It took only 23 seconds for the AU field hockey team to christen the William I. Jacobs Recreational Complex last Saturday.
After waiting several months for the facility’s opening, AU topped Ivy League powerhouse Princeton 4-1 in its inaugural game at “the Jake” in front of 600-plus spectators. AU continued its domination Sunday, downing Albany 4-0 to remain undefeated (4-0) this season.
Off to its best start in head coach Steve Jennings’ seven-year tenure, the Eagles used a stifling possession game combined with a balanced attack to stay perfect. In the two games, six AU players scored goals, while the Eagles outshot their opponents 28-12.
Against Princeton, freshman attacker Irene Shickhardt struck first, scoring a diving goal off a feed from junior midfielder Camila Infante at :23. That goal was perhaps the game’s most important.
“Getting that first goal right off the bat immediately knocks them back on their heels and sets the tone,” Jennings said. “But I think it was really difficult for them to deal with and really uplifting for our spirits.”
AU continued its offensive barrage, scoring again at 11:45 when Infante took advantage of a penalty corner, the AU points’ leader’s fourth goal of the year. Senior midfielder Shannon Goans and Shickhardt were credited with the assists.
The Eagles added a third five minutes later when sophomore midfielder Maggie Hall struck from 10 yards off a pass by Infante. AU entered halftime up, 3-0.
In the second half, Princeton searched for a way back into the contest, but AU defender and senior captain Maureen Daniel erased any Princeton hope, when in the 44th minute, she added another penalty-corner goal to put AU up 4-0.
Princeton finally scored at 55:03 when Tiger attacker Lauren Ehrlichman erased goalkeeper Allison Fayfich’s shutout bid.
The win was the first in school history against the Tigers. Princeton entered the contest with a 6-0-0 record in the series.
For Jennings, the win was big for the record books, but for the fans as well.
“I really think that you get a lot of confidence when you can defend your own court and for us to know that we’re off to a good start against three very good opponents,” Jennings said. “That should give us a lot of confidence.”
Shickhardt, who recorded three points in the contest, agreed.
“I think it was really important because after the last two games that we won it was really important to see that it wasn’t only luck.” Shickhardt said. “With all these fans, it’s so important to be supported by everybody and that’s a really good thing.”
Sunday’s game against Albany lacked Saturday’s early offensive, and the first half passed without a goal, despite AU outshooting the Great Danes 7-1.
But at 36:30, Infante put the Eagles ahead with a penalty-corner goal. Goans and Shickhardt assisted on the strike that appeared to loosen up the Eagle offense.
AU again scored 13 minutes later when Daniel scored her second in as many games off another penalty corner and an Albany yellow card.
Freshman attacker Jesika Pufnock and All-America midfielder Javier Villagra put things out of reach for Albany. Pufnock’s goal in the 64th minute was the first of her collegiate career. Villagra’s goal was her third of the season.
Sophomore goalkeeper Makinsie Sheridan earned her first collegiate win and the shutout.
Despite the win, AU seemed unsatisfied with their first-half performance, with some blaming themselves for a lackluster opening 35 minutes.
“At the beginning of the first half we were more laid-back, more relaxed,” Infante said, “We took it easy….It was tough in a way that there were things that we didn’t expect, but I don’t think the problem of the game was them. It was just more us.”
The first half was the first all season where AU did not score. Regardless, the Eagles are off to a fast start and Jennings said he looks at the past four games as a chance to fix any glitches before conference play.
“I think right now overall we’re in a really good position,” Jennings said. “I think we know that we have to raise our standard from this weekend. Sometimes that’s an important benefit to have that you know you have to pick it up from where you are.”
The Eagles will visit their former home away from home next weekend for the Maryland Invitational, playing Stanford and California. The team could be without leading scorer Infante and sister Denise, who might compete with the Chilean U21 national team in the Junior World Cup in Santiago, Chile.