Field Hockey’s strong season cut short by UConn Huskies
The AU field hockey team’s season ended on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament after being handed a stroke-off loss to the number five University of Connecticut Huskies.
UConn’s scoring started early, pushing two goals past the flat-footed AU defense in the first seven minutes of the game. Off the second penalty corner of the game, UConn’s Anne Jeute poked the ball past goalkeeper Hannah Weitzman in the sixth minute. UConn’s Ali Blankmeyer followed just two minutes later off a pass from Cara Silverman, placing the ball past a Weitzman kick.
“We weren’t really turned on,” senior Anne van Erp said. “Our structure was filling and our play was kind of sloppy.”
The Huskies had one more penalty corner, during which Weitzman had to save two more shots before coach Steve Jennings called a timeout to gather his team and try to get them to regroup.
“We challenged them [in the timeout],” Jennings said. “It had little to do with tactics and much more to do with heart.”
Coming out of the timeout, AU looked more composed and started driving up the field, creating opportunities and challenging the UConn defense. With seven shots in the first half, the Eagles put pressure on goalkeeper Sarah Mansfield, but six saves kept the ball out of the Huskies cage.
During the second half, the Eagles looked like a completely different team, stringing passes together and forcing the ball down the field while keeping it away from the dangerous Connecticut attack.
After AU received three penalty corners in the first five minutes, the Eagles had several opportunities to cut the lead in half, but none of the corner variations fooled UConn and the Eagles remained down two goals.
Freshman Constanza Palma was forced to leave the game temporarily after receiving a cut above her eyebrow from an errant stick.
With 16 minutes remaining in the game, UConn called a timeout to regroup after a couple of strong AU attacks up the sideline challenged the lights-out defense.
Just 30 seconds later, a penalty corner was called in favor of AU and freshman Jaclyn Anspach was able to gather a rebound from Gina Hofmann shot and got the score.
“All we had to do was get the first goal,” Jennings said. “It gave us a surge, made us that mush sharper.”
Anspach redirected a Palma shot just three minutes later, beating Mansfield to the right and tying the game 2-2.
“We were playing really hard,” Anspach said. “Nobody could do it by [themselves].”
The Eagles continued to drive towards the net, but their four shots were futile against Mansfield’s saves, sending the game into overtime.
While each team had several opportunities during both overtime periods — Connecticut had six shots and American had three — neither was able to capitalize and the game was sent to a stroke-off.
Freshman goalkeeper Ashley Dalisera, who replaced Weitzman for the stroke-off, saved the first shot she faced with ease. However, Mansfield was just as strong and blocked Tatum Dyers’ shot, forcing the pressure back on Dalisera.
Both teams then put away the next four shots — AU got help from Hofmann, Christine Fingerhuth, Kirstin Gebhart and Lotte van de Mierop while UConn’s Jestine Angelini, Alicia Angelini, Blankmeyer and Robin Kleine sent the stroke-off to sudden death, where UConn’s Rayell Heistand was able to score to give the Huskies the victory.
“We gave it our all,” van Erp said. “Right after the game everyone got together and it’s nobody’s fault. [The loss] is devastating.”
Correction: The Eagle previously reported Weitzman was still in goal for the stroke-off while she had in fact been replaced by Dalisera. The Eagle regrets the error.