Field hockey wins Patriot League Championship
Win over Lafayette marks the Eagles’ 13th league title
The #1 seeded American University field hockey team (11-7) defeated the #2 Lafayette Leopards (12-7) 1-0 to win the Patriot League Championship. After falling in the semifinals last year, the Eagles returned to the top of the league.
From the get go, Lafayette played with strong pressure and challenged American’s defense more than Bucknell had two days prior. The Eagles were unable to get any shots off in the whole opening quarter — a rarity for them. The ball spent practically the whole quarter in the middle section of the field, neither side maintaining possession for long.
American looked sloppier than usual in this game. After an exceptional semifinal against Bucknell where everything seemed to be clicking, things just kept going slightly wrong against Lafayette. The Leopards only had to slide their stick in and intercept Eagle passes. They would take control of the ball as soon as American got close to the circle and break out to the other end.
Lafayette also played much more physically than the Eagles. Lafayette defender India Ralph shoved an American attacker and received no condemnation from the referee, drawing much ire from the Eagles fans.
The first shot of the game came from Lafayette midfielder Lineke Spaans, though she went wide. Her shot allowed graduate student defender Charllene Boshoff to take the ball and hit it up the field to freshman forward Jordan Reicher. This sequence didn’t result in any shots for American, but it got the Leopards out of their defensive end and kept them on their toes. The Eagles’ play continued to be a bit sloppy, and Lafayette intercepted a number of their passes.
Lafayette forward Alex Darrah had the first shot on goal of the game, and senior goalkeeper Bryn Underwood came up big with the save. After Underwood’s initial save, Boshoff finished the job and cleared the ball from the circle. Patriot League Defender of the Year Boshoff played up to her award and was crucial in keeping the score 0-0 throughout the first quarter.
Just a minute into the second quarter, American finally earned the first penalty corner of the game. Senior defender Emily Horace got a shot off, but Lafayette goalkeeper Emma Garvey made the save. The Leopards answered with their first corner a minute later and also failed to score. They did take a series of shots — one flew over the cage, one Underwood saved.
Lafayette kept up their aggressive play, oftentimes whacking into American players with no cards called. The Eagles kept playing their game, relying on their stellar defense to keep them in the contest. The Leopards’ style of aggressive play and aerialing every chance they got served them well in the first half, but American would eventually break through.
In the third quarter, the Eagles once again started off with an early penalty corner and once again failed to score. Junior midfielder Tayla-Jade Weiss took her first shot, which was blocked by the Leopard defense.
Lafayette midfielder Josephine van Wijk was awarded the first green card of the game, putting American up a player for the first time. They did not capitalize on this one, but Lafayette’s Spaans earned her own just after van Wijk’s expired. Spaans had been very physical all game, and the Eagles fans cheered when she was finally penalized.
There would be no more chances in the third quarter, but American began the fourth with another early penalty corner. Freshman defender Sophie Willemse took the shot from the top of the circle and went straight to sophomore midfielder Agustina Roffo. Roffo’s stick was perfectly placed to tip the ball in, and suddenly American was up 1-0.
“I’m so happy, I’m so excited,” Roffo said. “We worked really hard to be able to host this year. We were so glad to be in the final. It’s so good, I’m so happy.”
Just afterwards, the Leopards had a chance to equalize with a corner of their own, but the Eagle defense made yet another key stop and blocked the shot. Lafayette would have a couple more chances, but nothing broke Underwood’s shutout. American emerged victorious 1-0 and ran to their goalkeeper, who secured the win.
The team took time to celebrate and ran around the field through a tunnel of family and friends. In the awards ceremony afterwards, Weiss was named tournament MVP, and she, Underwood, Boshoff and Roffo were named to the all-tournament team.
“It’s just the culmination of the hard work that our team has put in throughout this entire season,” Underwood said. “I cannot thank my defense enough for giving me the most amazing opportunity to be here. I give it all to them.”
With the League title win, American earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship. They will travel to #3 seed Duke for the first round of the NCAA Championship on Nov. 10 at 12 p.m.
This article was edited by Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella.