The AU field hockey team returns home for the first time in nearly a month to begin Patriot League play Sept. 29 against No. 18 Lafayette at Jacobs Field.
The Eagles (3-6) lost their first three home games of the season and were outscored 8-2 in those contests. AU has been playing better since then, compiling a 3-3 record with an upset over then-No. 19 Massachusetts. While the Eagles are winless at home, they have faced their toughest opponents at Jacobs Field, with Richmond, Old Dominion and Ohio State all having been ranked in the Top 25 this season.
Ball security will be key for the Eagles to start conference play off on the right foot against Lafayette (6-1), according to AU head coach Steve Jennings.
“They [Lafayette] play very organized on their defensive pressure,” Jennings said. “And so what they do is, they’re able to get a lot of turnovers and create a lot of counter attacks off of that”.
Those turnovers and counter attacks can lead to goals for AU’s Patriot League rival, but the overriding issue Jennings stressed was attitude.
“That for me is the be all, end all,” Jennings said. “Way beyond tactics, or way beyond technical skill, it’s all about us coming out and really wanting it desperately as a group.”
It’s that drive that can lead AU to a Patriot League title, Jennings said.
The Eagles will go into their league opener coming off a 3-2 loss at Quinnipiac (5-4) Sept. 23. AU surrendered all three Bobcat goals in the first half and trailed 3-1 at halftime.
The Eagles tried mounting a second-half comeback, and Keelin Winslow’s second goal of the season off Gina Hofmann’s assist made it 3-2. AU had seven second-half penalty corners, including one in the final minute, but the Eagles couldn’t tie up the game.
AU outshot the Bobcats 12-11 and held a 9-6 advantage in penalty corners. Although the Eagles came up short, Jennings noticed a difference in his team between the first and second half.
“We started passing, we started playing together,” Jennings said. “We started playing together defensively, we played together offensively, had far more of an aggressive mindset and had a lot of determination, something that was missing in the first half.”
Shelly Montgomery was one bright spot from the loss against Quinnipiac, and the junior will look to make an impact against Lafayette.
Montgomery scored her fourth goal of the season against the Bobcats. The junior had 14 shots, scored three goals and recorded an assist in the team’s last three games.
“I think Shelly is the person that embodies determination on our team probably the most,” Jennings said. “She just goes for it every second that she’s out there.”