The West Chester University field hockey team continued their season of ups and downs this week with a loss against defending National Champions, East Stroudsburg, and ended the week with a convincing win over Mercyhurst.
The Golden Rams opened up the week with an away game against top-ranked East Stroudsburg. The last time the two sides met was last year’s NCAA Division II national semifinal contest, where the Warriors ended West Chester’s season in a 6-2 victory, and later went on to claim the national title.
WCU went 0-3 versus ESU last season, making them the only team to defeat the Golden Rams in every matchup last year, including the PSAC semifinals.The woes against East Stroudsburg continued on Wednesday, Sept. 14 as Desiraye Mack scored three first half goals for the Warriors in the 14th, 17th and 25th minute to give ESU a 3-0 lead going into the break.
West Chester didn’t go without any chances in the first half, as they put 10 shots on the board along with three penalty corners. East Stroudsburg threw nine shots at WCU in the first half, connecting on three of them. The Warriors were also awarded six penalty corners in the first half. Sarah Krause made five saves in the cage in the first half for West Chester, while Danielle Ard made four saves in the first half for ESU.
The second half didn’t get much better for the Golden Rams, as they were kept off the scoresheet yet again. Sydney McCarthy made it a four goal lead for the Warriors in the 61st minute, and that would be more than enough to secure the win for East Stroudsburg. The shutout marks the first time West Chester was held scoreless since Sept. 26 of last year, also coming against ESU.
Krause was credited with seven saves in the loss, while Ard made eight saves in the victory for the Warriors. The loss also marks the fourth straight loss to East Stroudsburg, and the Warriors are a team West Chester will definitely have to beat if they want to have any chance at a title, both PSAC and NCAA.
West Chester had a chance to rebound off the loss to ESU with a home matchup on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 17 against Mercyhurst, and they did just that. The first half was about as lopsided as a field hockey game could be, and the floodgates opened up early for the Golden Rams. Dayle Paustian started scoring in the fourth minute, then Kaitlin Hatch tacked on another in the ninth minute for a very early 2-0 lead for WCU. Rachal Toppi took advantage of a penalty stroke attempt in the 22nd minute for a 3-0 lead, and less than a minute later Marnie Kusakavitch added one of her own for a 4-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
Toppi and Paustian closed out the scoring in a blowout first half less than a minute apart in the 31st and 32nd minute to give West Chester a 6-0 lead heading into the break.
The Golden Rams exploded for 24 shots in the first half, which was by far the most in a single half for the team this season.
Kusakavitch scored the final goal of the game just three minutes into the second half as WCU cruised to a 7-0 victory over Mercyhurst. West Chester followed up the 24 shot first half with 20 more in the second, outshooting Mercyhurst 44-3 for the game.
When the trio of Paustian, Toppi, and Kusakavitch are playing at this type of level, this Golden Ram offense is as potent as any other team in the PSAC. After losing four seniors during the offseason, Paustian was sprung into a leadership role as one of three seniors on the team.
“Right away, when the season ended last year, we focused on team bonding and strengthening our chemistry. As leader and a senior, it’s a lot more responsibility than you realize. You have to check with your younger teammates and inspire them to be the best they can be and want to learn and get better. Now as a leader, it’s important to reach out to everyone and make them realize they all play a role in the team,” Paustian said.
The 3-3 start to the season isn’t exactly what the Golden Rams were expecting, but they can’t let that sit in their minds and distract them for the rest of the season.
“We are off to a slow start, but we are willing to put it behind us. One game at a time, and right now we are focusing on just finishing each game. We still have a long way to go, but we have so much talent and it’s just the little things we have to perfect on the field. I would see no problem for us contending for the conference and national champion- ship this year. We have all the tools, everyone just has to hustle and work hard,” said Paustian.
West Chester continues play this week with matchups against arch rival Millersville and ends the week at home on Saturday, Sept. 24 against Slippery Rock University.
Dylan Harrison is a fifth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at DH785892@wcupa.edu.