At the halfway point of the season, the Golden Rams continued their early success, going 2-1 the past two weeks, including an excellent win in a close match against No. 2 ranked Shippensburg on Saturday.
Freshman star Rachal Toppi was named PSAC Athlete of the Week after the games against East Stroudsburg and Ursinus. Toppi scored five goals and assisted on another including a natural hat trick in the first half against East Stroudsburg. Toppi has adjusted remarkably well to the college game during her first year, registering a team high 11 goals along with two assists.
West Chester welcomed East Stroudsburg on Oct. 3 for a home game after four consecutive road games. A pair of freshmen, Toppi and Mary Spisak connected on a goal four minutes in when Toppi scored her first of the game. Toppi notched her second of the game off a Dayle Paustian assist nine minutes later to put the Golden Rams up 2-0. Toppi then completed the natural hat trick in the 33rd minute of the first half to give WCU the 3-0 lead going into half time. West Chester continued to pour it on in the second half when Spisak and Alayna Brown added goals of their own and Marnie Kusakavitch closed out the scoring for the Golden Ram in the 55th minute with her ninth of the season. Sophomore Sarah Krause picked up her fourth win in the cage, making two saves and allowing one goal.
The potent West Chester offense held a 19-10 shot advantage and 13-8 penalty corner advantage during the 6-1 victory to improve to 7-1 on the season.
The Golden Rams hosted Division III opponent Ursinus College in the Snell Cup game on Oct. 5. The first half was a back and forth gridlock between the two teams until Megan Keenan, the leading scorer for the Bears, scored her 12th goal of the season with three seconds remaining in the first half to give Ursinus the 1-0 lead. Amber Steigerwalt added to the Ursinus lead less than five minutes into the second half. The freshman Spisak finally got West Chester on the board in the 43rd minute to bring the Golden Rams to within one. The Bears answered back a minute later to restore the two goal lead 3-1. The freshman phenom Toppi then scored a pair of goals four minutes apart to tie the game up in the 54th minute.
Heartbreak struck with 27 seconds left in the game when Keenan scored her 13th goal of the season to give the Bears the 4-3 lead. The Golden Rams had a chance to force overtime after being awarded a penalty corner as time expired. West Chester forced a pair of penalty corners during that opportunity, but the Ursinus defense was able to hold the fort and claim its first win over West Chester since 2010. Krause notched a career high 13 saves during the loss in the cage for the Golden Rams. The West Chester offense outshot for the first time all season 19-16, and held a slight advantage in penalty corners 13-11.
West Chester closed out the week with an away game on Saturday for a matchup with the No. 2 ranked powerhouse Shippensburg University. Shippensburg came into the game with a record of 8-2, and 5-2 in PSAC play. Katelyn Grazan opened up the scoring with her first of the season for Shippensburg 20 minutes into the first half to put West Chester behind 1-0, and that would be the lone goal of the first half. Coming off of her PSAC Athlete of the Week award, the freshmen sensation Toppi got the Golden Rams on the board in the 50th minute with her 10th goal of the season to knot the game up at 1-1. Toppi continued the success with another goal of her own nine minutes later to put West Chester up 2-1. That goal would prove to be all that Krause and the Golden Rams would need to hang out for the remaining 10 minutes. Krause made five saves in the victory for West Chester, and the offense held a 16-9 advantage on shots and 15-4 on corners in the win to improve the record to 8-2 on the season, going 6-2 in PSAC play.
The Golden Rams look to use the momentum of a big upset win at Shippensburg in a pair of games this week.
West Chester hosts Limestone College in a non-PSAC game on Sunday, and close out the week on Saturday with a PSAC matchup against Indiana University of Pennsylvania. At just around the midway point to the season, with a record of 8-2, West Chester looks to continue the momentum in the second half of the season with PSAC matchups in seven out of the final eight games.
Dylan Harrison is a third-year student majoring in communications with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at DH785892@wcupa.edu