Handicapping A Playoff

In case you haven’t noticed, I do have a fascination for numbers. Perhaps its derived from  a career in finance, first as a foreign exchange trader on Wall Street, looking for arbitrages and later as a Treasurer of a good size bank evaluating enterprise risk. However, I have over the years also had good respect for exogenous factors that may drive unexpected outcomes. The expected result doesn’t always happen. The Nationals win the World Series, or the Eagles win the Super Bowl. The NCAA basketball tournament has its share of upsets. The “one and done” format especially, is prone to surprises.

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Lafayette breaks the Bucknell defense’s press

There are several elements to winning which I described in an earlier article. Part of winning is convincing your opponent, they can’t, which to my mind is taking away the things they do well or isolating and neutralizing a key player. So perhaps we should look at the things our potential opponents do well, and focus how each team might approach their opponent.

Teams will approach each opponent differently at different stages of the season considering variables such as injuries, weather and  venue. It will be cold on Friday. Each team has key injuries, whether they want to admit it or not, We are playing the tournament at American. It is a one year old turf which is much improved from the previous surface they owned. Their crowd size during the year was hardly overwhelming, and the first games will be played during class time.  Lafayette just played there last week, so counting practice time Lafayette would have spent four days out of the last eight on that surface by the time of the Bucknell game.

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Molly McAndrews and Sam Dimiao challenge a Bucknell midfielder

Starting with statistics ( I can’t help myself), I will use in conference stats only. They are recent and against common opponents. Scoring margin reveals American and Lafayette at first and second. American’s average is 2.50 plus and Lafayette is 2.25. Bucknell and Holy Cross are third and fifth at plus 1.67 and minus 1.17 respectively. American averages 3.33 goals per game, Bucknell 3.17 , Lafayette 2.89, and Holy Cross 2.17.

Lafayette has three shutouts and leads the field in that category, along with a goals against  average of .64 and Holy Cross’ 3.33 at the bottom. American takes 16.5 shots per game while Lafayette takes 15.83 per game, Bucknell 12.17, and Holy Cross 10.  Holy Cross has had to make 8.5 saves per game, Bucknell 3.5, Lafayette 2.67 and American 2.5.

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Cam Costello chases down a ball against Bucknell

Penalty Corners  are an important aspect in scoring for Bucknell and Lafayette. American gets 6.83 corners per game, Bucknell  5.5, Lafayette  4.67, and Holy Cross  3.33.  Lafayette must get to the circle and get corners. Last Friday they had 0 corners. Here’s why, Bucknell gets 1 goal per game on corners, Lafayette gets .83 per game, American .5 and Holy Cross .33.

Now the intangibles, and individual player stats. American has momentum having gone undefeated in the League and they are playing at home, but they have played , one goal games against Lafayette and Holy Cross. The Bucknell win was by two goals (3-1).

Noor Coenan leads the League in shots while Bucknell and Lafayette have a more diversified attack with McAndrews and Van der Geest contributing for Lafayette and Leah Fogelsanger and Britany Willwerth providing the scoring strength for Bucknell. American has Coenen at first in the League in points and Hannah Moser at 10th. Molly McAndrews is second in the league in points and Van der Geest is seventh, Bucknell has four in the top ten Fogelsanger at 5 and Kaelyn Long at 8 and Allie Christopher, and Megan Keeney tied for 10th.

Goalkeeper is the last line of defense and Lafayette’s Sarah Park leads the league in shutouts, goals against per game, and save percentage (.78).The save percentage for Holy Cross’ LaPlante is .735, Bucknell’s Olivia Haris is .70 and Fiona Minter from American is .688. Minter did not play in last week’s senior day game at American.

Each team has their solid leaders in Van der Geest, Coenen, Willwerth and LaPlante. All four teams have been here before. These teams will bring intensity, irrespective of their records. In the first games. Holy Cross must find their way to the goal cage and test the American goalkeeper. An early lead on a defense minded team may be the key to this game.  In the second game on Friday against two very similar teams Lafayette clearly must find their way to the circle to get corners and shots. They must continue their dominant defense while Bucknell will try to high press and get turnovers and keep Lafayette away from the attacking third. This game could be decided by midfielders and the transition game.

