BY Mikenzie Carbone
The Women’s Field Hockey team was defeated by the top-seeded Fairfield University Stags in the Northeast Conference (NEC) semifinals Friday afternoon. The Pioneers fell short in a 2-1 loss against the Stags at Wagner College.
The semifinals game was tied 0-0 until the fourth quarter when Fairfield buried the first shot on net to make it 1-0. Senior Kelsy Hopkins of the Pioneers responded three minutes later to tie the game 1-1.
The Pioneers got called for a foul, which resulted in a penalty shot for Emma Matlach of the Stags. Matlach completed her penalty shot to bring the score to 2-1 with 7:33 left in the game.
There were no further goals made in the game. Although the Pioneers season came to a close, the overall season was successful as the team grew over time.
This was the first time the Pioneers played in the postseason for two consecutive years since the 2007-2008 season.
In their only regular season game against Fairfield in October, Sacred Heart was defeated them 1-0 in overtime. Following their game against the Stags, the team went on a run, winning four of their next six games to put them in the playoff picture.
“The girls continued to grow and develop after every game,” said head coach Sydney Van Der Merwe. “From when we played Fairfield until now, we have definitely learned a lot and have grown tremendously.”
While the team started the season, losing 11 of their first 12 games, Van Der Merwe remained confident that things would turn around.
“All season I have told them the same thing, ‘your time is going to come, be patient, and take opportunities as they come,’ ” said Van Der Merwe. “They kept believing that one day they would get their break. That is what happened, the break came, and the girls capitalized.”
Sacred Heart began conference play with a loss to Fairfield on Oct. 4. Sacred Heart went on to win the next four out of six games, which resulted in the team clenching a spot in the NEC Tournament after defeating Wagner College 4-0 on Oct. 27.
“It is what we needed because we were on a downward slope for a little while,” said junior goalkeeper Hailey Power. “Winning those games really helped us realize we are capable.”
The dynamic of practice remained the same for the Pioneers for the week that led up to the semifinal game against Fairfield. The coach kept it simple and had the women focus on the basics.
“In practice we focused on scoring and finishing our shots,” said sophomore midfielder Kayla Kruk. “That was a big problem in our previous games, so we wanted to get more shots on goal.”
The defensive unit remained strong throughout the 60 minute game. Powers made five saves in the net, and senior national-leading defender Bridget Kelly made two defensive saves to advance her total to 15 on the season for her last collegiate game. Kelly will stand as the national leader for defensive saves for the 2019 season.
The Pioneers closed the season with an overall record of 5-15, going 3-3 in NEC conference play. Sacred Heart will return in 2020 with 19 athletes from the 2019 roster.