EMMA KNIGHT / THE EAGLE
Every aspect of the AU field hockey team’s 2-1 victory against Bucknell was close, except for one area.
The Eagles (9-9, 4-1 PL) made all the big plays in the key moments, with Gina Hofmann leading the way Oct. 27 at Jacobs Field.
With her team up 2-1, AU goalkeeper Ashley Dalisera blocked a shot off a Bison penalty corner as time expired, seemingly sealing an Eagle victory. But after deliberation, Bucknell (9-9, 3-2 PL) received another penalty corner.
“We thought we had the game won,” AU head coach Steve Jennings said. “But whenever there’s a conference with the umpires, I always prepare for making sure we’re ready for a call to go against us so that we’re still in the game.”
Jennings’ defense, led by the senior Hofmann, kept their heads in the game and turned away the second Bucknell shot to emerge victorious and clinch the second seed in the Patriot League Tournament.
“A lot of nerves, a lot of nerves,” Hofmann said when asked what was going through her head on the final play. “But in the end, it’s just like we go over [in practice] … We kind of know what to expect.”
Hofmann set the tone early, netting the first score of the game 14 minutes into play. The first goal has been crucial for AU this season, as the Eagles are 7-2 when they score first and 2-7 when they have to chase a lead.
“Today we ended up in a position where they had to chase, and that’s always going to be a much better position to be in,” Jennings said. “We’ve been on that foot before too, and it’s hard to come from behind.”
Bucknell tied the game up in the 57th minute when Kiersten Sydnor received a pass from Kelly Stefanowicz and beat Dalisera.
After the Bison goal, AU looked lethargic for a stretch and in desperate need of a play. Carly Atchison and Shelly Montgomery delivered, as Atchison cut through the defense and delivered the ball right in front of the goal for Montgomery, who converted in the 50th minute to put the Eagles up 2-1.
“I think that was a really important part of the game for us,” Jennings said. “It was important for us to have the resilience to step up and show that we were still in the game.”
The Eagles and the Bison will now meet in the Patriot League Semifinals Nov. 2 in Easton, Pa. Both teams are evenly matched, with every statistical category from last week’s meeting almost identical.
But there are some numbers in AU’s favor. The game is on a neutral field, where AU is 3-0 this season, and the Eagles are 18-5 all time against Bucknell. AU also has one of the league’s best scorers in Montgomery.
If this last meeting was any indication, then the semifinal matchup will be very competitive.