Bring your warmest clothes and be thankful we are playing in the afternoon!!  Go Pards!!!

Championship Time…..There Is No Future If You Don’t Win the Next Game

 

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Andrey Sawers battle with Kali Williams from Colgate

Eighteen games have been played and  brought Lafayette into the position to win a Championship. Winning  the game last Saturday would have been big. We would have had a crowd of about 1,000 supporters, good parking, and the team could sleep in their own beds. Unfortunately that didn’t happen…forget about it..start thinking about the NEXT game and its not American. The Leopards will be playing Bucknell, a worthy opponent and you can believe they are thinking about the 2-1 loss they had to Lafayette several weeks ago,  just as Holy Cross is thinking about their one goal loss to American about the same time.

The “learning” is over and it’s the “result” that counts from now on!!! One and done as they say. One loss and the season is over. Make no mistake about it, I believe the Leopards can win this tournament and even make a statement in the NCAA tournament, but it’s the Bucknell game at 2:30 that matters. Overall this is as fine a team Lafayette has had over the years, but Bucknell comes in with 12 straight appearances in the PL tournament. Several years ago, they were the PL regular season champion and lost to BU in the tournament at their place.

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Grace Angelella speeds down the middle of the field

There can be no walking around, free hits must be defended and executed with alacrity. Neither team can give the other time to get organized. Records don’t count anymore, only the results this weekend. Eight years ago the Leopards won the championship against Bucknell at American. A year later American met the Leopards on Rappolt field and American lost on a penalty stroke.

It doesn’t matter what sport, in whatever season, tournaments are intense. It could be a World Series, the World Cup in soccer and field hockey, or the NCAA basketball tournament. There is no next game!!

More, later this week on Bucknel,l who beat Holy Cross 2-1 this past weekend to set up the field for the tournament along with the Lehigh win over BU!!

“Talent sets the floor, character sets the ceiling”—–Bill Belichick

Biggest Game Of Year…So Far… This Weekend

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Molly McAndrews closes in on the ball

The Eagles of American University and the Leopards of Lafayette will clash in the last game of the regular season for both teams in DC on Saturday at 11 am. It will be senior day for the Eagles but no mind..this is for the regular season championship and the right to host in the Patriot League playoffs. Both teams will either be seeded one or two for the November 8th first round of two. Two days later will be the championship, which will decide who will represent the Patriot League in the NCAA tournament in the following week.

The last time the Leopards made the tournament was in 2012 when they beat the Eagles on a penalty stroke in the cold confines of Rappolt Field. This will be Lafayette’s 18th game of the season ( not counting pre-season) and American’s 16th game. American has arrived here with a 10-5 record and 5-0 in conference play, Lafayette is 11-6 also 5-0 in conference play. The third and fourth team won’t be known until after Saturday’s games.

The Leopards have played 5 ranked teams and won one ( Monmouth). They lost one to Liberty 5-0 and the played the others to overtime.  They also played Fairfield in the preseason. American on the other hand played three ranked teams and lost all of them The largest margin was Delaware in which they lost 0-4. One loss was an overtime game to ODU in a shootout. They lost to Maryland this past tuesday 0-1. So among other factors and those, Lafayette’s SOS is 9 places better.

American has scored 40 goals, and Lafayette has scored 39 playing two more games. American’s defense has allowed 1.33 goals per game while Lafayette has allowed 1.47.

Penalty corners which could play a role in the outcome is 6 per game for Lafayette against 4 for opponents. American averages 6.5 and opponents 2.6.  American’s freshman GK Fiona Minter has a 63 percent save percentage, while the Lafayette goal keeper Sarah Park has a 75% save percentage.

Both the Leopards and the Eagles have a diversified attack with the Leopards having six players with 3 or more goals and American has 5 with three or more goals. Molly McAndrews leads the Leopards with 9 goals while Noor Coenen has 14 goals on 73 shots.

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Noor Coenen is a big part of  Eagle play

Both teams are blessed with intense, committed athletes. Noor Coenen is the clear go to person on the Eagle squad. The Dutch junior can be found all over the field and in the Maryland game made her self known on the defensive side of the field. Senior Lisa van der Geest  is the leader and competitive soul of Lafayette. She has a strong stroke and a real danger on both sides of the field. She is the reigning National Defensive Player of the Week, and has scored seven goals for Lafayette.

