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!!

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.

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.

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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!!

The Patriot League Tournament Field Is Set

The Patriot League field for the post season tournament is set as result of yesterday’s games. American beat Holy Cross giving the Crusaders 4 losses, Colgate lost to Boston giving them four losses. The best Boston can do is 3-3 and the worst Lafayette, Lehigh and Bucknell can do is 3-3 but all have beaten Boston breaking any tie breaker. As a result the field is American, Lafayette, Bucknell and Lehigh.

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But the final seeds must still be decided. American must still play Boston and Colgate. Should they lose both and Lafayette wins their last two with Bucknell and Lehigh, Lafayette would host. If Lafayette were to lose the last two  and American wins one of their two games, Lafayette would meet American in the first round. One win for Lafayette would give them a 2 or three seed and they would play Bucknell or Lehigh.

There are a number of scenarios that can be played with but one thing is for certain the four teams are set. The remainder of the regular season is still to be played with Drexel arriving today followed by an arch rival game with Lehigh at Lehigh on Friday night. Temple at Lafayette follows with Bucknell at home on Saturday and then a game in New Jersey against the number 3 team in the nation Rutgers.  The tournament follows the following week end!!

Today is senior day. Usually, I highlight the seniors during the week previous but this year I will do that next week with Lehigh on the way!!

Nittney Lions Of Penn State Are Hosted By Lafayette On Friday

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Sophia Gladieux is the leading Lion scorer

The Leopards will entertain Penn State this Friday in a renewal of the Pennsylvania series that goes back decades. Lafayette is the only Pennsylvania school to have beaten the Penn State Nittney Lions where State holds a large edge. It has been about 8 years since the two schools have met with Penn State having won the last outing 4-1 in 2014. This year they come to challenge Lafayette. who has a 10-2 record against Penn State’s 9-3 record. The Lions are ranked at least 5th in the nation while the Leopards best rating is 18th by Bolster.

By most readings Penn State has had the more difficult schedule losing to number one ranked Iowa twice and number 4 ranked Rutgers once. ( The Leopards will be playing Rutgers later this season). This being an out of conference game for both, certainly respect and pride is on the line. But it does have practical consequences. Seeding which is basically done based on RPI in the NCAA tournament can be effected and selection as an at large participant can be influenced by the outcome. The Leopards were an at large selection in 2012.

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The only common opponent to date is Indiana who the Leopards beat 4-0 and and Penn State beat 4-1. The last Patriot League opponent for Penn State was Bucknell which they beat 4-1. ( Bucknell initially was winning 1-0 before an onslaught of goals and shots). Other than that, statistics for each look familiar. The Leopards have scored 33 goals on 198 shots while Penn State has scored 32 goals on 169 shots. Lafayette opponents have managed only 12 goals on 96 shots while Penn State’s opponent have 18 goals on 134 shots. Lafayette has had 77 penalty corners while giving up 55. Penn State has 88 penalty corners while giving up 61.

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Alix Talkow has 4 goals to her credit so far

Hailey Abbott, Lafayette goal keeper sports a .714 save percentage while Brie Barraco has a .739 save percentage although the Lafayette defense has allowed far less shots.

Both teams have exciting young players with sophomore Sophia Gladieux (number 3) the leading goal scorer with 13 to date for the Lions. Lafayette scorers are more spread around with 10 players contributing goals. Felicitas Hannes ( number 5) leads the Leopards with 7. She is closely followed by Audrey Sawers, and Molly McAndrew with 6 each. To my mind this may come down to the veteran defensive backfield of Lafayette vs the young offense of Penn State! I had this game circled all season and am excited to finally see it.

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Sophomore Alden Bocello takes off in Boston

As to the rest of the Patriot League, at least one team will be eliminated from the PL tournament as BU will play Colgate both with 3 losses each. The top four, American, Lafayette, Bucknell and Lehigh can do no worse than 3 loses going forward. In the coming week Lafayette will play Lehigh as the seeding gets sorted out. The second definite elimination will be decided in two weeks in the Boston/ Holy Cross game, leaving only one with a chance for the final seed.

Beantown Awaits the Leopards

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The Leopards most likely will board a team bus on Friday and make the four or five hour trip to Boston to be ready to play the Terriers from Boston University on Saturday @12. Although only sporting a 2-9 record, Boston University has played a difficult schedule with the likes of Iowa,Boston College, Princeton and Maine meeting the Terriers. They have now lost 8 straight games including 2 to league rivals Lehigh and Bucknel, both by 1 goal.

