BY Mikenzie Carbone
The Women’s Field Hockey team defeated Lehigh University on Oct. 20 in a non-conference game to advance their win streak to three games. The Pioneers improved their Northeast Conference (NEC) record to 2-1 and stand in fourth place in their division.
Three NEC conference games lie ahead and will determine if the Pioneers will qualify for postseason play. Despite a tough start to the season with a record of 1-11, the win streak altered the team’s confidence. The streak is the longest streak since the 2014 field hockey season.
“We started this season on the lower end, not winning as many games,” said senior Bridget Kelly. “As we head into conference games, we have more confidence, an aspect that allows us to believe in ourselves.”
According to Sacred Heart Athletics, Kelly had two assists and two defensive saves for the weekend against Lehigh and Bryant University. Kelly improved her personal defensive saves record to 13 for the season, which is a record high in the NEC conference.
The NEC league office awarded Kelly as Defensive Player of the Week in result of her defensive play, and assists throughout the season thus far.
“It was really exciting, it validates not only the work I put in everyday at practice, but the defensive unit and team as a whole,” said Kelly. “It’s not just me back there so I wouldn’t be able to do it without the defenders and the goalie. It’s nice that we get that recognition.”
Head coach Sydney Van Der Merwe spoke on Kelly’s behave after she was awarded and about the latter half of the season.
“Bridget has been consistent all season. She is a vital role and is always reliable,” said Van Der Merwe. “I’m glad she got recognized for all her hard work on the defensive side.”
The defensive unit is comprised of young athletes. The beginning of the season was a learning process for the young line with a schedule that included top notch non-conference teams.
“We have some younger players in the back field and they have really stepped up into the important role,” said Kelly. “My focus this season was to work together because in the past years defense has been a weak point in our team, and I really wanted our team to come together from back to the front.”
As a coach, Van Der Merwe looks at the schedule before every game, sees who the next team is, and determines how to run the practices based off of the field condition of where the game will be played and the opponents strengths and weaknesses.
“This week we are playing Long Island Post on their football field,” said Van Der Merwe. “All week we have been playing on the campus football field to get used to the turf surface that LIU plays on.”
The Pioneers have confidence from the win streak and Kelly’s award that the players and coaches hope will remain for the latter half of the season.
“The win streak is giving the team a lot of confidence after winning against Lehigh. They have been working hard every game in and out,” said Vann Der Merwe. “All season we have been working up to the postseason.”
The Pioneers conference record is tied with LIU (2-1). This match up will be the first of three NEC conference games that the Pioneers have left for regular season. The top four ranked teams in the NEC division will qualify for tournament play.
Sacred Heart travels to LIU for a conference game on Oct. 25 at 3:00 p.m.