The Patriot League Tournament Field Is Set

The Patriot League field for the post season tournament is set as result of yesterday’s games. American beat Holy Cross giving the Crusaders 4 losses, Colgate lost to Boston giving them four losses. The best Boston can do is 3-3 and the worst Lafayette, Lehigh and Bucknell can do is 3-3 but all have beaten Boston breaking any tie breaker. As a result the field is American, Lafayette, Bucknell and Lehigh.

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But the final seeds must still be decided. American must still play Boston and Colgate. Should they lose both and Lafayette wins their last two with Bucknell and Lehigh, Lafayette would host. If Lafayette were to lose the last two  and American wins one of their two games, Lafayette would meet American in the first round. One win for Lafayette would give them a 2 or three seed and they would play Bucknell or Lehigh.

There are a number of scenarios that can be played with but one thing is for certain the four teams are set. The remainder of the regular season is still to be played with Drexel arriving today followed by an arch rival game with Lehigh at Lehigh on Friday night. Temple at Lafayette follows with Bucknell at home on Saturday and then a game in New Jersey against the number 3 team in the nation Rutgers.  The tournament follows the following week end!!

Today is senior day. Usually, I highlight the seniors during the week previous but this year I will do that next week with Lehigh on the way!!

Nittney Lions Of Penn State Are Hosted By Lafayette On Friday

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Sophia Gladieux is the leading Lion scorer

The Leopards will entertain Penn State this Friday in a renewal of the Pennsylvania series that goes back decades. Lafayette is the only Pennsylvania school to have beaten the Penn State Nittney Lions where State holds a large edge. It has been about 8 years since the two schools have met with Penn State having won the last outing 4-1 in 2014. This year they come to challenge Lafayette. who has a 10-2 record against Penn State’s 9-3 record. The Lions are ranked at least 5th in the nation while the Leopards best rating is 18th by Bolster.

By most readings Penn State has had the more difficult schedule losing to number one ranked Iowa twice and number 4 ranked Rutgers once. ( The Leopards will be playing Rutgers later this season). This being an out of conference game for both, certainly respect and pride is on the line. But it does have practical consequences. Seeding which is basically done based on RPI in the NCAA tournament can be effected and selection as an at large participant can be influenced by the outcome. The Leopards were an at large selection in 2012.

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The only common opponent to date is Indiana who the Leopards beat 4-0 and and Penn State beat 4-1. The last Patriot League opponent for Penn State was Bucknell which they beat 4-1. ( Bucknell initially was winning 1-0 before an onslaught of goals and shots). Other than that, statistics for each look familiar. The Leopards have scored 33 goals on 198 shots while Penn State has scored 32 goals on 169 shots. Lafayette opponents have managed only 12 goals on 96 shots while Penn State’s opponent have 18 goals on 134 shots. Lafayette has had 77 penalty corners while giving up 55. Penn State has 88 penalty corners while giving up 61.

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Alix Talkow has 4 goals to her credit so far

Hailey Abbott, Lafayette goal keeper sports a .714 save percentage while Brie Barraco has a .739 save percentage although the Lafayette defense has allowed far less shots.

Both teams have exciting young players with sophomore Sophia Gladieux (number 3) the leading goal scorer with 13 to date for the Lions. Lafayette scorers are more spread around with 10 players contributing goals. Felicitas Hannes ( number 5) leads the Leopards with 7. She is closely followed by Audrey Sawers, and Molly McAndrew with 6 each. To my mind this may come down to the veteran defensive backfield of Lafayette vs the young offense of Penn State! I had this game circled all season and am excited to finally see it.

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Sophomore Alden Bocello takes off in Boston

As to the rest of the Patriot League, at least one team will be eliminated from the PL tournament as BU will play Colgate both with 3 losses each. The top four, American, Lafayette, Bucknell and Lehigh can do no worse than 3 loses going forward. In the coming week Lafayette will play Lehigh as the seeding gets sorted out. The second definite elimination will be decided in two weeks in the Boston/ Holy Cross game, leaving only one with a chance for the final seed.

Lineke Spanns Receives Long Pass From Sawers And Gets Game Winner In Overtime Against Brown

For most Lafayette Fans Brown means Lehigh but the Leopard’s Field Hockey team played their first game ever against Brown University on Sunday. The Leopards brought home a 2-1 victory in overtime with a Lineke Spanns’ strike at the 67:36 mark. It was a back and fourth struggle as the Leopards had just completed an important game with Boston University on Saturday. But this group just sucked it up and played a tough game against an Ivy League Team who themselves were riding a 3 game win streak, plus an equally long shutout record.

The Brown captain and ace player Dani van Rootselaar was the main antagonist as she dominated play. for the Browns taking a leading 7 shots during the contest. Countering that was Leineke Spann’s three shots, one of course being the game winner in overtime.