Boston has alway been known for their strong defense, ability to counter attack, and corner efficiency. To date after 11 games they have scored 13 goals on 87 attempts and their opponents have scored 31 goals on 155 attempts. This will compare with Lafayette’s 28 goals on 180 attempts and 10 goals on 71 attempts by opponents in their 10 games. Those statistics include the 7-0 loss to Princeton that Boston had on Sept 19th. Since then, they have had three one goal losses, to Bucknell, Northeastern and Maine.

The shot percentage is close with the Leopards scoring on 15.6 % and Boston scoring on 14.9 % of their shots. Boston has had 47 penalty corners while Lafayette has had 71 corners with one less game. In goal, Abbott has a 70 pct save pct with a .9 goals against average. While Caroline Kelley has a 72.6 save percentage and a 2.91 goals against average.

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However, most importantly this game comes at an inflection point in the season. For Lafayette, a win gives the Leopards a three win record in the league and a leg up on a post season spot. On the other hand a loss for the Terriers put them in a hole to make the playoffs with three league losses.

The Terrier’s bench is short, as Sally Star, the Boston Coach seems to only to use 16 players per game with her starters getting the greater share of the minutes. Coach Jennifer Stone has been using 18 or 19 players with her bench getting significant minutes. Lafayette’s 2 losses to American and Ohio State were one goal overtime affairs. The third period is the Terrier’s biggest scoring period with 5, while their opponents have scored nine goals in the first and fourth periods. The largest Leopards scoring comes in the first period while the second and fourth periods see the second most scoring. Opponents score the most in third period.

The weather looks good for Saturday!! As a Leopard fan, I would hope for a big first period to get things going with a strong defense keeping Boston on their side of the field. On corners Maine used a lot of deception rather than trying power their way past goalkeeper Caroline Kelley. All that’s left is to play the game…..Go Pards!!!!

Lafayette Grinds Out 2-1 Victory Over Fairfield

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Ariel Schumacher shows her defensive skills

Captain Audrey Sawers scored the game winner in the fourth quarter as Lafayette’s 18th in the country offense was stymied by Fairfield for two quarters. The game evolved into a defensive struggle after Ariel Schumacher connected with Simone Hefting during a corner 8:25 into the game. However the lead was to last a mere three minutes, when Fairfield’s Malen Iglesias connected on a breakaway to score a one on one goal. But it was to be the only time Fairfield would see a ball cross the goal for them.

The game then moved to 38 minutes of character building defense. Every player was to be tested as the Lafayette defense was  turning back a determined Fairfield offense. Fairfield had 9 seniors on their squad as they dug in, stopping the leopards several times where many thought a goal would be coming. The statistical battle was a mixed bag beginning with Lafayette’s  15 shots to the Stags 7. Fairfield out cornered Lafayette 6-5. However, the Leopards were able to make their corner opportunities count as both the goals by Schumacher and Sawers were on corners, with Hefting delivering an assist on both. Filene Gerbrandij contributed to Sawers last go ahead goal.

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Lineke Spanns get ready to turn on the afterburners

The officials could have composed a symphony with the number of whistles and cards. There were five cards issued 2 greens and 3 yellows during  the game. Lineke Spanns stopped the Stags offense. several times during the game. Her speed allowed her to intercept balls and turn the play around into an offense thrust for the Leopards. She had 5 shots, 3 on goal. Shots were spread around to McAndrew, Spanns, Hannes, Sawers,Gerbrandij, Schumacher, and Alex Darrah.

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Alex Darrah works her way out of a Stag triple team

The Leopards demonstrated fitness and character not only playing their second game in as many days, but stopping a determined and skilled opponent. This was exactly the opponent the Leopards needed to prepare for Boston University who no doubt are equally determined to help their league and season fortunes. Make no mistake. Boston is well coached and will defend their home turf with determnation.

I have confidence the Leopards will be ready and up to the challenge.

Leopards Unleashed In 4-1 Win Against Holy Cross

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The Holy Cross Crusaders made the 4 1/2 hour bus trip Saturday morning to face a Leopard attack eager for its first Patriot League win!! But it wasn’t just the attack, it was combination of a relentless defense and transition than combined to create a perfect storm that was only halted by the final whistle.

