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Eagles lose tightly contested game to Princeton 2-1

Junior defender Angela Virtu notches AU’s lone goal against the No. 13 Tigers

Eagles lose tightly contested game to Princeton 2-1

Senior midfield Natalie Marsh tracks a James Madison attacker on September 4. Marsh and the Eagles fell to Princeton 2-1 on District Day Sunday. 

During the last six minutes of AU’s non-conference field hockey game against No.13 Princeton, the crowd roared a little bit louder every time the ball touched an Eagle athlete’s stick. Six minutes. Five minutes. Four minutes. Timeout AU.

With his team huddled together on the left side of the field, head coach Steve Jennings drew out some last minute plays while his team reset for one last surge. Trailing 2-1 against the Tigers, Jennings hoped AU would pull off one final shot and send the game into overtime.

And with 0.0 left in the game, the Eagles had that shot. No time remained on the clock, but senior forward Jess Davis and the AU Eagles still had a chance for victory.

The Princeton Tigers lined up to prevent an overtime, and Davis prepared to take a corner shot that could tie the score after 70 minutes of play. Jennings waited with anticipation on the sidelines, thinking his team might be able to send the game into extra minutes. The crowd roared with hope. But the shot missed the net, and Princeton celebrated their hard-fought 2-1 victory.

“I thought we played a great game today, it was exciting,” Jennings said. “Unfortunately we didn’t come out on top. I thought we played some outstanding hockey, and Princeton is a fantastic team, great program, so it was a great game from both teams, and we are just a little bit unlucky today.”

The Eagles played aggressively from start to finish, outshooting the Tigers 9-7 and earning eight penalty corners, six more than their opponent. Yet Princeton fired back with precision and persistence. The Tigers pulled ahead 2-0 at the half, earning their first goal off a penalty shot from junior striker Ryan McCarthy and adding another when McCarthy fired a shot past AU junior goalkeeper Maura Jacobs ten minutes later. The result at the end of the first 35 minutes mirrored AU’s performance against the Tigers one year ago, when they also trailed by two at halftime. But this year, the Eagles came back a little stronger.

Within the first minute of the second half, AU earned a corner shot that put the crowd on its feet. The shot never made it past Princeton sophomore goalkeeper Grace Baylis, but ten seconds later AU tried again. Junior forward Natalie Konerth slid a shot towards the goal ten seconds after the corner, one of her four shots during the game, but again Baylis stayed strong. Finally, three shots, three penalty corners and one Princeton green card later, the Eagles put a point on the board. A corner from Davis put the ball in position, and junior defender Angela Virtu took a swing at it. The ball rebounded off Baylis’ pads and rolled through the middle alley. Virtu shot again. This time, the excitement radiated from her team.

“We always visualize how we think the game is going to go, and we always visualize some stressful moments of the game, times where things don't go the way you planned,” Virtu said. “Getting a rebound off the first shot is kind of something that you don't necessarily want to have happen, but being able to finish it up with a goal is always icing on top of the cake.”

Virtu’s goal proved to be AU’s only point in the game, despite the last second effort to tie up the contest. However, she said that despite the loss, her team’s performance exceeded her expectations and set the Eagles up well for Saturay’s match against Bucknell.

“We will always watch the video and see what went wrong, but I think that we had really good energy and really good connection that we can just really keep going through and look forward to our next game,” Virtu said.

In the last seventeen matches against the Tigers, the Eagles have only won four, and Jennings said that hanging tight with such a competitive team gives his athletes a chance to learn and develop their skills as the season continues.

I think that we are growing and growing,” Jennings said. “Our real theme is to keep getting better every game, and I think that was our best performance in terms of playing a fantastic team and really being able to control big segments on the game, so we’re really pleased with that and looking forward to continuing our progression.” 

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