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Records were broken and seniors were honored, but the Indiana University of Pennsylvania women’s lacrosse team could not come up with a much-needed win Saturday against West Chester University.
West Chester, which entered the day with a 6-4 record in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, spoiled the Crimson Hawks’ Senior Day festivities and, quite possibly, the chance to host the PSAC tournament for the first time, with a 14-13 victory.
Drew Hayden (sophomore, special education and clinical studies) broke IUP’s single-season goals-scored record, but the team still faced its second loss in a week and its fourth overall, dropping the Crimson Hawks from first to third in the PSAC standings. Lock Haven University, which lost to IUP 11-9 in overtime March 23, is the new conference leader, ahead of Mercyhurst University because of a head-to-head victory.
While dropping a game during the home stretch of a season may be reason for concern for the Crimson Hawks, the way they lost was perhaps most unsettling.
After holding an 11-6 lead at halftime and a 12-7 lead with more than 27 minutes remaining in the game, IUP failed to hold off a furious rally by West Chester. The visitors ripped off seven consecutive goals over 17 minutes to take a 14-12 lead.
“It was definitely upsetting losing the game after we had a large lead at halftime,” Brittney Palardy (sophomore, health and physical education) said. “We definitely were the better team, but [West Chester] came to play.”
It truly was a tale of two halves, as both teams recorded 27 shots and 23 shots on goal. However, West Chester doubled IUP with 14 second-half shots on Crimson Hawk goalkeepers as the Crimson Hawks were outscored 8-2 after halftime.
“We couldn’t put them in the back of the net in the second half, and they could,” Palardy said. “I was very disappointed to drop another game at home. Those home games mean so much to me, and there’s no other feeling than losing on our home turf.”
After losing to Mercyhurst University 15-13 Tuesday at home, the Crimson Hawks have now dropped two of the team’s last three home games.
“Losing in general, home or away, is always disappointing,” Brenna Gallagher (junior, human development and environmental studies) said. “We had a big crowd on Saturday and 11 seniors who have helped this program become a top- 10 lacrosse team.
“So yes, it was upsetting to lose to a team that we were capable of beating.”
On Saturday, Palardy and Hayden did their best in the first half to help IUP pull away from West Chester. Palardy scored five goals while Hayden scored four for the Crimson Hawks in the first half.
Hayden tied Alexa Lodovici’s single-season goals record of 55 with her fourth strike of the game with five minute left in the first half to put IUP up 8-4. Hayden’s 56th and record-breaking goal with 30 seconds remaining in the game got IUP back within one at 14-13.
IUP was playing in the second part of back-to-back games, as the team routed Shippensburg University 24-6 Friday. Ten different players scored for the Crimson Hawks, who peppered the Shippensburg net with 33 shots.
The team is set to host Bloomsburg University in its regular season finale Wednesday.
“I think we have to focus on the games to come, not the games in the past,” Palardy said. “We have the talent and the skills going into the PSAC tournament, we just need to come to work at practice and play with heart for the rest of our season.”
The Crimson Hawks need to win and have Lock Haven and Mercyhurst drop at least one of their remaining two conference games. The conference champion hosts the PSAC tournament, a feat IUP has never held.
“As a team, we need to fine-tune the small things,” Gallagher said. “I’m sure we will be watching a lot of film on ourselves to see where our breakdowns are and just focus on our main goal, which is to win the PSAC championships.”