Three W’s to close season keep playoff chances alive

After suffering a scare two weeks ago and with playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the College’s field hockey team came up huge with three shutout wins last week.

On Oct. 18, the Lions fell to third-ranked Messiah College. Four days later, on Saturday, the Lions suffered another crushing defeat, this time at the hands of Montclair State University. Montclair tied the game up before the end of the half, and then scored in the beginning of the second overtime, marking the first time all season the College has lost two games in a row.

After the two losses, the Lions had just three games remaining on their regular season schedule, and if they wanted to have a shot at making the postseason, the team would most likely have to win all three. Head coach Sharon Pfluger said that the two losses could have been a bit of an eye-opener for the team.

“We learned some hard lessons,” Pfluger said. “We were up by one in both games, but we let both of them slip away from us. We knew we were going to really have to concentrate and focus after those losses to make sure we didn’t lose any more.”

“Last week was very rough for us,” junior defender Meg Hess said. “We knew that this week would be a big factor in determining whether or not we would have a shot at making it to postseason. We really came together as a team because we wanted to finish out the season strong.”

The team did just that, and the quest began with a game last Tuesday against Eastern University. The offense came out on fire, scoring seven goals – the most it have scored in a game all season. Scorers included freshmen midfielder Kelly Mitchell and forward Katie Reuther, who scored two goals apiece and freshman midfielder Jenna Durante, freshman forward Stephanie Champion and junior forward Jess Berkowitz each added a goal. The defense did not allow a single shot on goal.

The team carried over its all-out offensive attack into a game against Drew University two days later. Hess was able to find the back of the net twice, and junior forward Allison Greene and Reuther also scored again. Freshman forward Jennifer Lubin also notched a goal, giving the Lions their five. Again the defense was stellar, this time only allowing two shots on goal.

On Sunday, however, came perhaps the Lions biggest matchup of the season. They had to travel to upstate New York to square off against SUNY-Cortland, the seventh- ranked team in the nation. The College’s offensive attack was stifled in the first half and scored no goals, but the defense held strong and allowed none.

In the second half, though, sophomore Sheri Grondski scored a goal and also had an assist on a goal by Berkowitz to give the Lions the 2-0 victory. The win all but guaranteed that the team will make the playoffs and have a run at the national title. The official list of playoff teams will be released on Monday, but Pfluger is expecting to find her team’s name on it. She is ready to prepare her team and gear up for a run at the championship.

“The time between now and the playoffs is a great opportunity to fine tune a lot of things,” Pfluger said. “We can concentrate on organization and strategy to beat these good teams.”

Sophomore defender Colleen Dougherty also realizes that this next week of practice is key for her team’s championship hopes.

“I think we need to work on simple things like communication on the field, playing for the teammate next to you, being disciplined, no defensive breakdowns and putting the ball in the cage,” she said.

The first round of the NCAA playoffs will take place next Wednesday. As of Monday, it was unknown whether the Lions would qualify.