Field Hockey Landmark Conference Champions Enter Sweet 16 in NCAA Tournament
Erin Alburtus, Tower Staff
November 10, 2011
Filed under Sports
The Catholic University of America women’s Field Hockey team dominated the first round of the NCAA tournament, the first in which they have ever appeared, taking down the Eastern University Eagles 5-2, who held a 12-8 record. With the win at Cardinal Stadium on Wednesday, the Cardinals have tied a school record of 17 wins in a single season.
Eastern had an early 1-0 lead, but freshman Kim Hermann soon tied it up. The Eagles pulled ahead again with another goal, but Hermann was determined to keep things close and scored another tie up, ending the half at 2-2.
CUA started the second half with force, and Cassie Sperruzza found the back of the cage following a penalty corner. Minutes later, Tracey Scanlon scored her 11th goal of the season.
With only four minutes left, Sperruzza snagged her second goal of the game and of the season. As the final whistle blew, the team erupted with excitement and immediately joined together to exchange hugs and cheers. The Cards ended with a 31-4 advantage in shots.
The girls got to this point after defeating Drew University in the Landmark Conference Championship last Saturday. Catholic dominated play against the Rangers from the start with three goals in the first half. Colleen Harwood was the first to score, followed by a goal from Mary Swarthout, bringing her to an impressive 10 for the season. Scanlon brought her overall to 10 as well with a goal just three minutes later.
The score remained 3-0 at the half, and Drew was outshot by Catholic 8-3.
“Although we were up 3-0 in the first half we did not stop there. We knew Drew was not going to give up so neither did we,” commented Mary Beth Leo.
The momentum did not let up in the second half, and the Cardinals took plenty of shots. Katie Bertrand scored the fourth goal for CUA, followed by another from Swarthout just four minutes later.
The Rangers were able to score in the 57th minute of the match, but it was too late for the team, and the game ended in a 5-1 victory for the Cardinals.
“The championship game was less of a nail-biter, but Drew is a good program so we weren’t going to let up,” said Coach Gia Cillizza.
“It was significant, I think, that everyone eligible on our roster got to play in that game. We’ve had such a special group this year that I was so happy to have everyone out there. At the end of the game, I was very proud and happy. It’s been a long road but we did it,” she said.
Catholic had a 20-6 advantage in shots and was awarded 12 of the 14 penalty shots during the game. Keepers Megan Comunale and Alison Dillard stopped three shots collectively.
“I think the highlight of the game for me was seeing the entire team involved in every aspect of the game, whether it was on the field or motivation from the sideline,” said Leo.
“We did not let up the entire game and that is how we have played all season,” she said.
The Cardinals’ record is now 16-1, with no losses at home. One more win and CUA will tie the program record for most wins in a season.
“Afterward it was amazing to see the alums, alums’ parents, families and friends from long ago and recent days,” said Cillizza.
“I’ve gotten e-mails, cards, calls, and flowers and they are all so special to me. I love our CUA Field Hockey family and the University has been so supportive. It’s just a great feeling,” she said.
On top of CUA’s outstanding streak of wins, they managed to pick up eight Landmark Conference Awards last week. Players include Scanlon and Harwood, Swarthout, Comunale, Hermann, Maura Campbell, and Catherine Mirsky.
In addition to the success, Catholic finished the season ranked at #9 (the highest they’ve ever been ranked), Scanlon was named player of the year, freshman Harwood was named first ever CUA Rookie of the Year, and Cillizza and her coaching staff were also awarded with their 3rd Landmark Coaching Staff of the Year title.
Catholic now heads to Ewing, New Jersey where they will be hosting the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They will face Lynchburg, who is ranked as the sixth seed, in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The game is set for Saturday, November 12, at 2pm. TCNJ and William Smith will also face off on Saturday. The winners of both games will face off on Sunday at 1pm.