One interesting stat I discovered while researching this article is that Noor Coenen is the leading accumulator of cards on the team….8 green and two yellow. She is an intense competitor no doubt.

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Audrey Sawers meets up with a William and Mary attacker

The team will  leave Friday morning to try the new turf at American. Coach Jennings will no doubt try to contain the Lafayette attack hoping to generate offense by interceptions and breakaways. Lafayette will  do much the same hoping to occupy the circle and get corners for opportunities to face the American GK.

It seems like a long time since the beginning of the season. Both teams have their share of bumps and bruises, but you can bet if a player can stand up, they will be giving their all on Saturday.

The Leopards have a strong, deep and tested bench which should give them some advantage and no reason to slow down during the game. It’ll be all out for both teams!! You all know where my heart is in this one. Home field is a BIG DEAL!!! GO PARDS!

Sawers Delivers To Van der Geest Who Delivers The Winning Goal Against Penn

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There was only a minute left  and the Lafayette corner defense had just stopped the Penn corner offense at 1:38 left in the game. The Leopards moved the ball quickly downfield and drew a penalty corner of their own with 1:08 left. Anna Steps sends it into play. Sawers eventually gets the ball and gets the Penn goalkeeper to move to her right exposing the left side of the goal. Sawers pushes the ball to Lisa Van der Geest who powers it to the goalkeeper’s left for the winner. Penn had one last chance, but the Leopard defense was there to finally end the game.

Lafayette is now 11-6 and the Van der Geest goal along with some outstanding defensive work sealed the 6th shut out of the season….tying the amount set in 2012 the last championship season. The win enabled  the Leopards to creep up in the field hockey corner ratings  now standing at 28th in the country in RPI.

The game looked like it would be a defensive stalemate. Both teams were coming off good in league wins the previous day. Penn had just defeated Yale 4-2 and the Leopards of course got a win over Bucknell 2-1.

Lafayette had.no penalty corners in the first half to Penn’s three. But tide turned as the Leopards earned five corners to Penn’s two in the second half. Its not like Penn wasn’t trying everything they could to turn the game in their favor.  The officials issued 9 cards to Penn to 2 for Lafayette.

Park came through with 4  saves on the game, and the  Penn goalie. stoped three of Lafayette’s four shots. Penalty corners were even, at five for each team, but Lafayette had their five in the second half while Penn had only 2 in that half.

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The bench was well used again, giving many young players valuable time on the field. They performed well especially when Anna Steps had to leave the field due to a minor injury in the first quarter. She returned later in the game. However, getting back to the bench, you can see these players gaining valuable confidence and experience right before playoff time. Coach Stone used 7 players from her bench which means 18 saw action.

Penn is a good team and was ideal competition before the long awaited showdown with American University next Saturday at 11 am for the regular season championship and the right to host the playoffs.  American will play number two ranked Maryland on Tuesday. The rest of the playoff field has yet to be decided.  Bucknell meets Holy Cross and BU will meet Lehigh. The outcome of those game will decide who plays, the seeding and who stays home!!

 

Lafayette Field Hockey Leads The League In Attendance

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Molly McAndrews eludes a VCU defender

Win Tomorrow Would Lock Up Winning Season

The Leopards will be playing Bucknell tomorrow at Rappolt Field at noon. The Leopards currently are 9-6, and a win would give the them 10 wins and a winning season no matter what happens. That is not to say a win would  also keep the Leopards in the hunt to host the Patriot League Championship Tournament.

The Field Hockey team’s success has come with notice. Our team enjoys very good fan support having 2975 fans attend their home games this fall so far. That is an average of 372 fans a game, that is 165 more fans per game than American, the next closest team in attendance in the league.

Tomorrow is an ideal day to add to that total with the soccer teams being away and football not starting until 3:30. If the Leopards get the win, they will be the FIRST Lafayette team in any sport, with a winning record in five years. I have been watching field hockey for 30 years and this team is good, maybe even very good. They have held ranked to teams to overtime games and in one case beat them. They have overcome injuries, to continue winning and they are well led. And tomorrow will be sunny I am informed. Even if they lose tomorrow they could still host having beaten Richmond while Bucknell and American lost. Lafayette will win the tiebreaker if they beat American next week..

