Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

After an outstanding week of play in the past seven days, the West Chester women’s field hockey team looked to stay hot and improve their three-game winning streak against Mercyhurst College and Slippery Rock University. The outstanding defensive play of the Rams looked to carry on and post another successful week in their last two regular season contests.
First up was Mercyhurst College, posing a 9-7 record entering Tuesday’s game. West Chester wasted no time, firing at Mercyhurst on all cylinders. The Rams posted six shots on goal in just the first five minutes of play, three of them being penalty corners. Sophomore Alexis Versak struck first around the eight-minute mark, giving the Rams a 1-0 lead early on. West Chester continued to fight towards the net, when freshman Marnie Kusakavitch found the back of the cage for her sixth goal of the year, giving WCU a 2-0 lead just 16 minutes in.
West Chester continued to control possession and pressure the Mercyhurst defense, leading to a familiar moment when senior Megan Callanan rang in her 13th goal of the season with 14 minutes left in the first half.
As time wound down in the first half, West Chester did not let up for a second. With three minutes left before halftime, junior Kelsey Cheek added another goal for the Rams, giving them a 4-0 lead. Cheeks’ goal would not be the only one though, as senior star Kelsi Lykens added one more just before halftime, giving WCU a 5-0 lead entering half, Lykens’ 12th goal.
The Golden Rams wasted no time jumping right back into the game, as sophomore Alayna Brown put herself on the board just 13 seconds into the second half. The Rams’ offense at this point seemed unstoppable, and that proved to stay true. Two minutes later Callanan added her second goal of the game, rewarding the Rams with a 7-0 lead. Through the rest of the second half, WCU would strike twice more, coming from senior Nancy Stehman and Lykens once again, resulting in a 9-0 win for West Chester. The most impressive stat of the game was not the nine goals WCU scored, which seemed almost at will, but the outstanding defensive play yet again by the Ram defense and freshman goalie Audree Bonavita. West Chester’s defense posted their 4th straight shutout in the blowout win against Mercyhurst College.
In their last regular season competition, the Rams faced off against the struggling Slippery Rock University. Slippery Rock entered the game holding a 6-11 record compared to the Rams 12-4. The Rams knew not to take Slippery Rock lightly though, especially with the playoffs approaching. WCU knew they were in for a fight no matter what records showed.
Play began and West Chester got exactly what they expected: a dogfight. Slippery Rock would ultimately strike first on a penalty corner resulting in a slap shot goal for junior Kelsey Gustafson. The Rams trailed early 1-0. West Chester struggled throughout the first half to find good shot attempts, resulting in no goals scored in the first half. WCU entered halftime down 1-0, the first time trailing in a game in four games.
As second half play began, the Rams started to find their stride, attempting good shots and coming closer and closer to finding that first goal. Finally, 13 minutes in, Kusakavitch found the cage resulting in a tie game. The Rams seemed to build momentum of the Kusakavitch goal striking again just a minute later on a goal from senior Lauren McGinley. Amazingly enough, WCU would again strike just 30 seconds later from sophomore Alayna Brown, giving the Rams the lead 3-1 in just a minute and a half. West Chester continued to control pace, but Slippery Rock would not back down. Freshman Michelle Couch added a goal with 12 minutes remaining, cutting the Golden Rams lead to one. The WCU defense held strong, holding off numerous late attempts from Slippery Rock, and ultimately led the Rams to a 3-2 win in their final regular season game.
What is next for the surging Rams? Entering playoffs with a 13-4 record and a defense that is playing as dominate as any in the country, can the Rams rally to another strong showing through the playoffs? From the looks of the last few games, the Rams seem to have really caught their stride at the right time and hopefully can stay successful as the PSAC playoffs approach.
AJ Arcaini is a second-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at AA

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