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With the season winding down, Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s women’s field hockey team failed to win a crucial game Wednesday at Seton Hill University, losing 6-3.
Seton Hill scored early and often to beat the Crimson Hawks, despite having fewer shots overall and fewer shots on target.
IUP played tough for the first 26 minutes, but if there is one Achilles heel of the team, it is failing to start games ahead on the scoreboard.
“We have been addressing this problem,” head coach Gary Agard said about the early deficits.
The Griffins broke the scoring deadlock when Melayna Currie put the home team ahead 1-0. Just over a minute later, Emily Hutsko scored off a Natasha Nichols pass to push the score to 2-0. In less than two minutes, IUP found themselves down two goals and, more importantly, faced an opening-game deficit for the seventh straight game.
“It definitely is frustrating,” said defender Casey McGowan (junior, physical education), who had two shots on goal Wednesday. “We work hard in practice on getting out to a good start, but for some reason we always seem to be playing from behind. I don’t think it changes our game plan. We still want to attack the play, but it does make us press a little harder.”
Shortly after halftime, Seton Hill extended their lead in the 39th minute when Nichols again tallied an assist on a pass to Dominique Cappello who fired a shot past IUP goalkeeper Darian Shuker (junior, business), who had three saves on the day.
IUP tried to make it a close game after Cappello’s goal with some offensive fireworks of their own.
Dani Edwards (senior, merchandising) got things started for the Crimson Hawks as she had her team-leading fourth assist on the season to Jillian Duld (senior, physical therapy) in the 42nd minute. Duld now moves into third on the team in goals with four.
Edwards then got the Crimson Hawks back in the game in the 47th minute with her second goal of the season with the assist from Chelsea Wanamaker (junior, psychology) to get IUP within striking distance at 3-2.
Despite outshooting Seton Hill and having more penalty corners, IUP could get no closer than a one goal deficit.
Nichols added a goal for Seton Hill in the 52nd minute before Jessica Kida (sophomore, nuclear medicine) again got IUP back in the game with her team-leading seventh goal that brought the score to 4-3.
The Griffins put the game out of reach late when McDonough Scanlon had an assist to Alisha Bell in the 63rd minute then tallied a goal of her own in the 68th minute to end the scoring and seal the 6-3 victory for Seton Hill.
IUP now sits at 3-8 overall and 1-3 in PSAC play with seven games remaining, leaving the team’s possibility of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoff hopes in peril.
According to Agard, IUP needs to take things slowly.
“We just need to stay the course,” Agard said, “learn and improve each game and stay positive knowing that we can be successful.
“We are a good team. We will continue to improve and take each game one game at a time.”
McGowan had similar thoughts, stressing that the season is not lost despite how the Crimson Hawks’ record looks.
“We have not given up on this season,” McGowan said. “We can still get over .500. If we do that, we should have a decent shot at the PSAC playoffs.”
IUP now heads into a home date with Mercyhurst University 1 p.m. Saturday at Frank Cignetti Field at George P. Miller Stadium. Mercyhurst sports a 4-6 overall record and is winless through three PSAC games.
Mercyhurst was previously ranked 10th in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll but dropped out of the latest rankings after two losses.
“We have to go into Saturday’s game with the attitude that the season is just starting, and we are 0-0,” McGowan said. “We need to only think about what we can learn from [Wednesday’s] game. Other than that, [we need to] put it behind us and move on to Mercyhurst.”