A Post Script

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

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

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

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

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Building A Worthy Infrastructure To Match The Effort On The Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fourteen Seconds Adds To Lafayette Field Hockey Lore

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Alden Boccella lines up a pass

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

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Filine Gerbandij fights for possession

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

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McAndrews goes after the ball

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

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Spaans outruns the Bucknell defense

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

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

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Offense Player of the Year Audrey Sawers shows some offense

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

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

Why I Love The Leopards This Post Season

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Hefting was there when needed

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

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

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Spaans uses her moves

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

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

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

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Filene Gerbandij know how to get around a Drexel defender

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

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

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

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

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Sawers Scores OT2 Goal With Spaans Assist

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Audrey Sawers shows her stuff to Bucknell

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

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Spaans uses her moves

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

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Talkow intercepts ball

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

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

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

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Hefting was there when needed

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

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Mackenzie Hall makes her self known to Bucknell

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

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

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

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Filene Gerbandij know how to get around a Drexel defender

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking : Audrey Sawers Named To Canadian National Team

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

Leopards Get Gutsy Win Against Temple

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Hailey Abbott combines with teammate forming a wall by the goal

Still nursing wounds both psychic and physical, the Lafayette Field Hockey Team used their depth and skill to get an emotional win against a senior day opponent. Temple. TheBig East foe pulled out all the stops but Lafayette prevailed in a 1-0 defensive battle. The Leopards led in most categories, including penalty corners 6-3, shots 14-9 and Hailey Abbott again coming up big when it counted with 4 saves, 3 in the fourth quarter.

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Mary Gould and Felicitas Hannes get into position

Lafayette’s one goal came at 18:17 into the game after a Leneke Spanns shot which rebounded off the Temple goal keeper and alertly planted in the cage by forward Molly McAndrew. The game was a team win. Lafayette used their considerable depth to get the win . Audrey Sawers had 5 shots, Spanns, McAndrew,Ralph and Alex Darrah had 2, while Alex Talkow contributed 1.

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Lafayette greets ex teammate Grace Angelella

The senior day events were notable in that Grace Angelella, Lafayette alumna was using her covid year to play and acquire her masters degree at Temple. As such she was participating as a senior in an Owls uniform. As she was introduced both the Lafayette team and their fans gave her a rousing cheer as her name was announced. Grace had one shot on goal during the game. After, there were hugs and high fives. The game was competitive until the end with Temple getting off their last shot with ten seconds left.

The unsung heroes and gutsy performance awards go to Sydney Woolston and Shea Balderson who stepped up when needed, showing great courage and determination.

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Molly McAndrew gets ready to defend

The Leopards have three games left before the Patriot League playoffs and despite the late season injuries there was a great opportunity to improve on team depth and experience. The last league  game of the season will come this Saturday against Bucknell, a co-member of the field of four for the playoffs along with American and Lehigh. What is still left to be decided are the final seeds between Lafayette, Bucknell and Lehigh. A loss on Saturday will place the Leopards in the bottom seed and will meet American in the first game on November 4th. A win will throw the seeding into tie breakers, as all three would be 4-2.

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Filine Gerbrandij sees Felicitas Hannes

Here are the League tie breakers as written:

In the case of multiple ties ( more than two teams tied for the same sport), the following process will be used: Note, the entire process for multiple team ties must be completed. The Patriot League does not revert back to the two way tie formula once the multiple team tie has been resolved.

Records between the tied teams will be evaluated to determine if one team won more contests against the other tied institutions.

Asssuming a Lafayette win over Bucknell  , all teams remain tied with a 4-2 record with one win each between the three against another

IF a tie still exists a comparison of records will be conducted for each team starting with the highest seed not involved in the tie and continuing through the lowest seed if necessary.

I assume this means PL record, but if it includes the entire record, the Leopards by far prevail with the best record, Lehigh second and Bucknell last. The Leopard would play Lehigh. Bucknell would play American.

At that point the sport specific tiebreaker kicks in

Comparison of records versus out of League common opponents. 

Temple is a common opponent and all three teams beat Temple. Villanova is a common opponent. Lafayette was the only team of the three to beat Villanova. Lafayette would then be a 2 seed. Move on to other tie beakers at this point

Goal differential between the tied team ( capping at +/- 4)

Lehigh’s loss to Bucknell puts them at a disadvantage. Lehigh would then play American in the first round.

Goal differential in all League games.

Again Lehigh at a dissadvantage

NCAA RPI rating.

At that point only Bucknell and Lehigh left.. advantage to Bucknell with Lehigh’s weaker schedule a disadvantage. Lehigh plays American, Bucknell plays Lafayette.

So I let you figure it out…but the prevailing requirement is a win against Bucknell to avoid a game against American in the first game.

Lafayette Gives Penn State All It Can Handle In 3-1 Lion Win

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Abbott making one of her 13 saves

Every goal in this game was scored on a corner as the play between the 25’s was as intense as it was skilled. Yes, the Nittany Lions outshot the Leopards 23-6 but many of the shots were not on mark, and were more of circle entries and shots taken with a hope of a deflection or redirection. The Leopard defense stood tall in the circle with Hailey Abbott turning in a career performance with 13 saves on evening.

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But it was also the defense which came up big holding Penn State to zero goals for three quarters. In fact the Leopards held a 1-0 lead going into the fourth quarter with the goal coming from a shot off a corner by Simone Hefting assisted by India Ralph and Filine Gerbrandij.

The three fourth quarter PSU goals came in the 46th, 47th, and 53rd minute by Emma Spisak, Jemma Punch, Anna Simon…all the result of corners. PSU head coach Char Morrett said after the game. “I thought we played some of out best field hockey of the year in this game.” Head Coach Jennifer Stone was proud of the effort her team made. She noted in particular her defensive line and goal keeper Abbott.

