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

Who To Believe….A Poll Or A Rating??

One of the neat occupations of sports fans is to follow the rankings of their favorite teams. It provides occupation and conversation as to who is better before the actual teams meet. What game is an upset, betting lines are established in some sports, recruiting in colleges is effected, and Bowl matchups are decided, as is seeding in tournaments on the basis of polls and ratings.

A poll is basically a survey of people who should know the relative strength of teams. Polls are subject to bias since the respondents may only see teams within their own conference or region. The NFHCA produces a poll every two weeks in field hockey. It is a survey of coaches and relies on respondents that may or may not be the same every polling period. Each conference uses a preseason poll of SID’s and coaches who may or may not be influenced by past games and familiarity with other teams in the conference.

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Woolston and Boccella charge stop a Villanova corner

In many sports there are mathematical rating systems which use statistical algorithms to arrives at an unbiased result. It relies on observations of actual games and assigning values based on actual results. It’s weakness is early in the season where the observations are small it can be unreliable. Fans of other sports will recognize the Sagarin system as a rating system for football and basketball.

The rating system used in field hockey is used by Chip Rogers and appears in fieldhockeycorner.com and has not been published as yet since I believe he thinks not enough game have been played. Chip calculates a team’s RPI, Strength of Schedule, Margin of Victory, and other variables to come up with a variety of rankings.

Recently BolsterFieldHockey.com is publishing rankings on a running schedule and uses a system based on the ELO SYSTEM. It is a system based on the efforts of Arpad Elo who developed his approach to rank chess players. Elo was professor of physics at Marquette University and a chess master. In 1960 he developed his system to replace the Harkness Rating system and was approved by the United States Chess Federation.

Eventually his system was adopted by association soccer, American football, basketball, major league baseball, table tennis, and several e-sports. An Elo rating is a comparative rating and is valid within the pool where it was established. So you can’t measure the rating between UNC field hockey and the Dutch National team.

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Hefting delivers the ball downfield

I now come to my final point. The Elo system results can be different than a NFHCA poll. In fact it’s more likely than not. However, it does produce a result I like. ( Is my bias showing). BolsterFieldHockey.com ranks LAFAYETTE 24th in the nation this week whereas in the poll Lafayette does not appear in the Top 25.

Now… about those games with Yale and Quinnipiac this weekend!!!!

As a post script Colgate has cancelled their second game because of Covid restrictions. They have rescheduled this game with Cornell. They are down to 14 games this season. Holy Cross lost to Vermont in their rescheduled game from Sunday

Three Patriot League Out Of Conference Games Postponed Due To Covid Protocols

While Lafayette was in Columbus, Ohio on Sept fifth beating Indiana, three other Patriot League team postponed their game due to Covid protocols. Holy Cross was to play at Vermont, Colgate was to host Lock Haven and American was to play their first home game with William and Mary. All cited Tier 1 protocols as the reason. Tier 1 is described as consisting of individuals for whom physical distancing and/or face coverings are not posible or effective during athletic training or competition, including student athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials.

It was indicated that the problem occurred within Holy Cross and the Colgate programs, while William and Mary pointed out the problem was within their field hockey team and swimming teams. William and Mary said the field hockey team would be able to continue practicing and resume games this week. Holy Cross will play their game with Vermont today, September 7th. Both the American/William and Mary and the Colgate/Lock Haven games have yet to set a date for rescheduling.

If the American game is not rescheduled it will leave American with only 15 games ( you need 13 to qualify for the NCAA’s) and the Lafayette game, will not only be their first Patrtot League game, but American’s home opener.

Meanwhile Leopards collected most the hardware as a result of their outstanding work this weekend. Audrey Sawers was the outstanding Patriot League Offensive player for her goals and assists and Haile Abbott was the outstanding Goalkeeper for the second week in a row which included another shut out for her!! In addition, Simone Hefting was named honorable mention for her defensive work.

The NFHCA poll came out today. I thought Lafayette had a shot at cracking the top 25. In my opinion it’s probably the weakest and most political of the polls. I did see some on there who we would give a hard game. Delaware is still there, as is Maine and JMU. Ohio State dropped from the list. Several year ago I wrote about the pools and likened the struggle for recognition like the song from Aretha Franklin….RESPECT. It sort of became a theme for the rest of the year. Maybe its time to drag it out again.

Meanwhile Yale pulls into Rappolt Friday evening and Quinnipiac is hosting Lafayette on Sunday. These are two opportunities for Lafayette to earn some more RESPECT.

Lafayette Dominates In 4-0 win Against Indiana

Playing against their second BIG TEN opponent in three days the Leopards took on the undefeated Hoosiers from the University of Indiana. It wasn’t as if Indiana had played the Little Sisters of the Poor to arrive at Columbus with that zero in the loss column. There was a quality win against a pretty good Miami of Ohio team last week that made me take notice.

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Taking that all into consideration, this was an outstanding performance by Lafayette. The Leopards took multiple shots on goal led by captain Audrey Sawers who had 7 shots, with two of them finding the back of the net. She also had 2 assists demonstrating her versatility, leadership, and skill. It was teammate Molly McAndrew who started off the scoring in the first quarter, hitting on a goal in one of 3 shots during the game. Felicitas Hannes had the fourth goal and the “coup de grace” to ice the game for the Leopards off a Sawers feed.

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McAndrews breaks away

In total, the Leopards were to outshoot the Hoosiers 17 to 7, scoring a goal in each period. They had 10 shots in the second period alone. Meanwhile they out cornered Indiana 9-6. Haile Abbott put in another sterling effort with 2 saves and earns the shutout. The Leopards earned this one after a disappointing loss on Friday. But the coaches and the team demonstrated their character and inner strength. They next take on Yale at Rappolt Field on Friday!!

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Lafayette AD Freeman To Report To College President

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Lafayette has finally given up the last vestige of “Williams envy,” by having the Athletic Department a part of the President’s cabinet. Most if not all Division one schools recognize the importance of athletics in fostering and nurturing a community culture. Twenty percent of the student body at Lafayette are inter-collegiate athletes and it represents a central activity for attracting alumni back campus.

A successful athletic department can be an advertisement for the college name, and allow it to publicize it’s many other attributes. Lafayette’s unique posture as an undergraduate college willing to reach, makes a statement not only to promote itself internally, but make it’s name more readily known to applicants, employers and other potential supporters.

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For years, alumni have heard from successive administrations comparing Lafayette to Williams or Amherst. This act is a statement and recognition by President Hurd, and the Board of Trustees to move our posture to a more consistent level internally, and externally. We are now more like our brethren in the Patriot and Ivy League, than Nescac or the Centennial Conference.

Previously, the department was attached to Student Life, and the AD reported to VP Annette Diorio. VP Diorio was fully supportive of the move in a statement released by the school, recognizing this was a more appropriate structure for a Division One school.

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Nearly 25 years ago President Arthur Rothkopf wanted Lafayette to move to Division 3 but was stopped by outraged alumni. That era has officially now been buried, and the athletic department can get on with it’s mission of creating leadership opportunities for it’s students, and becoming a unifying internal engine for community identification.

This is a demonstration that President Nicole Hurd was not going to let the grass on College Hill grow too long before she takes charge. She is in charge. Well done Madam President!!