that insurance goal assuring there would be no overtime.

So where does that leave Lafayette and Holy Cross now rivals for the fourth and final playoff spot? Lafayette’s hopes lie in a three way tie in the league. If Lafayette, Holy Cross and Bucknell win their next games against Colgate, Lehigh and American respectively there would be a two way tie between Holy Cross and Lafayette and Holy Cross wins the tiebreaker based on head to head competition. If all three lose the same applies. If Holy Cross loses and Lafayette wins Lafayette wins on league record. However the most likely result, a Bucknell loss, and wins by Holy Cross and Lafayette presents us with a three way tie and this is the way it is broken according to the League with all three teams at 3-3. ” If there is a tie between Bucknell, Lafayette, and Holy Cross where all three team are 3-3 in the Patriot League, the teams would remain tied through head to head,and have the same breakdown within the League standings. There is no common opponent between the three, so the next step would be goal differential between the tied teams, In that case Bucknell and Lafayette would be +1 and Holy Cross would be -2. So Bucknell and Lafayette would make it the League tourney in that three way tie. Then we would look at goal differential in all league games to determine the 3/4 slot.”

So you got all that. To the players. just win and what will be will be. And I have become an American fan against Bucknell just for next week!!

Leopards Have Key Game This Weekend With The Holy Cross Crusaders.

Ami Turner gets ahead of a Lehigh defender and passes the ball into the offensive circle
Ami Turner gets ahead of a Lehigh defender and passes the ball into the offensive circle

The Leopards will meet the Crusaders for the 32nd meeting between these schools. Lafayette has an edge with 18 wins against thirteen loses. The last win by Holy Cross was a 2-1 OT win in Easton in 2009. In that game, the Leopards had 26 shots to 3 for Holy Cross. The Crusader goalie had 12 saves in that encounter, but Lafayette scored the first goal in the first period and looked like they were on their way to a win when, with 6 minutes left to play, Holy Cross found the back of the cage to tie it up. The Leopards had chances in the end. including two corners, and the game ended in a tie. Two overtimes later. it came down to strokes and the Leopards ended on the short end losing 2-1. The Crusaders had a losing season and put the Leopards in a difficult spot regarding the playoffs.

Amanda Magadan and Ellen Colbourne closely guard a UConn player
Amanda Magadan and Ellen Colbourne closely guard a UConn player

This Crusader team is a better team coming in with a 6-9 record but having lost the last 6 out of 7 games. Their goalie, Inch is a key player and the Leopards must find their way to the circle to exercise their 24 pct scoring percentage. Holy Cross is 19 pct but take more shots and get more penalty corners than the Leopards have. Outside of Boston University I see no ranked team on their schedule but have posted a good win against Harvard early on.

Kirby Szalkowski turns ball around against Boston University
Kirby Szalkowski turns ball around against Boston University

This is the part of the season where individual games  matter. In order to get to the post season, these league games must end up in the W column. The Leopard’s fate is in their hands. They win, they are in the post season, if they lose its too complicated for my 70 year old brain to calculate but it is clear it will depend on other teams to make it all possible.

Twelve o’clock it all happens. The sky’s will be clear and a brisk fall afternoon is anticipated. Here’s hoping it ends in Maroon   happiness!!! Come on out and enjoy the action.

The Leopards Still Control Their Own Destiny After 5-2 Loss To American

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Ami Turner introduces herself to an Ameican Eagle counterpart

The American Eagles came right out as expected with a high energy game and sprinted ahead of the Leopards, building a 3-0 lead in the first half. Getting behind early was not in the Leopards game plan as American was to use 23 fresh players during the game to keep Lafayette from coming back. The first three goals came after out shooting the Leopards 10-0 during that half and 5-0 advantage in penalty corners. Two of the three first half goals were off penalty corners . The Leopards were to close the gap early in the second period as Rosie Shanks was to get off a diving shot after a feed from Ami Turner with only 1:11 gone on the clock. But American was to respond with two goals of their own, the first coming 6  minutes later followed by another 3  minutes later. The last goal of the game was scored by Hannah Millen with two minutes to play on a penalty stroke.

