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Going into back-to-back games this weekend, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania field hockey team had one goal: get back to their winning ways.
This goal was not met Friday, as the Crimson Hawks struggled to generate anything offensively in a 2-1 defeat to West Chester University.
West Chester, which entered the game ranked third in the latest National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll, opened the scoring 13 minutes into the game when Kelsi Lykens received a pass from Stef Pirri and slotted home her sixth goal of the season. Lykens would finish the day with a team-high four shots on goal from six shots total.
IUP quickly tied the game five minutes later when Paige Mosner (junior, Spanish and international business) scored the equalizer.
The goal was Mosner’s second of the season for the Crimson Hawks and came on a pass from Ericka Griffith (freshman, pre-physical training), who recorded her first collegiate point in the process.
Mosner’s goal would be IUP’s only scoring chance on the day, as the Crimson Hawks could not manage another shot.
The scoring deadlock was broken by West Chester less than four minutes after halftime when Hannah Davies got a shot into the IUP net for the game-winning goal.
The win moves West Chester, which had nine shots on goal and 17 shots total, to 6-2 this season, including 2-0 in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play.
“West Chester is a very difficult team to beat at home,” head coach Gary Agard said. “We did a great job in the first half with our execution of our game plan.
“However, in the second half, we weren’t as disciplined.”
Agard said he was also pleased with Darian Shuker (junior, business) in net for the Crimson Hawks and also observed that his team gained a bit of confidence when playing against a top-ranked team.
“We had a great first half but just couldn’t grab the win,” said Shuker, who had seven saves for IUP. “The early response to the West Chester goal was fantastic. It put us right back in the game and showed West Chester that we were fighting for the win.
“West Chester is a well-rounded team, and both games [against West Chester] have been solid fights on both sides. A win on Friday would have been terrific, but my team still has confidence the rest of the season,” Shuker added.
The Golden Rams now sport a 6-0 record against IUP since 2011, including a victory against IUP in last year’s PSAC tournament semifinals and the National Collegiate Athletic Association quarterfinals.
On Saturday, however, the Crimson Hawks were out to prove a point and did just that, scoring four unanswered second-half goals to defeat Kutztown University 4-2.
Kutztown got on the scoreboard first when Jamie Koenig and Erin Reynolds strung some passes together into the IUP zone. Megan Tiwold deflected the ball into the visitor’s net, making the score 1-0.
The Golden Bears pushed their lead to two when Anna Behm scored three minutes later in the 20th minute.
IUP’s Kate Bruce (senior, business management) scored her second and third goals of the season early in the second half to level the score at 2-2.
Kendra Blantz (freshman, undeclared) got a shot past Kutztown goalkeeper Kayla Denlinger in the 69th minute to put the Crimson Hawks ahead 3-2. Griffith would add an insurance fourth goal on an assist from Dani Edwards (freshman, merchandising) for IUP that put the game out of reach.
“It was a relief and it felt great to finally get a win,” Bruce said. “We have the fundamentals and talent to win many games, but we have to play every second smart and skillfully, and that is what we struggle with.
“Saturday I think we all realized we are better than [our record] and ended strong [with four goals] from being down 0-2.”
Agard said he was equally relieved to finally get a win in a close game after being on the wrong end of so many in the early season.
“That was a huge win for us,” Agard said. “It just shows the resolve this team has. Being down 0-2 and coming back to win the way we did was an enormous boost for us.”
With the win, IUP now stands at 2-6 overall and 1-1 in PSAC play. The Crimson Hawks return to the field this week with home games Wednesday vs. Slippery Rock University and Saturday vs. top-ranked Shippensburg University. Both games are 7 p.m. starts at George P. Miller Stadium.
“We will keep winning if we keep playing like we did this weekend,” Bruce said. “Our defense had one of their best games ever, and offensively we will continue to dominate.
“We know what we have to do to win, and we have the mindset that losing isn’t an option.”