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“Good effort. Good effort.”
That’s how Indiana University of Pennsylvania field hockey head coach Gary Agard described his team’s effort after a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss to Bloomsburg University Tuesday, at George P. Miller Stadium.
Indiana University of Pennylvania, which entered the game in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, is still not eliminated from clinching one of the three remaining spots in the PSAC tournament.
The game was played mostly in the middle of the field, as the back-and-forth action saw neither team gain any real advantage through the first 15 minutes of play.
Bloomsburg did finally get the first shot of the game off in the 20th minute, but Angie DeBellis was denied by Crimson Hawks goalkeeper Darian Shuker (junior, business).
After Agard called a timeout for IUP, Bloomsburg was able to break the deadlock and get on the scoreboard. Sam Peters received a breakout pass that let her pull away with only the goalie to beat. Shuker was able to deny the first shot, but Peters gathered the rebound and knocked it in the IUP cage for a 1-0 lead.
Kate Bruce (senior, business management), however, would not allow the visitors to stay up for long. Bruce, the reigning PSAC Athlete of the Week, took a drop pass from Kendra Blantz (freshman, undecided) to tie the game at 1-1 in the 27th minute. Bruce has now scored in five of the last six IUP games, putting her in a tie for the team-lead with Jessica Kida’s (sophomore, nuclear medicine) 10 goals.
IUP was able to generate a shot on its only penalty corner of the half in the 30th minute, but Casey McGowan (junior, physical education) had her effort saved by Huskies goalkeeper Brielle Mackey.
Bloomsburg had a chance to regain its lead in the 35th minute, but Felicia Domenici pushed her backhand shot from 2 yards out wide of the cage to keep things level going into the half.
The play after halftime saw an increase in physicality from both sides as things started to heat up on the field. With some pushing and sticks being knocked to the turf, no great chances were had by either team as the intensity rose.
Shuker, who has come up big when needed the most during these late-season games, kept IUP in the game. The junior transfer from Roanoke College in Virginia had important saves in the 62nd and 64th minutes, as the Huskies were able to generate some pressure on the IUP defense.
The back line held for the Crimson Hawks, and for the fourth time this season IUP needed an extra period as regulation ended with a 1-1 tie.
In overtime, both teams were able to control possession and had chances. Diving saves by Shuker, who finished the game with five, quelled two golden-goal opportunities for Bloomsburg.
Bloomsburg was able to break through when Laura Gerhard scored off a penalty corner just over nine minutes into the 15-minute extra period to give the Huskies a 2-1 victory.
“I was pleased,” Bloomsburg head coach Nikki Rhoads said of her team’s effort. “You’re always pleased at the end of the game when you’ve capitalized. I think we generated most of the attack. IUP has a great team so overall it was a great game.”
The loss drops IUP to 7-10 on the season but more importantly 4-5 in the PSAC.
While Bloomsburg clinched an appearance in the PSAC tournament, IUP got help from the field as both Mercyhurst University and East Stroudsburg University lost Tuesday, creating another three-way tie for fifth place.
The top-six teams advance to the conference tournament.
“We just have to build from what we did today,” Agard said. “I thought we did some really good things. I think we are really playing well. This is a quality program and a quality team, and we did really well against them.”
IUP plays Millersville University Saturday, which is also Senior Day for the Crimson Hawks. Action gets under way at George P. Miller Stadium at 1 p.m.
“Honestly, Saturday is just another game against a very beatable team,” Shuker said. “I believe in my team’s ability, and I know with focus and determination we can bring in the win Saturday.”