Kendall Weedling's stick gets the attention of an American defender
Kendall Weedling’s stick gets the attention of an American defender

As I mentioned in a previous article the Leopards could win a place in the tournament by beating two of their last three opponents including American. Bucknell beat Holy Cross and now the Leopards need only to win next Saturday at Rappolt Field to secure their place in the post season. If they were to lose and still beat Colgate it would then go to a complicated series of tie breakers between three teams if Bucknell were to also lose to American. The tiebreakers might include everything including head to head outcome within the patriot league, relative scores, outcomes against out of conference opponents and even a coin flip.

Aliza Furneaux looks downfield as she carries the ball into American's half of the field
Aliza Furneaux looks downfield as she carries the ball into American’s half of the field

So ladies, just win next Saturday and put an end to it. It’s that simple.

After the game I was treated to Birthday wishes from the team and their moms and dads. I consider them my second family, so combined with felicitations from my own family, the good wishes were well appreciated by this now 70 year old body. Many thanks.

Bill Rappolt

Is It Too Early For Patriot League Bracketology? The Permuations At This Moment.

Amanda Magadan is always a threat
Amanda Magadan is always a threat

We are getting to that time of year where each game takes on added significance, and we start to see who has a shot at getting to the National Tournament to pick the best in the nation. The Patriot League, based on last years RPI will get an automatic bid to NCAA tournament. The honor goes the Patriot League tournament winner. There are seven teams in the League, and the four with the best record and, surviving tie breakers will play a four team two day tournament, the winner to move onto the big dance. The are two things now for certain, Boston University is definitely in and Colgate is out, based on Boston’s 4-0 record and Colgate’s 0-4 record in the league.

Here are the league standings and the corresponding League records with the teams each league member will play in coming weeks:

Ami Turner delivers the ball upfield
Ami Turner delivers the ball upfield

Boston University  4-0 needs to play Lehigh and Bucknell

American U           3-1 needs to play Lafayette and Bucknell

Lafayette               2-1 needs to play American, Holy Cross, and Colgate

Bucknell                2-1 needs to play Holy Cross, Boston, and American

Holy Cross             1-2 needs to play Bucknell, Lafayette and Lehigh

Lehigh                    0-3 needs to play Boston,Colgate, Holy Cross

Colgate                  0-4 needs to play Lehigh and Lafayette

Kaitlyn Arnold and Hannah Millen protect the cage
Kaitlyn Arnold and Hannah Millen protect the cage

So if you believe that Boston has locked in the home field, think again. If Bucknell runs the table, the first tie breaker is head to head competition. Bucknell would win the regular season and host. If Bucknell losses one of their three games they will not host but would make it in. If Lafayette ran the table and Boston lost one, Lafayette loses the tie breaker and could not host. Boston would have to lose to Lehigh and Bucknell and Lafayette would need  to run the table for the Leopards to host. To lock in their place in the tournament all Lafayette needs to do is win two of the last three. Bucknell will have two tough final games against American and Boston. Winning both would be remarkable.

Kendall Weedling lines up a shot
Kendall Weedling lines up a shot

Holy Cross needs to continue to win.  Should they lose to either Bucknell or Lafayette, they  are probably out. Lehigh plays Boston this weekend and even if they run the table are unlikely to make it in having lost to Bucknell and Lafayette. Colgate has no way in but could act as a spoiler to Lafayette should Lafayette lose to Holy Cross and American. Will Bucknell win against an improved and inspired Holy Cross team, helping the Leopards out??

We haven’t even talked about seeds…maybe next week!!??

So this weekend’s games will be closely watched and in all likelihood the field will be narrowed by the end of day. Interesting question is on the table for this weekend. What upset will spoil everyone’s calculations!

