Eagles score first NCAA berth
The AU Field Hockey team defeated Quinnipiac 4-1 on Tuesday, Nov. 11 in a play-in game in College Park, Md. The win propels AU into the NCAA Div. I Tournament, where it will play Duke in the first round on Saturday, Nov. 15.
Junior Javiera Villagra, who scored all four of AU's goals, led the Eagles. Three of the goals came in the second half, as the Eagles pulled away.
"She was fantastic," said head coach Steve Jennings. "She made some great finishes and put on an overall spectacular performance."
Villagra's first goal came about 15 minutes into the game, as she put away a rebound from sophomore Maureen Daniel's shot. Yet, only 10 minutes later, Quinnipiac's Meredith Klein responded with a goal. By halftime, AU had clear advantages in possession time and shots, but the Bobcats hung tough with a tied score.
The Eagles soared out of the gate to start the second half, putting pressure on Quinnipiac's defense. Finally, about 10 minutes into the half, freshman Camile Infante's pass found Villagra, and the go-ahead score was notched.
For the next 10 minutes, Quinnipiac fought valiantly to tie the score, but AU's staunch defense did not allow the Bobcats to get a shot off in the second half. Villagra put her third goal in the net with 13 minutes remaining, off a brilliant play where sophomore Shannon Goans deked two defenders away from her and opened up the front of the net.
The Eagles tacked on one more goal when Villagra stole the ball deep in Bobcat territory and scored on a give-and-go with Infante, who ended up with three assists on the day.
The final score belied how uneven the game was. AU outshot Quinnipiac 28 to 2 and held possession for more than two-thirds of the game.
"We dominated the whole game," Jennings said. "It was just a matter of breaking through and blowing the game open."
Already Patriot League champions, AU's victory over the Northeast Conference champion puts the team in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The tournament brackets put the Eagles in a first round match-up against No. 2 Duke.
"I feel good about our chances," Jennings said. "We're No. 19 in the nation, and we've only had three losses this season. Right now, it's just a matter of getting rest and preparing for the game."
Though the Bobcats only managed to get two shots off against AU's defense, senior goalkeeper Laura Miller will be key to the Eagles' chances against Duke. Miller has the best save percentage in all of Div. I and the third-best goals against average.
The winner of the AU-Duke game will play the winner of the game between Richmond and Old Dominion, which is also scheduled for Saturday at Duke's home field. The two winners will play on Sunday, Nov. 16.