The West Chester Lady Ram’s Field Hockey squad won two conference games last week while breaking two school records at Richmond and home against St. Louis.On Oct. 12, West Chester (5-10, 2-3) traveled to Richmond to clash with the Lady Spiders for their third consecutive conference road match-up. Richmond entered the contest as winners of 44 straight Atlantic-10 conference games.
West Chester entered fired up after losing the opening two division games at Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“We had a good team meeting [after the losses],” Head Coach Kathy Krannebitter said. “I think it was good for us. More importantly, I kind of changed up practice. We started making things more competitive and conditional, and the team responded well to that.”
The Lady Rams responded opening up a 3-0 lead over Richmond in the first half, a feat that, according to Krannebitter, “stunned the daylights” out of the team.
Freshman Alex Swayze, junior Marisa Holzman and senior Shelly Brooks tallied goals before the 20-minute mark.
“We talked all week about starting the way we want, not sitting back and waiting to see what the other team does,” Krannebitter said. “We are talented, but now I think we see how important it is to start confident and strong.”
Richmond responded before halftime behind Adrian Pickar who scored to cut the deficit to 3-1. Shortly after halftime, Jess Weidner brought the Spiders back with striking distance, 3-2, with her first goal of the season.
The Lady Rams responded behind Swayze’s second goal of the contest and the Rams held Richmond off the board for the rest of the contest as Joelle Zarefoss entered with 20 minutes left and kept the Spiders off the board recording four saves.
“A team like Richmond had complete dominance over this conference since 2001,” Krannebitter said. “No one had been able to beat them. To finally find the confidence to do that is tremendous.”
The victory not only broke Richmond’s streak of 44 consecutive victories but evaporated West Chester’s eight-game losing streak and 13-game conference losing streak.
“Words can’t even describe how awesome it felt to beat Richmond,” senior Sara Conrad said after returning from the road trip. “To go down and beat them at their field and be the first team in the conference to beat them since 2001 was awesome.”
Two days later, West Chester returned home to clash with St.Louis and avoid playing a game with less on the line. West Chester did not lose focus against St. Louis as the victory marked the program’s 400th win.
West Chester opened scoring once again with another goal from Swayze, her third goal in two games.
“I believed she was capable of doing what she is now doing, but didn’t know when it would be realized,” Krannebitter said of her freshman standout. Krannebitter attributed her present and future growth to the benefit of playing behind her more experience teammates.
In recognition of her success, Swayze was named A-10 Rookie of the Week for her three goals and six points against Richmond and St. Louis.
“Being named A-10 Rookie of the Week is a huge honor,” Swayze said of the accolade. “It encourages me to work that much harder to continue to get better.”
After Swayze’s goal, St. Louis responded to tie the game, but Brooks answered to take another one-goal advantage. St Louis tied the game again, but Brooks broke the tie in overtime, this time off a penalty stroke perfect placed in the corner of the net, leaving the St. Louis goaltender helpless and leading West Chester to the 3-2-OT victory.
The goal was Brooks’ second of the game and eighth of the season. Brooks leads all WCU players in goals, points and shots.
One huge obstacle the team overcame was being able to win without the scoring presence of standout Sara Conrad who is scoreless in division play. Earlier in the season, Conrad was named A-10 player of the week twice.
“When you have a threat like Sara, it draws a lot of attention,” Krannebitter said. Krannebitter continued that Conrad presence opens up opportunities for other players..
“I do think teams try to eliminate me from the game so I just have to make a difference in another way,” Conrad said. “I may not score a bunch of goals in conference play but I can create opportunities for other people. That’s why it’s a good time for the other forwards to be stepping up like they have been.”
West Chester plays two more conference games. At the conclusion of the field hockey regular season, the top four teams will play a tournament to determine the A-10 champion.
Krannebittter’s took pride in the 400th career school victory but hoped to use it move on over the final games stating, “Anything can happen.”
Frank Stern is a fourth-year student majoring in Literature with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at FS628548@wcupa.edu