By George Tatoris
The Lions were faced with a familiar situation on Saturday, Nov. 12 — something they’ve seen two times already this season. After 70 minutes of evenly-matched field hockey, they go into overtime.
The stakes are high — any scoring opportunity, any penalty corner can win the game. The Lions were able to come out on top in both contests. However, this time things were different. Throw in the possibility that the loser is ejected from the NCAA Tournament, and things can get a little testy.
The Lions met the Franklin and Marshall College Diplomats in neutral territory — Babson Park, Mass. — to negotiate a spot in the next round of the NCAA Tournament the only way they know how.
Unfortunately for the Lions, this would not be their third victory in overtime. After the hard-fought match, the Diplomats eked past the Lions, 1-0.
However, Babson College put the Diplomats at the other end of that score the next day to make it through to the Final Four.
The loss leaves the Lions with a 16-4 record for the 2016 season.
The Lions were ranked fifth and the Diplomats ranked eighth nationally upon taking the field. The Lions strength this season came in the form of a vicious offense that scored 79 points over 20 games. All of their opponents were only able to score 22 points on them total.
The Diplomats themselves only scored a total of 46 goals prior to the the match-up, however sometimes it’s not about the number of goals a team scores, but the effectiveness at each goal. At the end of the day, the Diplomats had increased their season goals to 47 while the Lions were still at 79.
Almost half of those goals came from senior forward Jaclyn Douglas, who scored 19 of them, and senior defender Lexi Smith, who scored 18.
Although the Lions had an overall advantage, the Diplomats rigid defense and very competent offense were able to keep the Lions at bay. The Diplomats outshot the Lions 2-1 in the first half, and initiated three penalty corners against the Lions none.
Junior forward Elizabeth Morrison fired the first shot, but Diplomat goalkeeper Lliana Santangelo made it a save. The Diplomats went on the attack after this, initiating two corner plays, each offering the team an opportunity to score.
Diplomat sophomore midfielder Nicole Bodo took the first shot, but Lions senior defender Shannon Cowles was there to make her fifth defensive save of the season. Cowles was second this season in defensive saves behind Smith, who had nine. Although she is a senior, Cowles made her first Lions goal against the Kean University Cougars on Saturday, Oct. 29.
With less than 30 seconds in the half, the Diplomats freshman midfielder Erin Coverdale made another shot, but it was blocked by a Lions defender.
The Lions took control of the ball in the second half. After another shot from Coverdale was blocked, the Lions made three shots against the Diplomats. Smith missed an opportunity to score at 40 minutes in, hitting the post on a corner play.
After, two opportunities to score were stymied by the Diplomats defense. Sophomore forward Taylor Barrett’s shot ended in a defensive save for Diplomats junior defender Sarah Schannauer. Later, both of senior forward/midfielder Danielle Andreula’s shots gave Santangelo a save.
Despite either team’s efforts, the half ended in another stalemate, and the game went into overtime.
At first, it seemed Douglas, who has five game-winning goals this season — one of which resulted in a victory in overtime — would repeat history. However, Douglas’s shot ended in a save for Santangelo.
Franklin and Marshalls junior forward Sydney Cole decided the game with a goal just over two minutes into the overtime period.
The season may be over for this group of Lions, and the loss of their two most heavy-hitting starters — Smith and Douglas — will truly impact them in 2017. However, many returning players have also shown great potential this season.
Despite only playing for just over 800 minutes the entire season, freshman forward Cayla Andrews has scored 12 goals, the fourth most of any Lion. One of those 12 won the Lions the 2016 New Jersey Athletic Conference title and earned the team a slot in the NCAA Tournament.
Morrison, who also scored 12 goals and whose speed and strength are always a highlight on the field, also has one more year of play left. Junior goalkeeper Christina Fabiano also has one year left. After playing just under 1,000 minutes this season, she has accumulated 28 saves.