LEWISBURG, Pa. – After watching longtime nemesis Colgate score five straight goals in the final seven minutes to tie the game, the last coming on an unfortunate own-goal with 49 seconds remaining in regulation, freshman Morgan Steinhacker saved the day for Bucknell. Her goal with 24 seconds to play gave the Bison a critical 12-11 victory, sending them to 9-4 overall and 4-2 in Patriot League play and putting them in strong position to qualify for the conference tournament for the second straight year.
The victory, coupled with Navy’s 15-14 win over Boston University and Loyola’s 12-11 win over Lehigh, moved Bucknell into a tie for fourth place with Lehigh with three games remaining in the regular season. The Bison are one game ahead of sixth-place Boston University, and three games clear of Holy Cross, Colgate and American at 1-5. The top six teams qualify for the Patriot League Tournament.
While Steinhacker’s sixth goal of the season was the headliner, Bucknell got to that position thanks to huge games from midfielders Mary Margaret Kenney and Maddy Molinari. Kenney, a junior who entered the game with three goals this season and 12 in her career, pumped in five goals in this one. Molinari added three goals and two assists, and the duo also paved the way for Bucknell’s commanding 19-6 advantage in draw controls. Molinari finished with nine draw controls and Kenney four, and they each came away with critical DCs in the final minute of the game.
It didn’t seem as if any dramatics would be needed when the Kenney scored twice in succession to give the Bison a commanding 11-6 lead with 10:15 remaining in the second half. After falling behind 3-1, Bucknell dominated the middle portion of the game, outscoring Colgate 6-0 over the final 17:32 of the first half to go up 7-3 at halftime. When the Raiders (4-8, 1-5 PL) opened the second half with a 3-1 run to pull within 8-6, the Bison regrouped and scored three in a row to assume that five-goal margin.
But back came the Raiders. A goal by Kelly O’Hanlon and back-to-back tallies from leading scorer Isabel Kreitler made it 11-9 with 1:34 to play. Colgate then won a rare draw, quickly drew a shooting-space violation, and Charlotte Redican converted the free-position attempt to make it 11-10 with 1:21 to go.
Colgate earned another draw control, but this time the Bison seemed to get a big stop when Callie DeWitt knocked down a pass from Kreitler. Lucia Smircich grabbed her game-high fourth ground ball of the day, but the Bison suffered an unlucky break when goalie Jamie DeWitt was vacating her crease for an outlet just as a pass went behind her toward the empty cage. A lunging DeWitt managed to get her stick on it, but the ball spun back into the goal to make it 11-11 with 49 seconds remaining.
With that five-goal lead suddenly gone, the Bison never panicked. Molinari cleanly won the ensuing draw, and coach Randall Swope took a timeout with 32 seconds left to draw up a final play. She sent five players low, isolating Steinhacker against a single defender up top. Steinhacker drove past her mark, and just before the slide came, she fired a shot past Asil Asfour to give Bucknell a 12-11 lead.
The Bison still had to win one more draw, and they did just that when Kenney was held going for the loose ball, and they were able to run out the clock.
In addition to the eight combined goals for Kenney and Molinari, Becca Golding tallied two goals and an assist for a career-high three-point game. Steinhacker had a goal and an assist, as did Christina Manis.
Bucknell outshot Colgate 24-21, and both teams picked up 18 ground balls. Kreitler finished with four goals for the Raiders, while Payton Gabriel handed out three assists.
Not only was the victory important for Bucknell’s postseason chances, but it also snapped a 14-game series losing streak to Colgate. The Raiders came in with a 34-3 lead in the all-time series, with Bucknell’s only other wins coming in 1983, 1995 and 2003. The latter victory came in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals in Swope’s first year of her first stint as Bucknell’s head coach.
With her four ground balls, Smircich became the ninth player in Bucknell history to record 100 career GBs. Molinari also hit triple digits in career draw controls with 107, moving her into eighth place on Bucknell’s career list. Molinari and Manis, former high school teammates, now have 152 and 151 career points, respectively, to rank 8-9 in team history.
Next up for the Bison is a tough road test against first-place Loyola on Wednesday night in Baltimore. Game time is 7 p.m. on the Patriot League Network.