The No. 9 American University field hockey team collected its eighth consecutive Patriot League Tournament Championship with a 6-2 victory over Lafayette on Saturday at Jacobs Field.
Six different Eagles scored in the game, including Gina Hofmann, Natalie Ellenberger, Lotte van de Mierop, Christine Fingerhuth, Jenn Bradley and Melissa Casale. Casale, Hofmann, Fingerhuth and Kirstin Gebhart were named to the All-Tournament Team with Fingerhuth earning Tournament MVP honors.
"Its a lot of work and there is a great sense of relief and pride in the team being able to accomplish something that we set out to do," Head Coach Steve Jennings commented. "This group as a whole pushed extraordinarily hard throughout the spring and summer to be ready for this moment. With the season we've been having, I'm glad that we were able to put the finishing touch on the league title. It was definitely a total team effort and I couldn't be prouder."
American (17-3, 5-0) got off to a quick start, scoring its first goal in the seventh minute. Fingerhuth took the ball into the shell and easily maneuvered around Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Meghan Cicchi before passing to Casale, who tucked it away to goalkeeper Kelsey Andersen's right. The tally was Casale's eighth of the year and third in the Patriot League Tournament.
The Eagles doubled their lead one minute later when Fingerhuth went top shelf with a deflection of a Gebhart pass. Neither side could find another goal in the half, as Lafayette (9-10, 4-1) turned away three American penalty corners in the closing two minutes to enter halftime down 2-0. The Eagles outshot the Leopards 10-1 in the first period and also held a 7-0 advantage in penalty corners.
American came out of the break with a heightened sense of urgency and tallied another goal less than one minute into the second half. Off a penalty corner, Hofmann ripped a shot low and hard which van de Mierop was able to deflect over a sprawling Andesen to put the Eagles up 3-0. The Leopards refused to go down without a fight, however, and notched a goal of their own in the 40th minute off the stick Deanna DiCroce to make it 3-1.
The Eagles continued to find success off penalty corners as Ellenberger scored her first goal of the tournament in the 44th minute off a broken corner. Bradley added an unassisted goal six minutes later on a nice individual effort, and Hofmann scored on a direct shot off a corner in the 64th minute to expand the American lead to 6-1. Cicchi would add another tally late for Lafayette, but it wasn't nearly enough to pull the Leopards back into the game.
American outshot Lafayette 19-8 and held a 13-5 advantage in penalty corners en route to the victory. The Eagles set a new Patriot League Tournament record with their 14 total goals, surpassing the previous record of 11 set by Lafayette in 2002. Eight different student-athletes tallied a goal over the weekend and 12 recorded at least one point.
"Our offense has everybody contributing, all the time," Jennings added. "That's what makes us so dangerous. At any given moment you don't know who your going to have to cover. We were able to see the benefit of that throughout the weekend."
Fingerhuth's three points on the day give her 115 for her career, moving her into sixth place in both the American and Patriot League record books. With 51 career goals, the senior also ranks third in program history and in the conference. Her 17 goals this season put her sixth on American's single-season list while her 37 points place her 10th. Gebhart and Ellenberger, meanwhile, rank sixth and eighth in school history with 15 assists and 13 assists this season, respectively.
With the win, American will host the NCAA Tournament Play-In Game on Tuesday, November 9 at 1:00 p.m. The Eagles will take on Kent State, champions of the Mid-American Conference. The Golden Flashes are 15-6 on the year and won the MAC Tournament Championship by defeating Miami 3-2 earlier Saturday.
Fans unable to attend the match can catch all of the action live through AUeagles.com via a subscription to Eagles Vision TV. Year-long subscriptions are $49.95 and allow you to watch every live broadcast produced by Eagles Vision TV and access to the Eagles Vision TV archives to watch past games on-demand. Single-game subscriptions, which are only available during live broadcasts, are also available for $5.95 per event.