Bison stampede past the Eagles in a thriller

AU’s late-game rally wasn’t enough to erase a seven-goal deficit

Bison stampede past the Eagles in a thriller
AU lacrosse huddles on March 10, when the team played GW.

American University lacrosse made a late push but couldn’t pull off the comeback against Bucknell, losing 17-15 in a shootout. AU now stands 1-5 and remains winless in Patriot League play

The Eagles started the game trading haymakers with Bucknell in a mad dash for goals. The two teams combined for 33 shots on goal in the first half and were tied 5-5 with 13 minutes before halftime. AU scored twice within 15 seconds of a Bucknell goal, and neither side wanted to be the first to let up the scoring assault. Head coach Lindsay Teeters said that she wanted the Eagles to be aggressive from the start.

“We certainly wanted to push the pace of the game,” Teeters said. “We had been defensive heavy on the draw, and we made an adjustment against Longwood and we kept that today. That certainly helped us with our fast break opportunities and counter Bucknell goals.”

However, the back-and-forth heavyweight slugfest quickly got away from the Eagles, and Bucknell was able to take a four-goal lead into the half.

AU fared no better at the start of the second half and quickly dug itself a seven-goal grave. But, the Eagles did not surrender and got back into the contest with a ferocious late-game push. 

The Eagles held Bucknell scoreless for the last 19 minutes of the game, forced three turnovers in the last 10 minutes to keep the rally going, and scored five unanswered goals in the last 16 minutes to bring the score to 17-15 with less than three minutes to play.

However, the Eagles wouldn’t score again, and Bucknell staved off a collapse. Teeters said after the game that the late-game rally showed her team’s toughness.

“I’m proud of the girls for coming back,” Teeters said. “I’m proud of them for not giving up.”

Fifth-year senior Casey Harkins orchestrated the Eagles offensive onslaught. The all-time AU assist leader scored five goals, dished out six assists, and finished with 11 points, one point shy of the individual record Harkins set last year against Presbyterian. 

Senior Emma Vinall also powered the high-flying offense, finishing the game with four goals, five points, and eight draw controls. Vinall is now five points and nine goals away from tying AU’s all-time record in each statistical category. The Eagles also got scoring from junior Hali Sibilia and sophomore Emma Hare. 

Hare has started three of the last four games and she chipped in two goals against the Bison. 2021 has been a breakout season for Hare, who has played in all six games and scored in four of them. Sibilia also scored two goals off the bench for the Eagles, her first two of the season, serving as a bounce-back game for the junior. 

Sibilia finished 2020 with a career-best 15 goals and appeared in all seven games. However, she has only started once this season and did not play against George Washington or Lehigh. Teeters said the midfielder’s performance was a testament to her character. 

“Hali’s done a really good job of bouncing back, and I’m just happy to see her get back into the rhythm of things,” Teeters said. “We’re going with who is going to be consistent, who’s going to give us some firepower.”

However, the Eagles struggled to quash the Bison’s pedestrian offense, which scored a season-high 17 goals Saturday. The Bison entered the game scoring fewer than nine goals per game, seventh in the Patriot League, and taking 18 shots on goal per game, eighth in the Patriot League. 

AU’s defense in and around the net has been its Achilles heel all season. AU is eighth in saves per game, eighth in goals-against average, and ninth in save percentage in the Patriot League. 

Despite the statistics, freshman Helena Morrison was aggressive in her third start of the season and kept the Eagles in the game. Morrison broke up Bucknell’s attack on several occasions, did not surrender a goal for the last 19 minutes of play, and despite accidentally stepping out of bounds that led to a turnover and then a goal, Teeters said that she was pleased with Morrison’s performance.

“I want to give Helena free reign,” Teeters said. “She’s willing to come out of the crease, and with more time under her belt, I’ll think she’ll feel more comfortable and it’s definitely something I want her to continue to work on.”

But AU’s defense couldn’t stop Caroline Miller from scoring five goals and Caroline Walsh from scoring three goals, which doubled Walsh’s total on the season. Bucknell’s Mason Rode imposed her will on the Eagles with a hat trick and Rode finished the game with eight ground balls, tying Bucknell’s record for most ground balls recovered in a single game. 

AU also struggled to secure ground balls and clear the ball from their zone, and Teeters said that the small mistakes ultimately did the Eagles in. 

“Between clears and 50-50 balls, those two things are what we need to focus on to get better,” she said.

Bucknell picked up 17 ground balls to AU’s 10 in the first half and AU had a 60 percent clear percentage in the first half compared to Bucknell’s 67 clear percentage. 

This is the third game AU has lost by less than two goals this season. Teeters said that the Eagles will have to make a few small adjustments in order to get the close games to go their way.

The Eagles will now look ahead to a rematch with Loyola Maryland on April 10. AU has never beaten Loyola and lost to the Greyhounds 21-4 March 6. 

bmorse@theeagleonline.com

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