HUNTINGDON, Pa.- In what could be no more than a fitting ending between two of the best teams in the conference, the Catholic and Juniata field hockey teams played to a deciding shootout in the Landmark Conference semifinals on Wednesday night at Knox Stadium. The Cardinals won the stroke-off to advance to the championship.
Unlike last year's Landmark Championship where the Cardinals had a large lead in shots 21-1, this game was considerably different. Juniata led in overall shots 13-6 with seven coming on goal. The six shots by the Cardinals tied for the lowest number of the season.
It was a defensive battle throughout but particularly in the first period where both teams only had one shot. The Eagles' lone shot came from Cassie Clarence (Coopersburg, Pa./Southern Lehigh) who fired from the far right wing but was denied by Cardinal goalkeeper Analisa Scott.
The second period saw more offensive opportunities for JC. Clarence nearly had a goal at 36:40 but her shot glanced off of the far post. Sarah Bilheimer (Bethlehem, Pa./Freedom) got in close to the cage at 38:54 but Scott was there to come up with the save.
The Cardinals were held to just two shot attempts in the second stanza. The second came with 39 seconds to play but Eagle goalie Kylie Edwards (Danville, Pa./Danville) was there to boot it away. For the second straight game, the two teams played to an extra period.
The first overtime had the Eagles leading 3-0 in shots. The second extra period was reversed with the Cardinals putting up three shots to none for JC. In a first for Juniata in four years, the game went to a shootout.
With both teams lining up next to each other near the 30-yard line, one player from each squad attempted a stroke. Catholic was up first and Rachel Day was able to get one past Edwards and in. Brittany Meier (Pennsylvania Furnace, Pa./State College Area) missed on her attempt and Catholic's Marisa Martinelli was denied by Edwards. Bilheimer followed and was able to get the ball into the goal within the eight-second timeframe to knot the shootout at 1-1.
Kelly Cousoulis came up for the Cardinals and poked the ball in for a 2-1 lead. Lindsay Scholten (Brookfield, Conn./Brookfield) missed for the Eagles as did Catholic's Lane Adams. Allison Groft (Hanover, Pa./South Western) had a good look after getting around Sophia Hamilton but her attempt went wide. Hayley Wright deposited the winning score for the Cardinals.
Edwards was solid in 100 minutes of game time as she picked up six saves on the night. Scott started and tallied five saves while Hamilton had two saves in both overtime periods.
"We played a great game tonight," said head coach Caroline Gillich. "It was an epic performance. We had numerous opportunities to score and this day we just did not put one in. So many players had great games for us it is hard to even pick out names. Every player gave it all she had on the field and I could not ask for much more than what we did today. We dominated most of the game and kept it in our offensive end more than any other big game. We anxiously await the decisions that will be made Sunday and Monday for the NCAA Tournament and the ECAC Tournament. This team is not done yet. This is a painful loss, but this team still has one more chance, hopefully, to win a championship."