Field hockey downs Montclair

Field hockey head coach Sharon Pfluger consistently faces a schedule filled with top-level competition, and this year has been no different.

The No. 5-ranked Lions have played several big-time games this season, including a loss to No.1-ranked Salisbury University, but their biggest matchup to this point came on Saturday, Nov. 15, against Montclair State University.

Alex Okuniewicz ramps up the defense. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Long)

The Red Hawks came into their match against the Lions ranked No. 7 overall in Division III, with a record of 14-0 and tied with the College atop the NJAC. When the 70th minute ran off the clock, however, it was the Lions who celebrated in victory, coming out on top in a 1-0 duel.

“I think it was critical and great for us to win,” Pfluger said. “We had to win that game. We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t cash in on, so to score, finally, in the last minutes was a good feeling.”

The Lions, who outshot the Red Hawks 13 to 10, had to wait until a penalty corner with a little over five minutes left in regulation to seal the game. The goal came courtesy of freshman forward Erin Healy, who took a nice touch pass from senior forward/midfielder Leigh Mitchell and sent it into the cage.

The assist, in a crucial game for the Lions’ postseason hopes, was a nice reward for all the work Mitchell has put in to get herself back on the field after sitting out the majority of the season due to injury.

“Seeing (Mitchell) back out there is always good,” senior goalkeeper Shannon Syciarz said. “She’s such a big playmaker on the field, a big motivator and a huge asset to our team. So, when she’s on the field, it’s definitely a plus.”

The Lions also had another positive sign as junior forward/midfielder Kathleen Notos, who has also sat out due to injury, scored a goal and added an assist in a 2-0 victory over No. 20-ranked Juniata College on Sunday, Oct. 23.

“It’s nice to get (Mitchell and Notos) back in,” Pfluger said. “But we’re still being careful with them because we still have a lot of the season left to go. I don’t want to wear them down.”

The College knocked off another NJAC opponent a few days after they tripped up the Red Hawks, on Tuesday, Oct. 18, when they defeated Kean University with a score of 4-0.

Senior midfielder Alex Okuniwiecz led the Lions as she recorded two goals and one assist.

The Lions later took down Cabrini College 5-0 on Thursday, Oct. 20, one of four games in the last couple of weeks where the Lions have not surrendered a goal.

“All together, the whole team has been playing defense,” Syciarz, who has made 12 saves during the streak, said. “The forwards have been getting back, hustling back and helping us out. It’s really a team effort with our defense and it’s really paying off.”