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,

Leopards Travel To DC For Opening League Contest

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The Leopards will meet the Eagles for the third time this calendar year for the opening game of the 2021 Patriot League season. The previous three meetings have resulted in losses by one goal, the last game being a loss on a controversial penalty stroke in the second overtime period. It will be American’s first home game of the current season and the two teams sport records that promises this will be a very competitive game as usual.

Lafayette has played six games against good competition as has American in their five games to date. So we will concentrate on the per game statistics. Lafayette sports a 5-1 record and American is 3-2. Lafayette has 2.83 goals per game while holding their opponents to 1 goal per game. American has 1.8 goals per game and holding their opponents to the same number per game. Lafayette takes 14.6 shots per game against giving up 7.6 per game for the competition. American takes also take slightly more than 14 per game and gives up 11.4 per game. Lafayette averages about 7 penalty corners and gives up 4. American earns 6.5 corners per game and gives up 4 per game. Lafayette’s shot percentage is 19 percent while holding opponents to 12 percent. American’s shot percentage is 12 1/2 percent while giving up 15.6 percent. Shots on goal by opponents is 46 percent for the Leopards and 54 percent for the Eagles.

American scores most of their goals in the first period while Lafayette scores an equal amount in the first and second period. Lafayette earns most of their corners in the second period and American also earns the. most corners in the first, but gives up the same amount in the second.

So what can we glean from the data? Clearly the second period is the most crucial for both teams, but Lafayette has a slight edge in first period goals. The Leopards defensive unit will play a key role, while their offense may be a crucial in the first half in forcing the Eagles out of their defensive sets.

Lafayette has thee players who have scored the most goals McAndrews, Sawyers, and Hannes. Noor Coenen has scored three goals on 23 shots and is clearly the go to player for the Eagles. The rest of the goals are spread among six other players with single scores to their credit.

I like our strong midfield in this one, led by Audrey Sawers but I am sure American has already figured that out. American has had no shutouts this season while the Leopards have had 3.

These are two very well coached teams so it should be exciting for fans to watch and is certainly the “game of the week” in the Patriot League. I will be watching closely on American offensive corners, and I see a few surprises by the Leopards!!! So at 11 am Saturday…see you there/ or on ESPN plus!! Post Script: Neither team is ranked in the NFHCA poll while Lafayette is tabbed 20th and American at 25th on the Bolster Field Hockey ELO rankings.

Lafayette has announced for home games that evidence of vaccination is required for admission or a negative Covid test no later than 72 hours before the contest. Masks will also be required.

Lafayette Bests The Quinnipiac Bobcats 2-0

Defense Shines In Shutout

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Lafayette struck for two goals in the first half. The first was beauty by Molly McAndrew at 5:!4 in the first quarter off a rebound. It was the fifth goal of the season for the senior captain who is a threat every time she touches the ball! The goal followed a penalty corner shot by Co-Captain Audrey Sawers.The Bobcat GK stopped the shot as it rebounded back into the circle when McAndrews found the handle and delivered it back to the cage and beyond the goal keepers reach.

The second goal came 10 minutes later in the second quarter as first year player India Ralph took a. pass from Sawers again during a penalty corner to make the score 2-0. The team was playing like a machine, changing offensive sets, confusing the Bobcat defense, all the while getting off 17 shots during the afternoon game, and earning 11 corners. Quinnipiac only managed 3 shots and two corners all day. There were no shots on goal for Quinnipiac while Lafayette managed 7.

In order to play for Jennifer Stone you must play defense regardless of your position, and play they did!!! Quinnipiac only managed to squeeze off their first shots by the 4th quarter and two of them came off their penalty corners which also didn’t happen until the final minutes. The defense is led by Simone Hefting who is normally in position to start play from the backfield. Defender Sydney Woolston seems to be everywhere plugging holes when needed!! Lineke Spanns continues to excite even on the defensive side of the field stopping play and turning it into an attack! Mary Gould is solid and can be seen inserting on offensive corners when needed. Shea Balderson had 23 productive minutes in the game. Alex Darrah was effective in 26 minutes. In all cases, the team did not lose a step no matter who was in the game!!!

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Eighteen players saw action and only the injured and the two reserve goal keepers were on the sideline,

The Leopards must now prepare for their first Patriot League contest in Washington, DC against the Eagles of American University who beat a very good UMass team today 3-2 in overtime. The last meeting with the Leopards was in spring and ended in a controversial penalty stroke goal in overtime. The previous game was at Lafayette which also was won by American by one goal. The year before in the PL playoffs American won 3-2 after Lafayette had the first goal and American responded with three straight goals before Lafayette scored their second goal with 48 seconds to go!!

The game is to start at 11 am and I hope the team is traveling the day before to be ready for this important meeting. This should be game filled with tension and exceptional play. But more about that later this week.

First Year Players Spanns And Schumacher Score In Overtime Thriller

Spanns Scores To Deliver Overtime Win

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Lineke Spanns delivered the game winning goal as the Leopards took a 2-1 overtime win against a very fast and skilled Yale squad. It was an intense and entertaining game for fans as they were treated to a display of fine hockey from both sides. However, aside from the final score Lafayette was to garner many stats.