Yes, Lafayette fans, if any team deserves support it is these young women. I do not diminish  the difficulty of tomorrow’s game, but think what a “12th” team member in the stands could do. So take your car, get the convenient bus to Metzgar and support our Leopards by being in your seat tomorrow!!!  I would hope we would see students, administrators, and faculty, join with our loyal parents, and regular fans and give these young women the support they have earned. Anything less would not be supportive of the importance of establishing a winning culture at the school!!

The stands at Rappolt can hold 750, lets fill them up!!!

After that, go back to Fisher and watch our football team make it a two-fer against the Bison tomorrow.  Go Pards

In Case You Haven’t Noticed We Are Already Into Post Season Games!!

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Junior number 20 Fogelsander had an outstanding game against Lehigh last week

As the regular season winds down in the next two weeks, teams are now positioning themselves for their championship tournaments. In the Patriot League, American and Lafayette have already qualified while Bucknell is at 3-1, Holy Cross at 2-2, and Boston University at 1-3 are still vying for the last two spots.  Boston really needs to sweep their last two games from HolyCross and Lehigh to get in. Holy Cross could split and get in with a win at Boston and maybe Bucknell. Bucknell could lock up a spot with a win and maybe even host, depending on the outcome of the American/ Lafayette game.As for American and Lafayette, if either team wins their last two games it’ll be home field advantage for the playoffs for the winners.

Each of the games this weekend has their own little story. Do not discount a Holy Cross win at Boston. A win by Holy Cross would probably knock Boston out of the playoffs for the first time since joining the league. This is a rivalry game and Holy Cross has an excellent goalkeeper, and has been playing better of late. American probably has the easier task to beat Colgate this Saturday.

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Jenn DeLongis stops the ball on a corner struck by Lisa van der Geest

 

Which brings us to the game Leopard fans are interested in. It is a home game. A win keeps Lafayette in the hunt for home field and the number one seed. A loss would drop Lafayette  to a two or three seed with home field going to either American or Bucknell depending on the final week of games. However, if the Leopards lose to Bucknell but beat American and their is 3 way tie at 4-1, Lafayette is the host to due to the Richmond win whom Bucknell and American lost to.

Bucknell games are traditionally close, hotly contested affairs with the Leopards. Lafayette holds the edge all time with Bucknell at 36-15-2 although in more recent games the record 2-4 in Bucknell’s favor the  last six years. Last year’s game at Bucknell was to end 4-1 in favor of the Bison in a driving cold rain. The previous year at Lafayette, the Leopards prevailed 1-0.

The Bison are 8-6 to Lafayette 9-6. Lafayette. has had a stronger schedule ranked 40 to 63. Lafayette has played 4 nationally ranked opponents beating one in overtime and losing to two others in overtime. Bucknell has played one, Syracuse, and lost 1-3.

 

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Molly McAndrews winds up against Boston

Taking into account that Lafayette has played one more game, the Leopards have scored about the same  goals per game 2.40 to 2.43 for Bucknell, but have held opponents to 1.53 goals per game vs 1.64 for Bucknell. The Bison take 11.5 shots per game and have given up 13 shots per game, Lafayette has 13.5 shot per game while given. up 10. Sarah Park at goalkeeping has about a 73% save percentage and Bucknell has 78% save percentage.

Goals have been spread around for Bucknell with 6 players having 4 or more goals, Lafayette has four players with 4 or more goals.The breakdown on common opponents has Lafayette beating the aforementioned Richmond against Bucknell’s loss in the common game with a different outcome. Bucknell’s leading goal scorer is Emily Doyle, with 7 for the year and Lafayette has sophomore Molly McAndrews with 8. Lafayette averages 9 corners per game while Bucknell average 8.

All in all, this is a game with consequences, Lafayette will want to stay in the hunt for the home field, and Bucknell would like to lock up a tournament berth. All the elements for a contested match on Saturday at 12 noon.