It’s Arnold, Macrae, Weedling, Shanks, Et Alia

Katelyn Arnold stands tall in the goal against Bucknell
Katelyn Arnold stands tall in the goal against Bucknell

In most sports accounts, the writer concentrates on the player who scores the touchdown, goal, or makes some spectacular play and I will give credit to all those I mentioned in the title. But I also want to especially emphasize the final member of the team, Et Alia. Don’t go rushing to the roster list, or the final account of game on goleopards.com because Et Alia will not be mentioned. Et Alia is a latin phrase that appears often in legal text as the abbreviation et al, meaning everyone else. This game was won by Et Alia, the entire team. It is no secret, that the entire team was in a slump. After tuesday’s game against Penn there was depression settling over Pardsville. The Leopards looked out of sync, and out of sorts. Et Alia was not to be found.

Paige Macrae show her defensive skills as she blocks a Bucknell advance
Paige Macrae show her defensive skills as she blocks a Bucknell advance

But something changed in the last four days. The team that arrived on the field on Saturday for this important league game was not going to be denied. Bucknell arrived with impressive history having won the Patriot League regular season and not losing a league regular season game in two years. In fact, they had beaten the Leopards each of those years. But these games with Lafayette were always close and well fought. I have to admit I arrived at the field this year with some trepidation. A repeat of last tuesday would mean certain defeat and a struggle to make the playoffs.

As expected the Bisons arrived with a good plan, they were going to press high, and double team the Leopards outside players to shut down the transition game and keep the Leopards out of their offensive end. They were aggressive, and precise in execution. They also gave Amanda Magadan, and Ellen Coulbourne  extra attention but they couldn’t guard “Et Alia.”

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Kendall Weedling and et al. celebrate the first goal of the game as recorded by go leopards

The Leopards took advantage of opportunities, and as we know pressing constantly, takes some sacrifice in energy and defensive coverage downfield and the Leopards took advantage. Yes, Bucknell had a 17-8 advantage in shots, and a 10-4 advantage in corners. But as some sports sage said long ago statistics are for losers. Lafayette on this day used a team effort which included the efforts of Arnold, Macrae, Weeding, and Shanks  who helped put points on the board and stopped goals when needed.

First Arnold came with save after save. Some were ordinary kick saves but there were others of the leaping variety. I believe Katelyn Arnold is the best goalie in the League and she proved that to the crowd and her opponents. Scoring started early with a Kendall Weedling goal delivered off an alert pass from Paige Macrae who had an outstanding afternoon. The two were able to take advantage of a fast break and took on the Bucknell goalkeeper two on one with Weeding deftly delivering the shot from goalie’s right side. The second goal was nearly 41 minutes later from sophomore Rosie Shanks who also executed a break, after a  steal by Hannah Millen who passed to Macrae. The Bison were executing a break of their own when the Millen to Macrae pass to Shanks  found her near the top of the circle facing the Bison goalie who had come out of the cage. Weedling meanwhile came speeding up the other side of the circle and Shanks shifted her focus to Weedling  creating the hesitation needed in the Bison goalie, to allow a clean shot at the goal. It was a rocket that sounded with smack that was heard throughout the field.

Macrae was to get a goal of her own during a penalty corner as Amanda Magadan received the ball at the top of the circle delivered a pass to the reliable Paige Macrae who deflected the ball soundly into the cage for her third goal of the year. Bucknell was still to be heard from as Nicole Rupnick received a pass from Amy Mucelli and shot at 66:40 of the game into the goal.

The game was to end, as time ran out on a Bucknell corner which was stopped by a defensive save by Hannah Millen. Although it was meaningless toward the final outcome, it was a metaphor for the whole game. Bucknell battled to the end but Lafayette was not to be denied today by “et alia”,….. the team.

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Aliza Furneaux beats a Bucknell defender to the ball

The Leopards are now 2-1 in the league and will meet 3 other league members in coming weeks, American this coming Saturday, the much improved Holy Cross Crusaders, and finally Colgate who eliminated Lafayette last year from the playoff. Lehigh with 4 loses has already been eliminated, and Boston University has clinched a berth with four wins.

The Leopards also welcomed back assistant coach Joey Civico who returned to the sidelines.