They led in corners 11-1 and shots 16-3, as the defense rose to the occasion, while Lafayette’s goalkeeper, Hailey Abbott was take home her 4th win and was required to make only one save on the night.

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The final goal was a thing of beauty as Lafayette stars, Molly McAndrews, Audrey Sawers brought the ball to the circle in the 7 on 7 overtime. It looked like Yale was to take the ball away, when Leneke Spanns picked the pocket of the Yale defender and delivered a shot to the right corner ending the game early in the OT period.

Lafayette’s first goal was to come at the 11:51 mark in the third quarter by Schumacher, using a tip in after receiving a reverse sweep pass from senior Audrey Sawers. It was the rookie’s first goal of her collegiate career.

That lead was not to last for long, as only 20 seconds had elapsed when Yale’s Lena Ansari found the back of goal, evening the score once again. The score was to remain knotted for the remainder of regulation at 1-1.

This team showed again and again their determination and ability to overcome diversity. From a fans point of view, there are so many talented Leopard players that the exceptional has become the common. Sawers is the leader out there no doubt, and it’s a privilege to watch such emerging talents like Spanns and Schumacher perform on the field. One should not forget the efforts and talents of the whole team.

There was an active and enthusiastic crowd at the game consisting of parents, siblings and students. In addition, there was a plethora of administrators and faculty in attendance along with President Nicole Hurd and her husband!!!

On to New England where Quinnipiac awaits the Leopards for their next game. I expect we will travel well, as the saying goes. 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

Lafayette Loses Heartbreaker To Ohio State In Overtime 4-3

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There were three moments in this game I thought we had the win. The Leopards put on a terrific offensive and defensive display in the first half. Lafayette took 5 shots to Ohio State’s 1 in the first two periods and connected for two goals. The first goal was belonged to Sawers with a Molly McAndrew assist, in a cross in front of the cage, a mere 23 seconds into the second period. The second goal came from Felicitas Hannes with 6 minutes left in the half. The Leopards struck multiple times with sudden bursts of offense, putting Ohio State on their heels at the half, down 2-0.

At the time, I thought…we got this!! But to State’s credit they came out determined, scoring their first of two goals in the second period at 31:16. We still have the lead, said I. But at 43:09 Megan McKenna, off a give and go planted the tying goal in the lower right. There was a reason a 2-0 score was called the most dangerous score in field hockey. Tied it was, to remain for the remainder of the quarter.

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It was four minutes into the fourth quarter and Molly McAndrew hit a redirect from Felicitas Hannes making it 3-2 Lafayette’s favor….we got this I said to myself… for the second time. Just hold on for 11 minutes!! But with six minutes left in the game a foul was committed, and a yellow card was pulled out by the official. That meant for the last six minutes the Leopards were to be one player short for five minutes of those minutes. Then the Buckeyes were to increase their firepower, by pulling the goaltender, making their offensive set a 2 player advantage. Emma Goldean was to hit on a goal with less than four minutes left in the game and three minutes on the penalty. Three minutes later the buzzer sounded and it was overtime ahead.

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The ball was to go back and fourth across the midline during most of the 10 minute overtime, with Ohio State getting several corners in the process. However with a number of breakaways, Lafayette seemed to ready to strike a final blow. Molly McAndrews seems to score it after going one on one with goaltender…goal. we got this!!!…..maybe not. Ohio State called for a video review and the goal is reversed, and the two teams play on into a second overtime. This time at 4:53 into the second overtime, Megan McKenna from Ohio State hits for the winning goal!!

It’s hard to say Lafayette deserved the win. But they played hard in an epoch effort, against a ranked opponent. The Leopards are a good team with good coaching, and if they are as smart as I think they are, this team could go far. There are 15 games left. They should not forget this game, but learn from it, and make themselves better. I believe in them, and would bet a lot of money they will be the better for it.

Now onto their second Big Ten opponent on Sunday, Indiana.

It All Begins Thursday

The Lafayette field hockey team will climb into their vehicle on Thursday for a 1 pm meeting. It will be the first competition of the fall season, albeit an exhibition game. The Delaware Blue Hens were the winners of CAA tournament and went to the NCAA  tournament, only to lose in the first round to Northwestern 1-4. On the way to the tournament they accumulated a 6-4 record with numerous post season award winners and gaining a wealth of experience along the way.

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Femke Strien will need to be marked

They are picked to finish second in the CAA and the game with Lafayette is their only preseason contest. However, there is a lot experience returning to a fall with none more important than graduate student Femke Strien from the Netherlands  a second team all-American ( number 21). She was also named pre-season player of the year. JMU is the team picked to win it all.

Looking over Delaware’s schedule, it is sprinkled with ranked teams. Princeton, Harvard, American, ODU, JMU and others are highlighted in their very aggressive 18 game schedule.

Lafayette will be playing a second preseason game with Albany on Sunday. For we fans, we will see a very skilled team that has yet to play together. I will be looking at our ability to counter attack and how many good shots we can get off during the afternoon!!

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Audrey Sawers is returning for her fifth year and will be the leader on the field. However, Simone Hefting, Sydney Woolston, and Molly McAndrew will provide experience and skill for the Leopards.

Looking forward to it all!