By Michael Battista
The Lions traveled to Haverford, Pennsylvania over the weekend to take part in the Haverford College Kick Off Classic, a pre-regular season tournament pitting the team against four other top notch squads. The Lions got a 3-0 win against York College on Saturday, Sept. 2, before beating No. 20 nationally ranked Arcadia University on Sunday, Sept. 3, in the championship game, 3-0.
Going into the weekend, head coach Joe Russo said he wasn’t going to use these games to practice with his new pool of freshmen.
“We’re going to play to win obviously,” Russo said. “There’s three very good teams. York is returning 10 of their 11 starters, Arcadia was 19-2 and Haverford is always in the NCAA Tournament. We were concentrating on Saturday’s game at 4 p.m. against York.”
The team followed through on that concentration in what turned out to be a dominating performance over York College. Early on, the Lions scoring chances were being expertly blocked by the Spartan’s freshman goalkeeper Jessica Wieber.
The team was able to get off five shots in total before York even had a chance to get a ball towards sophomore goalkeeper Nicole DiPasquale in the 25th minute.
Russo used the halftime to bring out a few fresh players onto the field, including senior forward Hannah Richman.
During practices on the previous Wednesday and Thursday, Richman was observed standing off to the side and not practicing with the main group of players. Russo made a statement regarding Richman on Thursday, Aug. 31.
“Hannah got nicked up just a couple days ago, so we really don’t have any feedback on her,” Russo said. “She’s meeting with the trainers and seeing the team physician tomorrow. (We’ll) have to go with whatever they say.”
Richman’s injury didn’t hinder her play much. In the 36th minute, Richman was able to net a shot passed Wieber to give her team a 1-0 lead. The Lions would not look back as the team ended the first half with 15 shots compared to the Spartans’ 3 shots.
The Lions continued their offensive dominance in the second half. However, the team kept missing scoring opportunities. Freshman midfielder Faith Eichenour stepped up for her team and scored in the 71st minute after smashing in a short corner kick from senior midfielder Jessica Goldman.
She wouldn’t be the only freshman to score in her debut match, when another late set of substitutes brought in freshman forward Julia Obst. After only three minutes of play and with over 20 seconds left in the match, Obst knocked in her team’s third goal off an assist from sophomore forward Gianna Zarra.
The immediate impact of Eichenour demonstrates the talent of the 12 freshman. Russo explained how much fans should look forward to seeing the new group play on the field.
“It’s a solid class across the board, from front to back,” Russo said. “There’s some exceptional backs, creative midfielders, some front runners I think that can score goals and a very good goalkeeper in that group. So really, it covers all our bases. It’s a good class.”
With the final score, 3-0, the Lions punched their ticket to the championship match the next day against Arcadia University, who bested tournament hosts Haverford College, 2-1, earlier that Saturday. Both teams came in ranked nationally with the Lions ranked 12th and Knights ranked 20th overall.
The Knights kept the Lions defense and DiPasquale on their toes by getting off three shots in the first 11 minutes.
The scoreless first half brought out intensity from both sides, with the Lions and Knights racking up a total of 14 fouls in the first 45 minutes of play. Going into the second half, it was that intensity that allowed the College to score thanks to a careless foul by the Knights. Senior forward Christine Levering was given a penalty kick. She easily launched the ball into the back of the net and gave her team a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute.
In The Signal last week, Levering was cited as leaving the team due to graduation. However, she has in fact returned for a fifth year.
In the last 10 minutes, Levering stepped up and showed off the same skills that helped her lead the team in goals last season. In the 84th minute, freshman forward Julianna Bertolino set up Levering who sunk a shot into the lower right corner. Only three minutes later Levering intercepted a back pass to the goalie and completed a hat-trick. The Lions eventually won the Haverford Kickoff Classic title, 3-0.
The team now prepares for the regular season to start on Saturday, Sept. 9, in Collegeville, Pennsylvania where they will take on Ursinus College.