2022 Class Announced For Lafayette

Yesterday I covered the beginning of the announcement of the incoming class for Lafayette Field Hockey with Josephine van Wijk. This morning the rest of this group of 8 outstanding athletes have been revealed.

Mackensie Switzer

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Mackensie will add her 5’9″ frame to the roster. She has great defensive skills that were noted in the state championship tournament. She was mentioned in the Max Field Hockey watch list which list the top players in the country. She is celebrated as a first team all state player and just for emphasis, is a black belt in Karate and plays the guitar!!

Catalina Robel

Catalina comes to Lafayette by way of Atlanta,Ga but her roots are in Buenos Aries, Argentina. She attended the Washington School and played for the Atlanta FHC. She is advertised as a striker/midfielder and has exhibited strong stick and scoring skills. The 5’6″ athlete played for Gimnasia y Eqima de Buenos Aries where she no doubt picked up her strong reverse stick shot.

Aimee Hoefnagel

Amiee hails from Rotterdam and comes as a midfielder, but has demonstrated her versatility as a five sport athlete, Field Hockey, Tennis, Gymnastics, Alpine Skiing and Sailing. She was selected to train with the Dutch National U 18 team.

Peyton Guinter

Peyton attended Archbishop Spalding and played her club hockey at Freedom. At 5’7 she was a !st team all conference nominee, while cited as the 4th highest scorer in the state. Her coaches describe her as a driven team player, and will add to the strength of the Leopards this fall!!

Raphaela Fragomeni

Raffi will travel all the way from Mountain Lakes. N.J. to attend Lafayette this fall to be Goal Keeper in this first year class. She holds the county record for career saves at 393. This past fall she had a game in which she had 32 saves against Randolph, only to lose 1-0. She was an all state Group one selection and named a Max 100 selection.

We look forward to welcoming her this fall as she starts a career that will no doubt add to Leopard successes.

Hannah Findlay

Hannah Findlay will have the longest trip of this class. Hannah will come all the way from New Zealand and bring with her a host of on the field skills. She was selected for the New Zealand U 18 development squad as well as the best all around female athlete in senior High School.

Her stick skills were evident in her club play. I think she will find her place early this August as the Leopards prepare for the season!!!

Ellie Barton

Coming to Easton from Concord Massachusetts, Ellie shows a profile that is similar to her classmates. She is a multisport athlete also playing ice hockey and lacrosse. She loves the Bruins, and her Middlesex and club coaches describe as coachable and intense.

Viewing her videos certainly shows her intensity, intercepting passes, and taking shots. She is also disciplined, as she finds a way to get open or to pass to her teammates. No doubt she will enjoy the Leopards New England swing to Yale and Holy Cross as well as home games with Quinnipiac and Boston U.

Along with yesterday’s article on Josephine van Wijk, that is Lafayette’s class of 2026. They will all be traveling beginning in August…… a short 60 days away. The team has no doubt received a training schedule and along with the intense preparation in August, will be ready for the first pre season game at Lafayette against Monmouth at 1 pm on August 17. Start running everyone!!!!

Leopards Finish Strong In Spring Contest

It was a tale of two teams as Lafayette started out as cold as the north wind that was blowing across the field at St. Joseph’s. It was a three way series of contests between Lafayette, St. Joseph and Penn State. By the the end of the day the light went on for Lafayette and they demonstrated why their Patriot League opponents will have a lot to think about this fall.

The first two contests between Lafayette and Penn State and later St. Joe’s had the Hawks and Nittany Lions setting the speed and pace of the game. However, by the end of the day the Leopards went into high gear scoring and winning one game with Penn State and getting numerous shots against the Hawks of St. Joes.

Lafayette was finally getting fast breaks and beating the high press their opponents continued to throw at them. It gave this fan a peek of the Leopard team potential.

Everyone was to contribute and our forwards took their legs into high gear until mid afternoon. The Leopards sprint on the field seemed to coincide with the sun which finally came out, as the Leopards were to show their ability.

The day ended with a sudden death overtime 7×7 followed by a shootout with St Joes which the Leopards took.

The next game is with Big Ten opponent Rutgers at 7 pm on Friday.

What Is Required At The “Next” Level

As our young players move from high school to college, the level of hockey continues to improve as many high schools and now universally, clubs, play on turf. At the club level in particular, skills are acquired that can be used in college, as the short water based turf at clubs is more akin to the turf that is used at all division one schools.

Like most sports at the Division one level and beyond, the defining skill for success on the field is speed and the acquisition of receiving skills. The players are faster, the ball is faster, reaction time is faster and increasingly, awareness on the field includes anticipation of not only where your teammate or opponent are on the field, but most importantly where they will be.

Passes are made to give your teammate a lead in full stride much like a football quarterback will lead his wide receiver. On defense the anticipation of movement will lead to opportunities for fast breaks and turning a defensive effort into an offensive scoring threat. It’s a beautiful thing to see when executed in any sport, and often time defines success at each level. Stand still and get beaten at any level. Coach Stone’s emphasis on fitness is the foundation for being able to play the game at a high level. Without fitness, movement will not be possible. She is trying to give all her players experience with top teams who play at a championship level. Spring gives everyone a chance to reach the “next” level and test themselves.