 

McAndrews Goal Sends Leopards To The Patriot League Playoffs

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Anna Steps gets by a Lehigh defender

The Lafayette Leopards became the first team in the League to qualify for post season play on the backs of a “Rivalry” win against Lehigh 1-0.  The McAndrews goal occurred at 17:09 into the game as Junior  Grace Angelella found sophomore Molly McAndrews by the circle. McAndrews drove for the circle and found an open space and delivered the game winner. It was then up to the Lafayette defense to stymie the Mountain Hawks for the rest of the game.

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A traffic jam in front of the Lehigh goal

Lehigh had a plan to high press the Leopards, and captain and defender Lisa van der Geest as well as Anna Steps found themselves surrounded by Brown uniforms but they found ways to escape and move the ball upfield, either by a long pass or by nifty stick work. The rest of the team responded to the strong Lehigh game plan as well, and the availability of a deep bench by Lafayette was a key to the win as well. Lafayette had six subs rotating into the game while Lehigh had only three.

The Lehigh goalkeeper was forced to make 14 saves as Lafayette had 18 shots, 15 of them on goal. In addition, Lafayette had 4 corners to Lehigh’s 3, one of which occurred in the last minuteandwas off its mark. Senior Cam Costello had a team high 5 shots.

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A Lafayette player ( Cam Costello??) goes all out

Lehigh used an aggressive high press for most of the game in a  remarkable display of fitness. But Lafayette had the skill today, as they gave few opportunities to Lehigh to mount an effective offense.  This is the fifth “Rivalry” game in row to end with a one goal margin.

I have to admit I had this game mentally circled all season long and realized it could be the key to the season. Although there are 4 regular season games left, two of them will be league games with Bucknell at home and American in DC. A sweep would give the Lafayette the regular season championship, and they would host the two game tournament, to determine who will move on to the national NCAA tournament.

The other two games, one will be at home, Sunday, senior day against William and Mary and next week, aside from the Bucknell game at home there will be a game at Penn the following day.

 

Leopard’s Intent On Avoiding “Deja Vu All Over Again”

The quote “Deja Vu all over again,” is attributed to the famous New York baseball player and manager Yogi Berra. Aside from his baseball talent, Berra is remembered for his English malapropisms, which endeared him to his fans. Other quotes, “It ain’t over til it’s over,” “nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded,” and , “if you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else.”  The quote in the title of this article is apt, in that everyone remembers two years ago, traveling to Lehigh and suffering a 1-0 overtime loss.

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The statistics were all in Lafayette’s favor before and after the game. I wrote two years ago,  ” Lafayette scored 18 goals on 115 shots, while Lehigh scored less…..Lafayette scores on 28 percent of its shots while 23 percent for opponents….Stength of schedule for Lafayette is rated at 43 Lehigh is at 58…blah, blah, blah.

Forget the stats, this game is a rivalry game….. WITH CONSEQUENCES!!.  The Leopards can lock up a Patriot League tournament berth, and Lehigh needs the win to stay alive in the  League race. Aside from that, it is “The Rivalry.”  Before that game in 2017 Lafayette had beaten Lehigh ten times in row. The game was played at 7 pm on a Friday before a large crowd, just like this year!! Talking to the juniors and seniors on the Lafayette side, that game is remembered well, and it is the first reference they make when talking about the “Game.”

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That same year, I attended a pregame cocktail party before the Lafayette/Lehigh football game. The first word out of the mouth of the Lehigh president was the field hockey game played weeks before. UGH!!!

The Lehigh coach mentioned yesterday, she had several key injuries and kept out those players from Sunday’s game with Lock Haven. Coach Stone wisely decided to let several of her players to continue healing as well. You can bet on either side, if they can play they will play!!!

Key players that each side will have to contend with include Drew Pecora, the fine Lehigh attacker who leads the league in goals. Captain Lisa van der Geest from Lafayette is not only a leader in goals as a defender, but she is the intellectual and inspirational leader on the field.

Weather will be cool, the intensity will be hot!!! As a diehard Leopard, I am sure the team will be thinking about the task at hand, and avoiding “Deja vu all over again.”

Steps With The Overtime Goal Beats Temple 1-0

Shorthanded, because of a controversial yellow card in regulation time, the Leopards delivered on their fourth overtime win of the season only 11 seconds into extra minutes. Play started with Molly McAndrews taking the push off herself, up the center of the field, and eventually earning the corner with only seconds having run off the clock. The Leopards lined up with 3 offensive players on the top of the circle. Ana Steps inserted the ball directly to the senior captain, Van der Geest spotted Steps on the left side of the cage in great position for the deflection……Goal and the win!!!

