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A perfect conference record lies within sight for Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s women’s lacrosse team, which finished out its away portion of the schedule Saturday with a 23-3 rout of Kutztown University.
IUP, ranked No. 7 in Division II, finished with an unblemished 5-0 record away from the confines of George P. Miller Stadium. The victory over Kutztown is the team’s eighth consecutive win.
Any doubt of the Crimson Hawks looking past Kutztown in anticipation of Tuesday’s game with Mercyhurst University was quickly erased as IUP scored early and often to secure the win.
“We wanted to control the tempo and work on things we wanted to work on,” head coach Mindy Richmond said. “We didn’t want to play down [to Kutztown’s competition level].
“It was a great win. We had a lot of fans that were there that traveled.”
The team used its stout defense to limit the Golden Bears to two second-half shots and surrendered nine total. Kutztown scored one goal in the second half.
“The defense did a great job causing turnovers and forcing bad shots,” Richmond said.
IUP dominated in draw controls, collecting 22 to Kutztown’s six.
“We won a lot of draw controls, especially in the second half,” Richmond said.
The Crimson Hawks were hot out of the gate early and held a 7-0 lead midway through the first half.
Kim Hooven (freshman, early childhood and special education) got things started for IUP, netting an unassisted goal 1:20 into the game.
Brittney Palardy (sophomore, health and physical education) netted two of her season-high six goals in the opening stretch.
Goals by Kutztown bookended a four-goal stretch in which IUP extended its lead to 11-2, and the Crimson Hawks entered halftime with a 12-2 advantage. In that stretch, Kiera Huntsman (senior, health and physical education) scored her second goal of the season as eight different IUP players found the back of the net in the first half.
Palardy scored the first two goals for the Crimson Hawks in the second half before Drew Hayden (sophomore, special education and clinical services) netted three, and Hooven added another.
Hayden finished with five goals in the game, and now sits just nine goals away from breaking Alex Lodovici’s single-season record of 55, set last season. Hayden has four regular season games left to break Lodovici’s mark.
The Golden Bears scored their lone second-half goal with 8:35 remaining in the game on a Taylor Sandin goal assisted by Jillian Spencer.
Sarah Ward (senior, health and physical education) and Brenna Gallagher (junior, human development and environmental studies) finished out the scoring for the 22-3 victory.
For Ward, the key to the big win lies within the team’s chemistry.
“Everyone works off of each other, and we remained composed on offense and defense throughout the game,” Ward said. “Everyone worked hard in the midfield causing turnovers and getting open to transition the ball to offense, too.”
The Crimson Hawk goalkeepers, when called upon, made four saves to keep the lopsided score intact.
Starter Katie Davis (senior, interior design) played just over 10 minutes and gave up no goals, while backups Sarah Knotts (freshman, food and nutrition) and Chelsey Hipp (senior, early childhood development and special education) saw significant time in net.
IUP finishes the season on a four-game homestand with Mercyhurst (No. 13 in Division II), Shippensburg University, West Chester University and Bloomsburg University set to visit Indiana.
All four teams have winning records and own at least a .500 conference record.
“We’ve got some big ones coming up,” Richmond said. “The girls are mentally prepared.
“We’ve got  seniors, and this is their last year. The team is excited and ready for some big games.”
A victory against Mercyhurst would inch IUP even closer to becoming the top seed in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. The top seed hosts the conference tournament, an honor the Crimson Hawks have never had“We’ve been looking forward to playing them all season, and we know it’s not going to be an easy game,” Ward said. “Everyone needs to work together and work towards each other’s strengths.”
With a 6-1 conference record and an identical 10-2 overall record, the No. 13 Lakers need a victory to preserve the team’s chances of winning the PSAC.
“It’s definitely going to be a good game,” Richmond said. “We know what we’re up against.”
Last year, IUP defeated Mercyhurst 13-6 to move to a program-best 10-0 record.
“We’ve prepared for them,” Richmond said. “We are really going to need to win draw controls and get shots on offense.”
Taylor Norwood (senior, nursing) is a player to look out for in Tuesday’s showdown with the Lakers. The standout defender always steps up in big games, according to Richmond.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” Richmond said. “She’s all over the field in transition and the defensive side.”
Mercyhurst allows the second-lowest goals-per-game in the PSAC.