Sophomore forward Celeste Veenstra’s game-winning goal from inside the circle early in the fourth quarter was just enough for No. 2 ESU Field Hockey to beat the Kutztown University Golden Bears for its second conference championship in program history. The game was played at West Chester University’s Vonnie Gross Field.
It was the third time that the two schools played each other this season. Kutztown won the first meeting in double-overtime, but ESU won the second game to split the season series.
The Warriors were badly outplayed by the Golden Bears in the first quarter.
Kutztown’s offensive pressure resulted in a penalty corner just four minutes into the game. That led to KU’s first shot which went wide, and their second shot was saved by ESU senior goalkeeper Maddie Richie.
The Golden Bears continued to apply offensive pressure. There was a scrum in front of Richie where a number of players went to the ground in front of ESU’s goal. Somehow, the officials deemed the offense worthy of a penalty stroke for Kutztown.
Kutztown junior Alyssa Donato tried to go top shelf, but her shot was deflected out of the way by Richie.
Head Coach Sandy Miller was not happy with the call.
“It looked like the ball went off Bri Sassaman’s chest,” Miller said. “We weren’t crazy about the stroke call because strokes are supposed to be called when you prevent a sure goal.”
If the first quarter belonged to Kutztown, the second quarter belonged to ESU.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start in the first quarter. But from the second quarter on, we played our style of hockey,” Miller said.
The Warriors outshot the Golden Bears 3-1 in the second quarter, but they could not find the back of the net, and the game was deadlocked at intermission.
ESU had two scoring chances early in the third quarter. But Veenstra’s shot went wide, and sophomore Hannah Barbush’s shot was stopped by Kutztown sophomore Juliana Borisow.
The Warriors would finally break the ice in the fourth quarter.
The Golden Bears were attacking and had ESU on defense. Then Kutztown’s pass was intercepted by ESU senior Kristen English. She passed the ball to Veenstra who went streaking up the field and dropped the ball off to senior Grace Martini just outside of the circle. Martini passed it right back to Veenstra for a little give-and-go action for the Warriors.
Veenstra moved two yards inside the circle and launched a rocket shot to the top corner of the cage that beat KU’s goalkeeper far side.
It was blackjack for the Warriors. Veenstra’s 21st goal of the season would be the game-winning goal.
Kutztown tried to answer in the final stages of the game. The Golden Bears forced two penalty corners. But ESU’s defense stiffened and denied the final two shots by KU senior Mackenzie Fuhrman to preserve the 1-0 victory for the Warriors. It was the team’s 13th shutout of the season.
The Warriors won its second conference championship in program history. ESU’s last title came in 2015.
Veenstra was named the PSAC Field Hockey Championship MVP after the game.
Miller talked about how the team celebrated on the bus ride home.
“They were singing and dancing around. Songs like Dancing Queen and We Are the Champions and having fun,” Miller said.
On Monday, ESU was selected to play in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
ESU will host a national tournament game for only the second time in program history. They will play No. 9 Assumption this Saturday afternoon at Whitenight Field.
Miller has built ESU Field Hockey into one of the best programs in NCAA Division II.
“I’ve got one of the best jobs. I really enjoy my job,” Miller said.
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