Mon. May 16th, 2022

West Chester is coming off a huge tally in the win column last week that placed them above the rest in the PSAC standings. After taking down the previously top-ranked California (Pa.), the Rams have regained the position they held for so long: first place in the PSAC.Three weeks after dropping a pivotal game to Bloomsburg that halted West Chester’s undefeated season and shutout streak, the Rams went onto Cal’s turf as the underdog and knocked the Vulcans from the top spot in the PSAC in what was a huge confidence booster for West Chester.

“The win against Cal was exactly what our team needed,” senior captain Jess Bennett said. “The loss against Bloomsburg was awful, but really set everything into perspective for us. We bounced back well and haven’t looked back since.”

In 12 of their 15 games this season, the Rams have held their opponent scoreless. They have outscored their opponents 37-7.

After that critical game last week, Sarah Oswald was named the PSAC Player of the Week, as well as the ECAC Player of the Week.

Oswald contributed both game winners against Shippensburg and California (Pa.). The latter not only won the game against the previously undefeated Vulcan’s, but also elevated the Rams into first place in the PSAC.

Shippensburg’s game also helped Oswald break the school record for career assists with 30.

The last four games of the season consisted of one non-conference team and three teams that sat at the very bottom of the PSAC; two of which had yet to tally in the conference win column.

The Rams traveled to the Western side of the state this past weekend to meet up with Mercyhurst and Gannon.

“Going into our remaining four games, it is easy for us to set our sights on the end goal and skip the steps in between,” Bennett said. “We still have four tough teams coming up that we can’t overlook. We have been trying to constantly remind ourselves that on any given day anything can happen.”

This sentiment became a reality for the Rams this past weekend when they traveled to Mercyhurst. The 6-8-1 Lakers were four minutes away from stunning the Golden Rams and sending them home with a tie in the conference standings.

Sara Hawksworth gave Mercyhurst the early lead when she netted the game’s first goal only five minutes in. However, West Chester retaliated just two minutes later when Lara Bodenstab scored her first goal of the season to tie up the game.

The Rams went into halftime locked in a tie with the Lakers, but Hawksworth struck again when she gave the one goal lead back to Mercyhurst. Both of Hawksworth’s goals were scored on corner kicks that she headed into the back of West Chester’s goal.

With West Chester looking at a possible loss to Mercyhurst, Bennett took a ball from Sarah Oswald and took a shot from about 30-yards out to put the two teams back into a tie.

Regulation ended this way and West Chester was taken into overtime by the much lower-seeded Mercyhurst.

It wasn’t until there were only four minutes left in the second and final overtime period that West Chester was able to secure the victory.

Oswald took a corner kick for the Rams that found its way to the back of the net for the game winner. The win gave West Chester two points in the PSAC standings to put them two points over the second-place California (Pa.).

With only a day’s rest, West Chester was back in action on Saturday afternoon in a cold and rainy game against Gannon. Gannon went into the game against the number one team in the PSAC with a 3-7-2 record in the conference and a 4-8-3 record overall.

After a close game with Mercyhurst, West Chester was taking no team for granted. West Chester outplayed Gannon in the first half, outshooting them 10-1. Gannon was unable to get one shot on goal in the first half.

West Chester’s relentless efforts eventually paid off when Oswald got the Rams on the board in the 32nd minute. Jen Gangl was credited with the assist and the Rams went into halftime holding onto a one-goal lead.

Gannon came out of halftime with a little more angst and started to play a more even-sided second half. West Chester needed to play a tighter defense to reduce the amount of opportunities that Gannon was getting on their end of the field.

In the beginning of the game, West Chester worked Gannon goalkeeper Sabrina Chirco much harder than their own Lyndsie Bernardini who didn’t make her first save until the 47th minute.

West Chester finally doubled their lead in the 77th minute when Bennett took a shot from 20 yards out that beat Gannon’s keeper to the lower left corner. Gangl was, again, a contributor on the play and picked up her second point of the day.

In the final minutes of the game, Maddie Mitchell all but ended the game when she took a ball from Jen Hutchinson and beat Gannon’s keeper in a one-on-one. Mitchell put the ball in the lower right-hand corner for the third West Chester goal of the afternoon.

The game eventually ended in another shutout for the Rams who beat Gannon 3-0. Bernardini played the full 90 minutes for West Chester to capture her 11th shutout of the season.

After the win at Gannon, West Chester still leads the conference with 35 points. With Cal’s win over Clarion, they still trail West Chester by only two points.

With the week’s wins, the Rams have also secured a spot in the PSAC playoffs, which begin on Nov. 2.

“The conference title isn’t going to be handed to us,” Bennett said. “If we want it we have to earn it. The PSAC and NCAA tournaments are always going to be in the back of our minds but we cannot let ourselves dwell on those games yet.”

West Chester plays their final home game on Tuesday night in a non-conference tilt against Philadelphia University. Their final game of the season comes on Saturday when they travel to the last place Millersville’s campus for the season finale.

Amy Festa is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.

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