Field Hockey earns fourth NJAC championship

By Britta Nippert

The Lions’ field hockey team won the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship on Friday, defeating host Rowan University 2-1 in Glassboro.

The game marked the field hockey team’s fourth NJAC title in five years.

“It’s good motivation to know that you’re part of such a good program, there’s a lot of tradition behind it,” junior goalie Shannon Syciarz said. “The alumni know we’re doing our best to be a national contender every year.”

Rowan scored first, but the College answered with two consecutive goals to come out on top.

Prior to the game, both teams were 5-0 in the conference.

“We’re their biggest rivals. We knew it was going to be a tough battle,” junior forward Leigh Mitchell said.

Securing the NJAC title, the No. 9-ranked Lions won an automatic spot in the 2010 NCAA Division III Tournament.

“We have the weekend off to rest and heal up,” sophomore forward Jillian Nealon said. “Then we’ll practice all week to prepare.”

The field hockey team finished its regular season with a 16-4 record and its conference play with a perfect 6-0.

“In the first half, play was pretty even,” Mitchell said. “But we both had moments when our offenses were dominating.”

Despite the commanding offensive play, neither team was able to score in the first half.

“At half time (head coach Sharon Pfluger0 made a couple of substitutions and moved some people around,” said Nealon. “We needed to take advantage of the opportunities we had on goal.”

Ten minutes into the second half, the Profs gained a 1-0 lead over the Lions.

“After that, our defense knew we couldn’t let any more goals in,” Syciarz said. “We were going down the field to score. We had to let them know we were still in control.”

The College did just that, as Nealon scored a mere 14 seconds later off of an assist from junior midfielder Kathleen Notos.

With 7:19 remaining in the game, Nealon netted the College’s second goal on a play that originated in the defensive end of the Lions’ field. Sophomore defender Christy Wham gained possession of the ball and passed it to junior midfielder Alex Okuniewicz. The ball was then advanced to Mitchell who crossed the ball in front of Rowan’s net. Nealon finished the play with a reverse flick that happened to be the championship winning goal.

“That was really exciting,” Nealon said. “The team definitely came off of it strong. Without the defense and midfield it wouldn’t have happened.”

Syciarz tied her career best by winning 16 games in one season. She finished the game with two saves.

Rowan ended their regular season with a 13-6 overall and a 5-1 conference record. The Profs hope to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

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