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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Field hockey falls to American in Patriot League final

Junior midfielder and captain Lineke Spaans dribbles against American in the Patriot League final. (Photo courtesy of GoLeopards)

The field hockey team (12-7 overall, 5-1 Patriot League) is the 2023 Patriot League runner-up after losing to American University (11-7 overall, 6-0 Patriot League) in Saturday’s championship game.

The Leopards, who were second in the regular season standings, came in on a five-game win streak against conference opponents. Their previous and sole loss in the Patriot League came against American back in September. The Eagles, meanwhile, won every in-conference game they played on their way to winning the regular season title. 

This is American’s 13th title since joining the league in 2001. Lafayette has won nine titles since 1990. 

The Eagles have now won nine straight meetings against Lafayette dating back to 2019. Of those games, three have been battles over the Patriot League title. The Eagles are now 6-1 overall against Lafayette in Patriot League championship games. 

“We haven’t beaten American in a couple years, and it’s always such a close game when we face them,” junior midfielder and captain Lineke Spaans said. “We lost to them in the final two years ago and something similar happened four years ago. It’s always hard to play against them, and we just haven’t been able to beat them in a while. But I think they also don’t like playing against us because we always make it tough for them.”

The first quarter of the game saw the defenses on top, with Lafayette controlling possession and shooting the ball three times, shutting out American in the same category. 

“They had a very good defense,” Spaans said. “They were set up so that it was hard for us to find attacking opportunities, and it was so hard for us because almost our whole midfield was injured so we didn’t have a lot of substitutes while they had many. It was really tiring.”

A notable absence for the Leopards was Patriot League Rookie of the Year and second-team, all-conference freshman Stella Malinowski, who could not play due to injury. She ended her first collegiate season with eight goals and two assists in 17 games. 

Spaans displayed her skilled dribbling throughout the match, forcing American to double-team her. She was named to the all-tournament team alongside teammates sophomore midfielder Makenzie Switzer and freshman defender Lena Thedrian. 

Going into the half tied at zero apiece, Lafayette had double the opposition’s shots. 

“We could’ve moved the ball more and had more movement in the midfield and in the striker line,” Spaans said. “But honestly everyone was gassed and Laine [Delmotte] was playing through an injury, along with Josephine [van Wijk]. Stella [Malinowski] had to sit out, so it was tough. We were still optimistic about winning the game.”

Van Wijk was a threat on offense, ending the game with two shots. However, things shifted in the third quarter when Lafayette did not record a single shot.

Then, in the fourth quarter, American tipped in a penalty corner. The ball made it past senior goalkeeper Emma Garvey, who made three saves in the final. The scene was reminiscent of the 2021 final when American also won off of a penalty corner.

Lafayette pulled the goalkeeper with about three minutes left, going a player up while American sat back and successfully defended.

As the Patriot League Champion, American will now compete in the NCAA tournament. The Eagles travel to North Carolina to face Duke at noon on Friday. 

For the Leopards life goes on. 

“We will be wrapping up for the season,” junior defender and captain India Ralph said. “We have individual meetings with our coaches, community involvement and end-of-season testing throughout the next few weeks … Then, following winter break, we will start our preparation for the next fall season.”

The Leopards’ run was a huge improvement compared to last year when they did not qualify for playoffs and ended with a losing record. The team has impressively played in three championship matches in five years.  

“[Coach Jennifer Stone] discussed her immense pride in the team’s efforts and emphasized the significant amount of hard work that we put in to reach the championship,” Ralph said. “Despite the unfavorable outcome of the game, she encouraged us to maintain a sense of pride in the outstanding season that we had and reminded us of the team and program’s growth throughout the year.” 

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Eric Ponieman
Eric Ponieman, Assistant Sports Editor
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