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Spanns speeds away from a Brown player

Lafayette opened scoring with Alix Talkow being at the right place at the right time at 3:29, knocking a loose ball into the net to give the Leopards the early lead. The rest of quarter found the Brown Bears getting off 4 shots of their own, but the Lafayette’s outstanding goal keeper Hailey Abbott stood tall turning away all four. It wasn’t until 45: 53 that Brown finally broke onto the scoreboard with tipped shot off a corner by Stacy Lukasheva assisted by van Rootselar. The corner occurred as the Leopards were short handed due to a yellow card against Lineke Spanns.

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Abbott makes another save

The Leopards had 3 cards, two against Spanns and the Bears had one green. Lafayette had 34 calls against them as opposed to Brown’s 21. The grey, wet, and cold day just enhanced the contentiousnes felt on the field and in the stands.

Leopards will take their 10-2 record and put it against Penn State this Friday at 7pm.

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!!!!

Lafayette Grinds Out 2-1 Victory Over Fairfield

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Ariel Schumacher shows her defensive skills

Captain Audrey Sawers scored the game winner in the fourth quarter as Lafayette’s 18th in the country offense was stymied by Fairfield for two quarters. The game evolved into a defensive struggle after Ariel Schumacher connected with Simone Hefting during a corner 8:25 into the game. However the lead was to last a mere three minutes, when Fairfield’s Malen Iglesias connected on a breakaway to score a one on one goal. But it was to be the only time Fairfield would see a ball cross the goal for them.

The game then moved to 38 minutes of character building defense. Every player was to be tested as the Lafayette defense was  turning back a determined Fairfield offense. Fairfield had 9 seniors on their squad as they dug in, stopping the leopards several times where many thought a goal would be coming. The statistical battle was a mixed bag beginning with Lafayette’s  15 shots to the Stags 7. Fairfield out cornered Lafayette 6-5. However, the Leopards were able to make their corner opportunities count as both the goals by Schumacher and Sawers were on corners, with Hefting delivering an assist on both. Filene Gerbrandij contributed to Sawers last go ahead goal.

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Lineke Spanns get ready to turn on the afterburners

The officials could have composed a symphony with the number of whistles and cards. There were five cards issued 2 greens and 3 yellows during  the game. Lineke Spanns stopped the Stags offense. several times during the game. Her speed allowed her to intercept balls and turn the play around into an offense thrust for the Leopards. She had 5 shots, 3 on goal. Shots were spread around to McAndrew, Spanns, Hannes, Sawers,Gerbrandij, Schumacher, and Alex Darrah.

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Alex Darrah works her way out of a Stag triple team

The Leopards demonstrated fitness and character not only playing their second game in as many days, but stopping a determined and skilled opponent. This was exactly the opponent the Leopards needed to prepare for Boston University who no doubt are equally determined to help their league and season fortunes. Make no mistake. Boston is well coached and will defend their home turf with determnation.

I have confidence the Leopards will be ready and up to the challenge.

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!!

Leopards Unleashed In 4-1 Win Against Holy Cross

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The Holy Cross Crusaders made the 4 1/2 hour bus trip Saturday morning to face a Leopard attack eager for its first Patriot League win!! But it wasn’t just the attack, it was combination of a relentless defense and transition than combined to create a perfect storm that was only halted by the final whistle.

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The Holy Cross goal tender responded with 15 saves in a gallant effort to stem the tide. It was a noble effort from a team that never laid down, and who managed to finally score a goal in the fourth quarter avoiding a shutout.

The Leopards launched 36 shots, the majority of which occurred in the second, third and fourth quarters after a three shot first half. Nineteen of the those shots were on goal and there were three shots that hit the post. Remarkably, the Leopards had only eight penalty corners, but the time spent in the in the offensive 25 was enough. Holy Cross managed only five shots on the afternoon and two penalty corners.

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Lafayette scored in every quarter with the first score coming late in the first 15 minutes by Filine Gerbrandij who was assisted by Simone Hefting. It was the first goal of the season and career for the freshman. The second goal from the Leopards diversified attack, came from senior Alix Talkow delivering her first of her career, with a helper from Audrey Sawers. One minute into the second half Alden Bocella got her first goal of season and career with an unassisted beauty into the lower right corner. In the fourth quarter Simone Hefting combined with Audrey Sawers to finish Lafayette’s scoring with a beautiful fake corner shot and execution that found left bottom of the cage.

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Aside from offensive fireworks the family day crowd was treated to a defense that was amazing. Sydney Woolston was part of a wall that stopped, and intercepted balls and led to offensive displays. Eighteen Leopards saw action on the afternoon as substitutions provided a seamless effort all day. The bench themselves provided nearly 1/3 of the shots on the afternoon with Ariel Shumacher contributing a team leading six with three on goal during her forty minutes. Lineke Spanns provided five shots in her time on the field with four on goal. GK Haile Abbot needed to make only one save during the afternoon.

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The Leopards will stay at home to entertain the Colgate Raiders next week who just lost to Lehigh. Bucknell also added to their Patriot League wins with an impressive overtime win in Boston against the Terriers. American has no PL games this week and will meet Maryland at American this afternoon.

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,