A late goal by West Chester University senior Kat Roncoroni enabled the No. 1 Golden Rams to edge past No. 2 ESU Field Hockey 2-1 at Whitenight Field on Oct. 23. The loss ended ESU’s winning streak at seven games.
This game featured the top two field hockey teams in NCAA Division II. West Chester was undefeated at 14-0 and ESU was 14-1. Both teams were undefeated in conference play and quite simply, it was the game of the year, living up to the hype.
Both teams feature outstanding goalkeepers. ESU senior goalkeeper Maddie Richie came into this game ranked first nationally with a 0.871 save percentage. Richie was also ranked second nationally with a 0.270 GAA (Goals Against Average).
West Chester freshman goalkeeper Claire Nielsen came into the game ranked third nationally with a 0.300 GAA and fourth nationally with a 0.846 save percentage.
On the other side of the pitch, both teams are offensive juggernauts who put pressure on their opponents. The Golden Rams came into the game ranked third nationally with 11.43 penalty corners per game while the Warriors are ranked fourth nationally with 11 penalty corners per game.
Fittingly, all three goals came off of penalty corners.
ESU would score the first goal on a penalty corner in the eleventh minute of the game. Senior Emily Spangler’s initial shot was saved by Nielsen, but the rebound went to sophomore Becca Heffner, who shot it past Nielsen to give ESU an early 1-0 lead.
It was the first time all season that West Chester trailed in a game.
But a penalty corner in the second quarter would let the Golden Rams get the equalizer. West Chester senior Sydney Ostroski found a loose ball in front of the net and beat Richie short side to tie the game at one. It was Ostroski’s first goal of her collegiate career.
The game was knotted 1-1 at the half.
The Golden Rams were the only team to get a shot-on-goal in the third quarter. ESU’s Richie made an outstanding save to prevent West Chester’s Roncoroni from scoring.
The Warriors also had two good chances to score in the third quarter. But senior Grace Martini’s shot was wide, and a shot by sophomore Celeste Veenstra at point-blank range went wide as well.
Their best chance to retake the lead came early in the quarter. Veenstra attacked from midfield. Her pass found a wide-open Martini, who was standing five yards in front of the net. But Martini’s shot was harmlessly knocked away by Nielsen.
Then with three minutes left in the game, West Chester was awarded another penalty corner. This time, the Golden Rams cashed in.
West Chester inbounded the ball to Roncoroni, who moved just inside the circle before taking her shot. Richie was able to get a stick on it, but Roncoroni’s shot beat Richie’s short side for what would turn out to be the game-winning goal.
ESU still had three minutes to tie the game, but the Golden Rams held the Warriors off the scoreboard to remain a perfect 15-0 on the season.
Richie had seven saves in the game.
“I think we just didn’t capitalize on certain opportunities. We will learn from this game and get better for the next game,” Richie said.
Senior Karly Conway came into the game ranked eleventh nationally with 0.47 assists per game.
“These are two great teams. We didn’t play them the best we could today, but we will come back,” Conway said.
Veenstra is tied for first in the country with 19 goals on the season.
“I think we worked hard. We created our opportunities, but we didn’t capitalize on them,” Veenstra said.
Head Coach Sandy Miller was disappointed with the outcome, but she was proud of her team’s effort.
“We just came out on the wrong side. But I am proud of our players,” Miller said.
ESU (14-2, 7-1) will play Seton Hill (1-11, 0-7) on the road this Saturday.
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