Senior midfielder Leigh Mitchell snatched up the ground ball, sent it off to sophomore Lauren Pigott and watched as Pigott hot-potatoed the ball to sophomore attacker Jen Garavente, who held onto the ball as the final seconds evaporated in the College’s 17-15 upset over No.1-ranked Gettysburg College.
“It was such a high to watch the clock go down to zero at the end of the game, beating the No. 1 team,” Mitchell said. “There was so much excitement all game and it was great to end the game on top.”
Mitchell played an integral part in the Lions’ victory, picking up five assists, but it was junior attacker Alex Spark who stole the show.
Spark had a season-high six goals against the Bullets, leading the Lions offense, but her contributions didn’t stop there. Spark was a Swiss Army knife for the Lions as she grabbed two draw controls, picked up three ground balls and caused a turnover.
After taking a 2-1 lead early on, the Lions were ambushed by a Bullets attack that scored five straight goals. The Bullets grabbed three draw controls in a row after going up 3-2 and all those possessions led to scores.
Spark kick started the Lions’ comeback by snatching up the first two draw controls in a slew of five that gave the Lions possession and the advantage as they rallied back. On the offensive end of that run senior midfielder Kathleen Notos was the Lions anchor, scoring three straight goals as the Lions cut the lead to one.
“For us, it was the game changing performance where we realized that we can score as many goals as we want to and they can’t stop us,” Spark said. “We thrived off of going on a three-goal run and once we got ahead we wouldn’t let ourselves lose the lead.”
That lead would come soon after Notos’ eruption with junior attacker Trenna Hill tying things up at six with 11:36 left in the first half and Pigott putting the Lions back on top with one of her four goals on the day. Although the Bullets grabbed the ensuing draw control, the Lions netted the next goal when Spark continued the barrage.
A turnover by sophomore defender Claire Engelman induced a score by Bullets midfielder Kelsey Markiewicz, but the Lions went into halftime up 8-7 on last year’s National Champions.
Pigott scored the Lions first goal of the second half, but it was another Lion who came out of the break on fire. Hill, who took 10 shots in the game, followed Pigott’s initial goal with three of her own, propelling the Lions to a 12-7 advantage.
“(Hill and Pigott) both had amazing games,” Spark said. “I think everyone played so well because the whole day was spent pumping each other up for the big game, and we all got into the game with such adrenaline.”
The game seemed to be completely in the Lions’ favor, but the Bullets would not back down, getting a trio of scores past sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Zinck. Spark countered for the Lions though by recording four of the game’s next five goals and getting the Lions back out by five.
Just when it looked like the Lions would be able to glide to victory through the last seven minutes, the Bullets showed why they were ranked as the nation’s top team.
After stopping an attack by the Lions, the Bullets inched closer when freshman midfielder Bridget Kenny beat Zinck for her fourth goal of the game. However, the bigger blow came before the score when sophomore defender Nicole Pineda was taken off the field with an injury.
With Pineda on the sidelines, the Lions received enormous pressure from the Bullets attack, who scored again after a turnover by Pineda’s replacement and then again 24 seconds later to close the Lions lead to a lone goal.
The Bullets looked to be in great shape after they won the next draw control, but Spark was there for the Lions yet again. Pigott knocked the ball free from the Bullets goalkeeper and Spark was there to pick up the loose ball.
The Bullets fought back with their unblemished record on the line and forced Pigott into a turnover, taking back control of the ball. That possession didn’t last long though as Mitchell responded with a caused turnover of her own. The ball rolled along the ground until it was scooped up by Pigott, who fired a shot into the back of the net and put the Lions up 17-15.
“It was so exciting to see Pigott be able to score off of that caused turnover and definitely gave the team a sense of relief knowing we now had a two-goal cushion,” Mitchell said.
The last minute and a half were full of excitement with a Gettysburg shot ricocheting off the post and a tossup play following, but it was ultimately Mitchell who secured the possession for the Lions that ended the contest — a moment Spark won’t forget.
“It was an indescribable feeling, we have been working so hard toward this game and the feeling of all the work paying off was amazing,” Spark said. “It makes all the hard work for those 60 minutes completely worth it.”
The Lions won’t be able to celebrate for too long though, with No. 8-ranked Franklin and Marshall College slated on the schedule for Friday, April 6.