Throughout the history of sports, there have been numerous teams that just can’t seem to get by a particular opponent
– and it happens on all levels.
For the field hockey team, that rival is Richmond.
Despite a stellar regular season record, the Owls failed to get over the hump in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament, losing in the first round last weekend.
And like so many times before, it came at the hands of the eventual champions, Richmond, which extended its conference dominance by winning its fifth straight championship.
What’s even more remarkable is that during the Spiders’ run – which doesn’t appear to be concluding any time soon – they haven’t lost to an A-10 opponent. And for those who don’t check in on A-10 field hockey, that’s 42 consecutive victories.
But still, one had to figure that this was the year for the Owls.
The trip to the four-team tournament was the Owls’ fourth in as many seasons. However, it was special for so many different reasons.
The Owls entered the tournament with a 13-6 overall record, the team’s best mark in 15 years.
Playing a difficult non-conference schedule, the Owls suffered one-goal losses to No. 1 Maryland, No. 16 Michigan State and hung tough against No. 12 American before falling, 3-1.
The string of tough losses didn’t stop there. The Owls had two overtime heartbreakers in the closing weeks of the season losing to Richmond and Saint Joseph’s, two of the A-10’s top teams.
Richmond defeated the Owls Oct. 20 at Geasey Field in a thriller. The Owls were mere seconds away from putting an expiration date on the Spiders’ then-39-game A-10 win streak before Richmond forward Alex Malatesta flicked the game-tying goal past A-10 First Teamer Erin Hanshue.
Eight days later, the Owls fell to the Hawks in a game that sealed their playoff seeding and their first-round date with the defending champions.
Had the Owls defeated St. Joe’s, they would have been seeded as the No. 2 spot and would have postponed their date with the Spiders by a day, enough time to sway Lady Luck to their side.
But as the story goes, they didn’t. Again the Owls were sent packing by the team that would once again retain the nickname, ‘Champs.’
Nonetheless, all is not completely lost for coach Amanda Janney and her squad.
The second-year coach will return for her third season with several familiar faces. Four of her starting juniors from this season will return, including conference A-10 First Teamers Alli Lokey and Leanne Vogelsong.
Freshmen sensations Mandi and Kasey Ruth return with a year’s experience under their belts, as does Hanshue, who led the A-10 with a 1.13 goals against average.
So despite their failure to capture the crown, put away this season as a success for the Owls.
And in the words of so many great contenders before them, “There’s always next year.”
Jeremy Drummond can be reached at email@example.com.