While they celebrated a berth to the Final Four on their home turf, the College’s field hockey team reflected on a hard-fought lesson that opportunity makes the winner, but a winner must capitalize on opportunity.
“You have to take advantage of the opportunities that you have,” Head Coach Sharon Pfluger said. “It doesn’t matter how the game is going. When you get an opportunity, you have to cash in on it.”
The No. 3-seeded Lions (22-2) made the most of their limited opportunities against No. 4-seeded Lynchburg College in a 3-0 win and struck when they needed to in a 1-0 victory over No. 13-ranked William Smith College.
The Lions only had five shots on goal against the Hornets (19-2), but junior forward/midfielder Kathleen Notos was able to put three of those shots into the cage in the second half.
“We took advantage of the opportunities that we had in the second half today, and that’s what you need to do,” Pfluger said. “You can get 50 shots, but if you don’t score off of them, you’re not going to win the game.”
It was a hat trick courtesy of Notos that gave the Lions an edge over the Hornets, but she believes it was the defense that really stood out.
“I think it was just feeding off the energy that the defense was creating because they were such a force,” Notos said. “They wouldn’t let anything in and we knew we had to put something in so they didn’t have to do all the work.”
The defense certainly had their work cut out for them with the Hornets lining up for 16 penalty corners and getting 10 shots in goal.
The Lions saw several defenders step up to the challenge: senior defender Alex Okuniewicz diving all over the place, freshmen defender Lauren Pigott making a defensive save on the goal line and senior goalkeeper Shannon Syciarz securing the shutout.
“It’s nice that we have a team full of girls who will do anything in their power to keep the ball out of our defensive end, keep the ball out of the cage and keep pressuring forward,” Syciarz said.
The opportunities were plentiful for the Lions in their win over the Herons (16-5), but it wasn’t until the 55th minute that they took the lead. Junior forward Caitlyn Jenkins notched the Lions’ lone goal when she banged in a pass from junior defender Christy Wham.
“That was a big sigh of relief,” Notos said. “As soon as it went in, I knew that was it, I knew that was the game, because that’s all we needed. It was a perfect goal.”
The Lions defense was crucial in this contest as well with Syciarz stonewalling the Herons and Pigott being there when Syciarz wasn’t. Together, they made two defensive saves.
“I had to come out and pressure a ball, and it slipped through and was trickling towards the cage,” Syciarz said. “I saw (Pigott) in the corner of my eye, though, and she came swinging through to keep it out of the corner of the cage. Sometimes one play makes or breaks a game, and that was a huge one.”
The Lions will now more forward into the Final Four, where they will match up with Ursinus College in Dudley, Mass. on Nov. 19.
“It feels great to know that we have another week of practice ahead of us,” Syciarz said. “The only good way to end a season is on a win, and that means winning it all.”