The ability to fight through adversity is one of the signs that coaches look for to gauge what kind of team they have. If Sunday’s 3-1 victory was any indication of the attitude of this year’s field hockey team,
head coach Sharon Pfluger should be excited.
The No.-12 ranked Lions lost their first match of the season last Tuesday when they fell 1-0 to No. 14-ranked Eastern University. As if that loss wasn’t enough, the Lions also had to deal with falling behind early this week when they faced off against Alvernia University.
The Crusaders took a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the first half when senior Ashley Tatangelo put a shot into the back of the cage.
Some teams would have dropped their heads after giving up an early goal in a match that followed a loss, but the Lions refused to waver.
“As soon as they scored the goal everyone mentally got really pumped,” junior Alex Okuniewicz said. “It wasn’t even an option for us to lose the game.”
The Lions started their comeback by playing solid defense and holding the Crusaders scoreless as they made progress offensively.
“Right after they scored we got together and we just talked about how we needed to be more organized defensively,” junior goalie Shannon Syciarz said.
The next step for the Lions was to get a shot of their own into the back of the cage.
Cue sophomore defender Camille Passucci.
Senior midfielder Kellyn Riley started the attack by putting a corner pass towards the cage, but it Passucci who was there to redirect the ball past junior goalkeeper Abby Eby.
Both teams would hold their ground for the rest of the half as the game remained a 1-1 tie at halftime.
If the first half wasn’t enough, the second half certainly gave Pfluger proof that her team is a group that won’t back down and rise to a challenge.
Pfluger’s team did to the Crusaders what they have done to teams all season – owned the second half.
The Lions came into the match with a 5-1 scoring advantage in the second halves of their matches this season and this match was no different.
“We come out strong in the first half,” Syciarz said. “But in the second half we kick it up a notch trying to make sure we take the opponent out of their game and we can do that if we score more goals than them in the second half.”
Senior forward Jessica Falcone helped make that possible as she put the Lions ahead for good 12:13 into the second half after knocking in a pass from first-year player Kathleen Notos.
Passucci then gave the Lions some insurance as she took a pass from senior Mary Waller and scored her second goal of the game.
The Lions defense was just as strong as they have been all season limiting the Crusaders to a mere two shots-on-cage in the second half.
“We’ve always had a really defensive team,” Okuniewicz, who was recently named NJAC Defensive Player of the Week, said. “That’s something we always work on in practice and whether you’re a forward on the field, you’re a midfielder or you’re a defender you’re playing defense all the time. There’s never someone who’s not playing defense.”
Due to such a great defensive effort, Syciarz was only forced to save one shot in the second half and she delivered.
“It’s really comforting to know, especially when we’re all communicating, that we’re very solid [defensively],” Syciarz said. “It also helps knowing that there are going to be a limited number of shots instead of getting pounded.”
The Lions will look to continue their defensive effort as they return to home this week as they open up NJAC play versus William Paterson on Sept. 25.