Senior goalie Caroline Miller brought levity to an otherwise indescribable afternoon for Eagles fans.
"I think the only way to describe it is pure joy," she said.
After a three-year drought, and for the 11th time since joining the conference in 2001, AU’s field hockey team won the Patriot League championship on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles defeated Lafayette 3-2, polishing off their perfect conference campaign, an achievement they have accomplished 10 times in under 20 years.
The afternoon ended in a swell of unbounded revelry. Tears streamed down the faces of athletes and parents alike. Shrieks of joy echoed far from the boundaries of Jacobs Field, alerting the campus of the Eagles’ feat.
But the afternoon did not begin this way.
"They were really on top of us in the first quarter," head coach Steve Jennings said of his team, who did not record a shot in the initial frame. "We were getting too passive, falling back, feeling a bit nervous, and I think the moment can sometimes make you feel that way."
The Lafayette Leopards came out to a blistering start, forcing the Eagles to work from behind. Lafayette freshman Tara Hamilton quickly flipped a short pass to center where senior midfielder Cameron Costello found room in the lower-left corner, which sent the Leopards up 1-0 in the seventh minute. The one-goal lead remained throughout the entire first quarter.
But the Eagles flipped the script at the start of the second.
Sophomore Josie Formica capitalized off a corner 30 seconds into the second quarter, evening the score. From there, the Eagles took over. Junior Noor Coenen, PL Offensive Player of the Year, added to AU's total, burying a corner set up from juniors Gaby de Kock and Lauren Fredricks, giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
Sophomore Atina Pagani iced the Leopards' hopes with an insurance goal minutes into the fourth quarter, widening the now two-goal lead. Despite a late goal off a corner from Lafayette star Lisa van der Geest with a minute left, it was simply too little, too late. AU won 3-2.
"It's like an indescribable feeling," senior forward Jette Dieckmann said. "I was just so happy that tears came to my eyes."
For seniors, this would be the icing on the cake. After winning the Patriot League Championship in 2016, the seniors had that privilege ripped from them in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
"We've been working really hard for this, and to have our hard work rewarded is truly indescribable," said Miller, who is also a senior.
"I'm just so proud of our kids for everything they did this whole year," Jennings said. "It sounds cliche, but this program is built on love, and I think this team really loves each other. They love the staff and vice versa so when you have that, you can do some incredible things. I think it's great that the journey is continuing for this group."
The journey continues Wednesday at 1 p.m. as American (13-5) travels to Storrs, Connecticut, to take on No. 24 Fairfield (18-2) in the play-in match of the NCAA Tournament. If the Eagles win, they will then face the No. 2 overall seed and host, the University of Connecticut.
The 2019 NCAA Tournament Bracket can be found here.