Penn State opened with a high press hoping to trap the Leopards into making mistakes and turning the ball over. The Leopards handled it well, though Penn State did manage to keep the early action on Lafayette’s side of the field.

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It was in the second half that it became obvious Lafayette was getting comfortable with the pace of the game, and they began to make threats of their own, ending in forays into the attacking circle. The Hefting goal was the highlight for the nearly 600 fans who were in attendance.

Penn State only used four subs for the entire game, while the Leopards used five. With five minutes left in the game Coach Stone pulled her goalkeeper hoping to close the gap. Abbott left the game until Audrey Sawers received a green card.with three minutes to go. The Leopards never conceded defeat, playing hard to the very end. Sawers again showed leadership. Finally Coach Morett-Curtis noted, “Lafayette came at us hard with their speed and quickness.”

The Leopards return to Rappolt Field on Sunday to meet Drexel and next Friday there will be a 7 pm Patriot League contest with arch rival Lehigh. Tonight’s performance will give both teams something to think about!!!

Lafayette Prevails In Intense Patriot League Clash

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In the course of a winning season successful teams must adjust and compensate for many adverse circumstances. The Leopards did all of that on this Saturday afternoon. Sometimes its more than overcoming the other team.  Obstacles can be a long bus ride, windy weather, a bouncy turf, or officials and their style of calling a game. All those were in play as the Leopards beat the Boston Terriers in Boston 3-1.

In the case of the Terriers, it was pride in defending a successful program and digging a hole in front of Patriot League post season play, and for the Leopards it was the construction of a path  for securing that berth in the post season schedule.

It was up to freshman Lineke Spanns to set the tone early, as she delivered on a early reverse stick shot 4:04 into the game and established an early lead for the Leopards. She was to be involved all game long as the Terriers struggled with her speed and aggressive play. When it seemed like the Terriers were about to tip the balance in their favor, it was Spanns who was make life difficult for them in a break out with red shirted opponents trying to keep up with her.

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It was also the leadership of Audrey Sawers and attention given to her, that settled the often intense battle as the Leopards had to contend with a bouncy turf. After 43 minutes following the Spanns goal there was a defensive battle led by Simone Hefting and a strong performance by civil engineering defender Sydney  Woolston, who dug in constructing a wall in front of the goal for the Leopards.

Boston’s Thalia Steessens  at 47: 23, was able to find an opening, gathering a rebound locking the score at 1-1. But  Sawers was to answer right back off a corner, assisted by  Spanns and inserter India Ralph, giving the Leopards the 2-1 lead. The Leopards, over the course of game, collected 3 green cards. So for 10 percent of the game  were they were playing a player short.

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In a desperate attempt to tie the game with 3 minutes to go, the Terriers pulled their goalie. At one point with nearly a minute left, the Leopards were to be called for not putting the ball in play quickly enough ( a call I have never seen in 30 years of watching division one hockey). In addition, the Leopards were called awarding a corner to Boston. Again the defense stood tall allowing Molly McAndews to deliver the “coup de grace” on an open goal at 59:26.!!!

Leopards now have a firm grasp on the post season tournament with only one more in conference win to assure them of a place. The Leopards will meet Ivy League foe Brown University tomorrow in Providence RI!

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!!!!

At Some Point It’s All About The Little Things

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An athlete trains to become faster and stronger. They learn the elements of their sport, and when it finally comes to game time you may come up to an opponent who is equally as strong and fast. It’s at that point where the “little things” begin to matter. It may just be in the execution, a funny bounce of the ball, or even an officiating mistake. But often you hear an athlete explain their performance afterward as using their “instinct,”

Let me say upfront, I do not believe in instinct, but instead I see it as the ability to detect the intentions of your opponent through a “tell.” Maybe its the eyes of the opponent to give away intentions, or a repeated movement that gives away the next pass or shot. Often times you hear of defensive backs in football who are not only watching the person they are guarding but watching the quarterbacks eyes to see where he intends to pass. As a counter, the best quarterbacks learn to “look off” receivers to fool the defender.

In field hockey, the better goalkeepers look where the shooter means to place the ball. The shooter on the other hand will look to deceive the goaltender by looking one way and placing the ball somewhere else. One of the improvements in Lafayette’s play has been their ability to place passes where their teammate will be, rather than passing directly……….one of the little things. Deception is an important part of any game, and Field Hockey is no exception. Yes, you can overwhelm an opponent with speed and strength, but with two equally prepared teams sometimes the unexpected deception can be the difference. Consider the words of Noor Coenen as she described her winning goal last Saturday. She placed herself on the dashed line. The ball on the corner was delivered to her on the insertion. At that point the corner is officially over having reached the dashed line and the restrictions on the height of the ball on a subsequent shot is no longer operative. She is free to flick or lift using, as she said in her words, ” whatever the defense is giving me.” It’s an example of the little things.

Right now the Patriot League is bifurcated into two groups. Bucknell’s dominating win on Saturday certainly puts them in the upper group. Lehigh’s win should alert the Leopards that their game with Lehigh combined with the Rivalry emotions makes it competitive. The final emersion into the playoffs may well depend on doing the” little” things well.

Lafayette is refining their play. Half this team did not play in a college game before the season. They are a work in progress for this talented group. They will be better in the end than the beginning and I am sure their opponents will take notice.

I sincerely believe this Lafayette team may the best that has ever arrived on the Hill and is filled with excellent athletes and skillful players with the desire to win, but a championship in the end could be decided on who can deliver “little” things to the field of play. ( And maybe a win against ranked opponents like Rutgers and Penn State). The Leopards may well see American again before the end of the season, and for this fan I will look forward to it,