LEWISBURG, Pa. – Five different Bison found the back of the net in Saturday afternoon’s Senior Day contest on Graham Field, lifting the Bucknell field hockey team to an impressive 5-2 win over Rutgers in its final game of the regular season. The victory was the team’s first over the Scarlet Knights in a series that dates back to 1984, and it lifts the Bison, who finished the Patriot League regular season with a 4-2 conference record, to 8-9 overall. The Scarlet Knights fall to 9-9 with the loss.
“We’ve had some memorable Senior Days,” said head coach Jeremy Cook, “but this was great. They really stepped up and showed a lot of heart today. They played with a really smart, great structure, and I was top-to-bottom really impressed with us and really happy with the team today.”
Bucknell took control of the game from the very first whistle, firing off three early shots before earning the first penalty corner of the contest at 7:35. The Bison flawlessly executed a revamped corner play, with junior Amie Pritchard tipping in a shot that senior Vickie Resh fired toward the net from the left side of the circle, giving them an early 1-0 advantage over the Scarlet Knights. Resh was credited with the assist on Pritchard’s first goal of the season.
“The corner was spectacular,” commented Cook. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It’s a very funny decision for us to try something that different but they pulled it off.”
Rutgers almost pulled even with Bucknell just over 22 minutes into the half when Sarah Regn broke away to chase a loose ball, but senior Erica Perrine came out of the net to kick it away, keeping the Scarlet Knights scoreless and allowing her team to increase its advantage less than two minutes later.
At the 24:27 mark, sophomore Abby Watson came out of a scramble with the ball, sending a shot in from the left. Classmate Kiersten Sydnor collected the ball as it trickled in front of the net, flicking it up into the cage for her sixth goal of the season and a 2-0 lead for Bucknell.
The Scarlet Knights took their first three shots on three penalty corners in the final eight minutes of the half, but Perrine and the Bison defense denied each attempt, sending Bucknell into halftime with a 2-0 lead.
An abundance of scoring in the second half began with a Rutgers goal at 45:52. A scramble for possession outside of the circle in Bucknell’s defensive zone sent the ball bouncing towards the net, and Lisa Patrone connected on a reverse stick hit, beating Perrine on the low side of the cage and putting the Scarlet Knights on the board.
The Bison got one back three minutes later however, as freshman Estelle Palandjian scored her first career goal to give Bucknell a 3-1 lead. As the teams battled for possession in the midfield, Palandjian came away with the ball, dribbling it in on the right and sending a hard shot from the top of the circle that evaded Rutgers’ Sarah Stuby in goal.
Bucknell only built on its offensive momentum as the game progressed, tallying its fourth goal of the contest at 53:12 and building a 4-1 lead over a persistent squad from Rutgers. Junior Cassie Lawrence set up the play with a shot that was saved by Stuby, and senior Leigh Hillman collected the rebound, sending it past the Scarlet Knights’ netminder for her eighth goal of the season.
A penalty corner at 56:54 created a final opportunity for Rutgers, and while the play was broken up by Lawrence, Rutgers’ Jenn Staab collected the loose ball and shot up high to bring her team within two.
The Bison defense smothered every attempt by the Scarlet Knights as the clock wound down, and senior Rachel Misko sealed the win with a perfectly executed penalty stroke at 68:36, giving Bucknell a 5-2 victory.
Bucknell outshot Rutgers 12-5 in 70 minutes of action, while the Scarlet Knights held a 6-4 advantage in penalty corners. Perrine earned the win, making two saves for the Bison, while Shevaun Hayes and Stuby combined for four stops in goal for Rutgers.
“Rutgers is a really good team,” added Cook. “I think today preps us really well for Boston, as Rutgers has a similar style of play. It is a great stepping stone for us, as it was honestly a little surprising today for us to get the result that we did. It gives us some great momentum heading into next weekend.”
While the win marks the conclusion of the regular season for the Bison, the squad will take on the best of the Patriot League next weekend in the 2013 conference tournament. The top four schools will travel to Washington, D.C. on Friday, Nov. 8 for two semifinal games, with American and Lafayette squaring off at 11 a.m. and Bucknell taking on Boston University at 2 p.m. The winners of each contest will compete for the Patriot League title on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m.