Field hockey loses to No. 2 UMD
The Eagles’ next game will determine who hosts the PL Tournament
American University’s field hockey team fell 0-1 to the University of Maryland on Oct. 29 in a pivotal non-conference bout.
The two heavyweights demonstrated their defensive prowess, and the first goal came nearly an hour into the match. Both teams stifled offensive penetration, tallying a combined six shots on goal for the entire match. However, the difference came in the 55th minute, when Maryland senior defender Kelee Lepage smacked a back-handed shot past the outstretched stick of AU goalie Fiona Minter.
It was a lead that stuck. A late effort from sophomore Atina Pagani was silenced, resulting in a narrow 1-0 defeat. Despite this, American demonstrated why they deserve to be mentioned among the nation's best defenses.
The year's biggest challenge for the Eagles proved to be perhaps their best performance. Coming in red-hot and ranked No. 2 in the country, Maryland (16-2, 7-1 Big Ten) became frustrated with the relentless pressure from AU (10-5, 5-0 PL).
Sophomores Hannah Moser, Aidan Rossman and Pagani recorded shots within the first five minutes of the match. While the offense withered, defensive intensity amplified, suffocating Maryland's attack.
"I think we just wanted to stay really disciplined throughout the game," sophomore Georgia Davies said. "We wanted to let them have [a] few short corners. We wanted to be making good tackles, to not get cards."
The Eagles stayed true to their game plan, opting to defend in numbers, stifling and frustrating the Maryland offense by keeping everything in front of them. AU’s midfield players tormented Maryland’s midfield balls forcing a litany of turnovers.
"I think we did a lot of things really well on the defensive front," head coach Steve Jennings said after holding Maryland to eight shots and one goal, far from the No. 2 team's average of 18.9 shots per game and 3.41 goals per game. "We did a great job limiting opportunities, only conceding one corner."
Maryland's one corner falls well below their average of 7.71 corners/game, a mark that ranks fourth in the nation.
AU had the momentum, controlling the game for three frames of action, but the tables turned in the fourth quarter. With four minutes and 48 seconds remaining, a ball fed into the shooting circle gave Maryland defender Kelee Lepage a window to fire a back-handed ball into the net.
Although they were down a goal, the Eagles weren't done yet. There was under a minute left when Pagani found Maryland goalkeeper Noelle Frost out of position. Pagani smacked a game-tying ball towards the back of the net. Out of nowhere, Maryland defensemen Bodil Keus stopped the ball from the net, putting a lid on a comeback.
Streamlining back into conference play, Tuesday’s match became less of a heartbreak and more of a lesson for the team. Junior Noor Coenen said that the team can learn a lot from this loss, especially in light of Saturday’s pivotal matchup.
The Eagles will host Lafayette on Nov. 2 at 11 a.m. for a battle to host the Patriot League tournament.