The No. 7 AU Field Hockey team dominated its opponents in terms of shots and offensive pressure this weekend. But while the Eagles outplayed both Davidson and Lehigh, the 5-0 and 3-1 wins showed signs of a team that is heading toward greatness, but hasn’t yet arrived.
In AU’s 5-0 win over Davidson (3-8) on Sunday at Georgetown University, the Eagles outshot the Wildcats by a staggering 38-1 margin, but couldn’t break through on the scoreboard until nearly the 30-minute mark.
In a road game the day before, it took an opponent scoring to rouse the Eagles (11-2, 3-0), when Lehigh (6-7, 0-2) drew first blood just four minutes into the game.
While the Eagles’ mental toughness in both games was admirable, they are still short of having the killer instinct needed to ascend to another level, said AU head coach Steve Jennings.
“It’s critical for our team development, and also critical for our team psyche, so our opponents see us as so intimidating and so scary that they don’t think they can compete,” Jennings said. “When we don’t bury teams right away, teams think they can step up and play with us.”
With only two seniors on the squad, Jennings said that it takes some time for his younger players to find that mentality. Sunday, it seemed the Eagles just needed a trigger coming in the form of sophomore forward Heidi Herschberger’s goal with 5:40 left in the first half.
Herschberger scored on a penalty corner, slapping home the rebound of Maureen Daniel’s initial shot. Boosted by that goal, the Eagles quickly struck twice more, one on each side of halftime.
Sophomore forward Camila Infante doubled the Eagles’ lead less than a minute after Herschberger’s goal, knocking in her own rebound after penetrating through the right side of the Wildcats’ defense.
Two minutes into the second half, freshman midfielder Maggie Hall drove an unassisted effort past Davidson goalie Sara Nolan, who, despite the rout, was the Wildcats’ star with 20 saves.
Daniel and sophomore forward Kaitlin DeTroia rounded out the Eagles’ scoring, with Daniel scoring in the final minute after DeTroia made the lead 4-0 with 15 minutes to play.
But with Davidson rarely seeing possession, let alone a scoring chance, the Eagles realistically could have won by double-figures.
“It’s about our forwards being ready,” Infante said, who led the Eagles with 10 shots. “The people who did not have the ball have to be moving, cutting and ready for deflections.”
A goal also triggered the Eagles on Saturday. But this time it was Lehigh’s Mary Beth Kuenne doing the early scoring, putting the Mountain Hawks on top only 3:49 into the opening period.
“I think emotionally we were very flat [on Saturday],” Jennings said. “The other team had more hunger, desperation and emotion.”
But the Eagles were still better. Hall and Daniel quickly rescued the Eagles. Hall tied it exactly four minutes after Lehigh’s goal, and Daniel pushed the Eagles ahead with 25 minutes to go in the first half. Freshman defender Denise Infante added an insurance goal about midway through the second half, on an assist from her sister Camila.
The Eagles face the meat of their PL schedule in the next two weeks, first hosting Holy Cross this Saturday before traveling to Colgate Oct. 23. While the Eagles are heavily favored to win the PL this year, these clashes with their toughest league foes are massive.
“I am excited,” Camila Infante said. “I feel like we’re a lot better than last year. I feel this is our chance to show all the Patriot League why we’re seventh in the nation.”