LEWISBURG, Pa. – Robert Morris nearly overcame an eight-goal second-half deficit, but Bucknell ended the game with a big defensive stand to claim the 2017 season opener 11-10 on a cold, breezy day at Graham Field. Sophomore Audrey Walsh led the offense with a goal and five assists in her first career start, and sophomore goalie Jamie DeWitt finished with 12 saves in the Bison crease.
This was a tale of two halves, as the Bison threatened to make it a runaway. They led 4-0 after 11 minutes and 10-2 at the half. Their first eight goals were scored by eight different players, and Walsh was having a field day picking out cutters through the Colonials defense.
It was a 6-2 game with just over three minutes to play in the half, but Bucknell scored four more times before the horn sounded. Maddy Molinari picked up a loose ball inside the 8-meter arc and fired it home with 3:19 remaining. Then Walsh fed Sarah Galzerano for two goals 2:05 apart on nearly identical plays. With just 0:19 on the clock, Walsh dished out her fifth assist of the half, this one to Christina Manis, and the margin was eight at intermission.
Freshman Morgan Steinhacker notched her first collegiate goal on a free-position attempt at 19:02 of the second half, restoring the eight-goal margin at 11-3. But that would be Bucknell’s final tally of the day.
The Colonials got some timely saves from freshman goalie Katelyn Miller and slowly chipped away at the deficit. By the time Melanie Gandy scored off a feed from twin sister Mackenzie Gandy, it was an 11-10 game with 5:45 still on the clock.
Robert Morris had multiple possessions to try to get the game tied, but the Bison defense held up with the outcome in doubt.
With a minute to play, DeWitt made one of her best saves of the day, and Mary Margaret Kenney tracked down the ground ball near the sideline. But the Bison turned the ball over on the clear, and Robert Morris had one last chance. With the final seconds dwindling off the clock, Annie Sachs tried to dodge a pair of Bison defenders, but the ball was checked out of her stick by Corley Simons and bounced to the side of the cage as time expired.
Robert Morris finished with a 27-22 shot advantage, including an 18-7 margin in the second half. Bucknell won 10 of the 13 first-half draws and 15 of 23 for the game. Molinari had a career-high 10, one shy of the school record set by Bonnie Buechel in 2007. Molinari is just the third Bison ever to record 10 draw controls in a game.
Kenney paced the defense with four caused turnovers and four ground balls, while Annie Gilbertson had two caused turnovers and three ground balls.
Both teams were slowed by turnovers, as there were a combined 56 in the game played in freezing conditions. The new possession clock reset frequently as the ball changed hands in rapid succession. There were a combined 46 clearing attempts in the back-and-forth affair.
In addition to Walsh and the junior Simons, senior Courtney Burke and sophomore Callie DeWitt also made their first collegiate starts. Simons finished with a goal and an assist. Manis (2G, 1A) and Eve Lukowski (1G, 1A) joined Walsh as multiple-goal scorers.
Walsh appeared in 10 games as a reserve midfielder last season, and her five goals in this game matched her season total from 2016.
Bucknell won its season opener for the third straight season and will now go on the road to face Villanova next Saturday at 3 p.m.