With its NCAA Tournament play-in game tied at one and time in the second half waning, the AU field hockey team capitalized on a penalty corner opportunity to defeat Kent State 2-1 on Wednesday afternoon at Reeves Field.
Senior forward Jess Davis fired a pass from the Eagles’ 11th penalty corner to junior midfielder Samantha McCormick at the top of the attacking circle. McCormick controlled the pass and sent a low drive that senior forward Natalie Konerth redirected past Kent State goalkeeper Andrea Rinehart to give AU the late lead and a chance to play No. 1 seed Duke on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“It was open all game, and we finally were able to connect on the play,” head coach Steve Jennings said of the winning goal in an interview with aueagles.com. “We called a variation on our corner and Pip [Konerth] was able to be in the perfect place and finished it and we were able to ride out the clock.”
The Eagles found themselves trailing at halftime despite having a 6-3 advantage in shots after the Raiders (14-6) converted a penalty corner opportunity. Junior Ines Delpech scored for Kent State off of an assists from Jessica Nesbitt and Silvia Figa Malgosa. Jennings said during halftime that the team focused on increasing their energy levels and altering their lines of passing in the offensive zone.
The Eagles were more aggressive in the second half, dominating possession and registering eight penalty corners compared to Kent State’s zero. The pressure yielded an equalizing goal when McCormick converted a penalty corner with a shot from the top of the attacking circle.
Sophomore goalkeeper Maura Jacobs made two saves for the Eagles and McCormick recorded a team-high three shots on goal.
The Eagles will travel to Durham, North Carolina to face Duke on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. The Blue Devils won the regular season title in the Atlantic Coast Conference but fell 3-2 in the Tournament semifinals to North Carolina on Nov. 4.