The goal, and the win now makes Lafayette 8-5 with arch rival Lehigh now in the way of assuring Lafayette the magic 4th win in Patriot League play, and a guaranteed ticket to  League playoffs. Lehigh would likely be eliminated from the playoffs, with a loss resulting   in 4 losses in League play.

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It has been a season where Lafayette continues to come up on top, despite adversity, finding a way to win. In this case, several Lafayette players sat out the game with injuries but the depth,  and character of this team shined through when needed. The additional benefit was a chance to display their versatility. Preparing against this Lafayette team will be a challenge, because anyone could be a difference maker.

Sara Park was again magnificent in goal, with three crucial saves but more importantly, she stepped up to turn away the ball even before a shot could be taken. Temple tried several times to feed attacking players on breakaways and a long passes. Park and the defense were ready to again earn a shutout.

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Costello and DiMaio combine to move the ball upfield

Steps was active all game, displaying her skills at crucial moments. What more can be said of Lisa van der Geest, not only an exceptional player but clearly the leader on the field. Articulate, confident, bright and skilled, this is team is molded around her.

Junior Audrey Sawers was to  show a calmness under fire on both defense and offense.

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Sawers looks for a friendly reciever

There has been exceptional help from key freshmen, like Sydney Woolston, who plays like a veteran every game in the Leopards talented backfield. We can’t forget the senior cadre of DiMaio who provides spark and speed, Cam Costello who can play defense and offense with calm efficiency, Jenn DeLongis who shows her field presence and ability to execute under pressure, and Caroline Turnbull whose scrappy play close to the goal can light up the team with goals and energy.  Add  the aforementioned Park and Van der Geest and this is a team to be reckoned with.

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Sydney Woolston shows her form

This was a scrappy Temple squad who battled and was aggressive and tough, not the style Lafayette usually plays against. But they would not be denied today, battling through the adversity of roster moves, controversial calls, and a determined adversary to  deliver when it counted!!!

Temple Arrives For A Sunday Matchup

The 5-5 Temple Owls will arrive at Lafayette to take on the Leopards. I delayed my pregame report to watch the Owls play Georgetown. I partly regretted the decision to pay  the $9.95 to watch the game, since it was played on Georgetown’s partially completed football field made of field turf. Georgetown must be the only Division One team still playing on this turf, since Villanova built their new field a couple of years ago. The game was particularly slow, and provide little insight to Temple’s overall tactics. However, I did watch Temple’s game with UCONN and I did see some similarities and tendencies.

Temple opened the game by trying to use ariels to move the ball down the field in both games. However, in both games their opponents were able to establish time of possession early on. UConn scored in bunches, while at Georgetown, Temple’s offense consisted of numerous penalty corners, seven alone in the second quarter.  Looking at their stats, Temple has scored 14 goals in 10 games, most of them on corners. On their 14 corners in the game, by my count, they only had 3 or 4 shots. Before today they averaged 1.33 shots per game on corners with a .13 shot percentage. That is 10.2 shots per game total before today.

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Grace Angelella speeds down the middle of the field

Temple’s wins have been against first year division one team Merrimack 3-0, LaSalle 3-0, Bryant 2-0, Drexel 3-2 ( coach Sciufo’s alma mater), and today, Georgetown in overtime 2-1. Characteristically Temple got an early lead on a penalty corner, but Georgetown scored with 2 minutes left. The overtime goal was on a cross when the Georgetown defender slipped in front of the cage and left space for the winning golden goal by Temple.

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Anatomy of a goal….the finish!!!

Temple holds a 22-10-2 record against the Leopards and last year beat the Leopards 3-2 l on one of their 2 wins of the season. (the other being Georgetown). Can Temple’s defense hold back an emerging high powered Lafayette offense? Lafayette has not played since last Sunday in their 6-0 shutout of Bryant.

Dani Baetz is Temple’s leading goals scorer with three. Their goalkeeper Caratenudo has a save percentage of around 67 percent. The Temple head coach was an assistant at Lehigh and also a star player for Drexel, so she will know Lafayette well.