BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Despite controlling play in the opening minutes, No. 14 American bounced back with a pair of scoring spurts to hand the Lehigh field hockey team a 9-0 loss in the Patriot League opener on Saturday at Ulrich Field. It was also the Mountain Hawks’ (2-9, 0-1 PL) first-ever Pink Game in support of breast cancer awareness.
"We anticipated this would be a tough game, just by the fact that they're seven-time defending league champions," said head coach Julie Mazer. "We're capable of playing much better. There were some good individual efforts at times, but we need to work better as a unit from beginning to end."
Lehigh wore special pink jerseys to help promote and raise funds for breast cancer awareness. Pink game balls were also used as part of Play4TheCure, a national effort in the field hockey community to create and raise funds for breast cancer. Pink Lehigh t-shirts were sold with proceeds going directly to Susan G. Komen for the cure. Fans still have an opportunity to purchase these shirts while supplies last on Lehighsports.com (link below).
"It's always good to give back," said Mazer. "Breast cancer impacts everyone at one level or another. It's always nice to raise awareness for an organization as they try to find a cure. I'm proud [the team] wanted to take part in such a cause. This is much bigger than field hockey."
The Mountain Hawks jumped out to a fast start and nearly took a 1-0 advantage at 2:01 when junior Caitlin Donnelly came down the left side of the field and into the circle. She got off a tough-angle shot which squirted past American goalkeeper Hannah Weitzman and looked ticketed for the back of the cage. However, Tatum Dyer came in to make the clutch defensive save before it crossed the goal line.
"I saw some moments where we did some good things," said Mazer, "especially in the beginning stages of the first half."
American’s first scoring opportunity came at 9:47, but Lehigh senior goalkeeper Jessica Miller made an incredible sprawling stick save off a Christine Fingerhuth rocket from the top of the circle.
The Eagles did get the first past Miller only 36 seconds later, which started a run of five goals in the span of 14:09 to blow the game open. The first came by Melissa Casale at 10:25 off a penalty corner, while the last was also off a corner, coming from Lotte van de Mierop after Miller made a strong save off the initial shot.
A similar second half saw the teams go scoreless over the opening minutes until American responded with its final four goals over a span of 18:11 to make it 9-0.
The Eagles held the final shot advantage, 30-3, while they had 15 penalty corners to Lehigh’s one. Miller made six saves in the first half while fellow senior Lilia Stefaniwsky made six in the second. Stephanie Burry relieved Weitzman and made one save in the closing minutes. In total, seven different Eagles players scored, with six goals coming off penalty corners.
"They're very precise and strong at every position," said Mazer. "Give them credit. They take advantage of every opportunity. Unfortunately, we gave them a lot of opportunities.
"It's dissapointing because we played well in the first 15 minutes of the game and we need to be able to sustain that," she continued. "The reason we played well in the beginning is because we were taking care of the ball and were disciplined in our play. A couple goals and we got a little frustrated, which got the best of us. We'll regroup and get ready for the next conference game next Saturday.
Lehigh returns to action next weekend when it travels to Colgate on Saturday and Cornell on Sunday.