This spring Lafayette will meet St Josephs, Penn State, Rutgers, Penn and, Delaware. All will play at an increasing pace and Lafayette will be learning to play at the pace that defines the “next level.”

This Saturday the Leopards will traveling to St. Josephs and will also play Penn State. Both teams were NCAA tournament participants. Each “game” will be 2 full quarters with 2 minutes between quarters. So 30 minutes of playing. It will be a total of 42 minutes between game start times. The day starts at 11 with St Joes and Penn State. Lafayette plays Penn State at 11:42 and St. Joes at 12:24. Lafayette will next play at 1:48 against Penn State and follow with St. Joes at 2:30.

There is a final game with St Joe’s starting at 3:12. It’s an interesting day for Lafayette and an opportunity for Lafayette to improve their pace and speed.

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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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.

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!

Felicitas Hannes Gets The Hat Trick And Talkow Adds Two To Give The Leopards A 5-1 Victory

Lafayette demonstrated a diverse attack, as two Leopards added goals in career high efforts against Colgate this afternoon. Junior Felicitas Hannes got the first “hat trick” of her career, and senior Alix Talkow added two goals to bring her career and senior goal total to three.

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Talkow opened the scoring in the first quarter at the 9:02 mark getting a feed from Audrey Sawers  and Lineke Spanns. She had located herself on the right side the goal as the Colgate GK moved to her right. This left her left side exposed and Talkow planted the ball right in the unoccupied space putting Leopards up 1-0.

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The 1-0 lead was to reamain until Colgate committed a foul in the circle that stopped a sure goal. This put Filicitas Hannes on the line. She deftly directed  the shot passed the goalkeeper which gave the Leopards a 2-0 lead going into the half.

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Felicitas was to prove she could score from the field as she was to use her tipping skills, delivering the third goal of the afternoon and her second score. She received help from Simone Hefting and  Ariel Schumacher. Colgate was not done though as they scored a goal at 40:25 following a breakaway. The score narrowed to 3-1.

The fourth quarter saw the Leopards put the game away as Hannes completed her “hat trick” with her second penalty stroke and Talkow getting her second goal of the day which was assisted by Audrey Sawers.

The Leopards were to make another statement  allowing only 5 shots all afternoon. The offense went into high gear by delivering 25 shots in the game. Aside from the 5 goals from Hannes and Talkow, McAndrew had three shots, Filene Gerbrandij had one, Spannes had two, Bocella had one, Hefting had three, and Alex Darrah had one.

Goal Keeper Hailey Abbot had only to make one save, and had one goal against her. Colgate had 9 saves on the afternoon.

One hundred and seventy two fans showed up, including 3 from president Hurd’s family who hasn’t missed a home game this season.Fir this game she was occupied with a BOT meeting, but her husband Bill brought her shoes to register her attendance in spirit. The magic continued!!!!

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The Leopards will take on Fairfield tomorrow at two o’clock in search of their 8th victory and to remain undefeated at home.

Colgate Arrives Saturday To Meet The Leopards

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There is no way to soft peddle it, Colgate is having a difficult season. They will arrive here at 0-6 to meet the 6-2 Leopards. They have played two less games than Lafayette due two games that were cancelled earlier in the season. Their most recent game was a 7-2 loss to Lehigh in a Patriot League game last Saturday.

This is the heart of the season where things start to come together and get serious about qualifying for post season play. Colgate will have a hard time reaching that goal without a Patriot League win this Saturday. Colgate’s ratings are disappointing. Bolster Power Rating has them ranked 74 as opposed to Lafayette’s 24. Field Hockey Corner’s ratings of ACR ( average computer rating), RPI ( relative power index ) and SOS ( strength of schedule) favor Lafayette except in the SOS where Colgate ranks 17 compared to Lafayette’s 38. Lafayette’s ACR is 25 vs the Raiders 74 and RPI for Lafayette is 21 vs 72 for Colgate.

Actual statistics tell much the same story. The Colgate offense scores 1.05 goals per game while Lafayette scores 2.57 goals per game. The Raiders give up 4 goals per game while the stingy Lafayette defense gives up only .98 per game. Lafayette has taken a league leading 17.5 shots per game, but Colgate takes 11.6 per game ranked fifth in the league. Colgate. has scored 0 goals on corners Lafayette has scored .75 per game, ranking second in the league.

In individual statistics, Colgate has no players ranked in average shots per game, and average points per game. Their goalkeeper save percentage in at the bottom of league at .558.

So what are we to make of all this. My reaction is beware the wounded Raiders. Winning on Saturday could be an elixir for an otherwise difficult fall for Colgate. Lafayette needs this game in the win column to make the playoffs.

My only disappointment this season has been in attendance. Lafayette normally has 200-300 people in the stands, and this year they are averaging about 120 during this outstanding season. At Colgate’s last game they had 283. This Saturday is homecoming and we are celebrating 50 years of women’s athletics. I am hoping we can get a great turnout to celebrate this terrific team. 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,