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The Holy Cross goal tender responded with 15 saves in a gallant effort to stem the tide. It was a noble effort from a team that never laid down, and who managed to finally score a goal in the fourth quarter avoiding a shutout.

The Leopards launched 36 shots, the majority of which occurred in the second, third and fourth quarters after a three shot first half. Nineteen of the those shots were on goal and there were three shots that hit the post. Remarkably, the Leopards had only eight penalty corners, but the time spent in the in the offensive 25 was enough. Holy Cross managed only five shots on the afternoon and two penalty corners.

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Lafayette scored in every quarter with the first score coming late in the first 15 minutes by Filine Gerbrandij who was assisted by Simone Hefting. It was the first goal of the season and career for the freshman. The second goal from the Leopards diversified attack, came from senior Alix Talkow delivering her first of her career, with a helper from Audrey Sawers. One minute into the second half Alden Bocella got her first goal of season and career with an unassisted beauty into the lower right corner. In the fourth quarter Simone Hefting combined with Audrey Sawers to finish Lafayette’s scoring with a beautiful fake corner shot and execution that found left bottom of the cage.

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Aside from offensive fireworks the family day crowd was treated to a defense that was amazing. Sydney Woolston was part of a wall that stopped, and intercepted balls and led to offensive displays. Eighteen Leopards saw action on the afternoon as substitutions provided a seamless effort all day. The bench themselves provided nearly 1/3 of the shots on the afternoon with Ariel Shumacher contributing a team leading six with three on goal during her forty minutes. Lineke Spanns provided five shots in her time on the field with four on goal. GK Haile Abbot needed to make only one save during the afternoon.

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The Leopards will stay at home to entertain the Colgate Raiders next week who just lost to Lehigh. Bucknell also added to their Patriot League wins with an impressive overtime win in Boston against the Terriers. American has no PL games this week and will meet Maryland at American this afternoon.

Lafayette Drops A Tough One In DC 0-1 In Overtime

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Noor Coenan was clearly on the line at the moment she struck for the winning goal

Lafayette did everything but find the back of the cage today, losing a hard fought battle with American. American’s star midfielder Noor Coenan delivered on a corner in the first overtime period. As she described it after the game, she stopped the ball at the dotted line outside the circle then drove inside and delivering the goal with a shot right on the line reading what the defense was giving her. Pictures afterward did indeed show her inside circle at the moment she struck the ball. Previously American’s goal tender became co-hero of the match making 10 saves including perhaps on a winning penalty stroke in the second half. Lafayette won the battle of the stats, outshooting the Eagles 16-6 and out cornering them 9 to 7. In part due to Bryn Underwood’s career day ( it was the most saves by her in her career) the Leopards couldn’t seem to crack the American defensive wall.

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The corner offense on one of their 9 tries

The Leopards outshot the Eagles in every period but the overtime period. The second half was especially fruitful in shots as Lafayette outshot their opponent 8-2. This is the fifth consecutive loss for the Leopards against American and the third consecutive overtime loss. American now leads the PL at 1-0 along with Lehigh, and Bucknell. Four wins in the Patriot League probably would ice a spot in the playoffs. Despite the loss against the PL favorite American University, Lafayette has to be well considered going forward.

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Feliicitas Hannas rushes to get in position for the rebound

The game was a physical affair with both teams expending energy on both side of the midfield. At one point there was enough stick hacking to chop a cord of wood!! At the end of the third quarter the officials got both captains together to calm things down. At several points in the contest the officials were heard to admonish the players to calm down. There was one unusual call on a corner when the official called both sides for starting too soon????

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Molly McAndrew gets SOO close to be stopped by Underwood

Despite the outcome the Leopards will have to prepare for the next opponent who will be at Rappolt Field at 3:30 next Saturday. Their opponent, the Holy Cross Crusaders, lost to Bucknell 7-2 today. Beware, the Crusaders have a habit of surprising us when you least expect it. But this game now becomes crucial and one game the Leopards need in order to get one of those 4 or five wins to get into the tournament or a get a high seed.

We are not even halfway through the schedule and the Leopards will be showing us how good they really are!!! So one game is put to bed and we move on. GO PARDS