On a late and clear afternoon, the sun shone through the campus at Montclair State University on Saturday. A crowd of 103 people filled the stands to watch the dominant Red Hawks field hockey team get ready to battle a seriously prepared York College of Pennsylvania Spartans squad. Montclair State came into this prime-time matchup with a respectable record of 7-3 and 5-1 at home.
“We play really well at home and this energizes our players and team and helps us start well for sure,” Eileen O’Reilly, the Montclair State field hockey coach, said when asked about the starts of her team at home.
Montclair State had to deal with several great offensive threats from the 5-5 Spartans. Some of these players were senior midfielder Amanda Boclair and sophomore forward Sam Collis. The attackers of York were explosive and could play well with and without the ball.
Montclair State started the game with an explosive counterattack which was directed at battering shots on the York senior goalie Sam Keating. Montclair State spread out their ranged offensive attack out with threats like senior forwards Maddie Freeman, Stephanie Boettger and captain Kelly Watson.
However, the ball kept being deflected, blocked and being sent to center as the York defense was stifling. York had an offense that did its job and was relentless. They jammed the crease, put bodies in front of the net and were a shot machine.
Against a normal field hockey team, this would be a rout, but in goal was senior Nicole Andriani, the superstar net minder for the Red Hawks. The Spartans overwhelmed Andriani with 14 shots on goal in regulation with the Montclair State goalie making every save she could.
The Red Hawks found their legs later as the game wore on, taking advantage of three York penalties and keeping the pressure dialed on Keating. Montclair State registered three shots on goal as the game went to overtime.
Montclair State started and dominated the first overtime, absolutely controlling the possession, which was a major goal of theirs.
“We wanted to find a way if we could dominate play and possession to score goals and felt that gave us our best chance to win,” O’Reilly said.
The Red Hawks stood unable to finish the job off, however, as the contest shifted into a sixth period, Montclair State braced themselves to possibly pay dearly for their mistakes.
This was for good reason as York dominated the second overtime. By registering seven shots on goal, their most in a single period, York brought their total amount to 21.
It still was not enough to beat Andriani as she stood on her head. Her heroics took this game into a winner takes all shootout. In a goalkeeper’s game, sometimes an elite net minder ends up taking the loss with a bad break.
This was not the case here. The Montclair State forwards got the memo and saved the spectacular performance in goal by Andriani and had an opportunity to win in the shootout.
With the goalies playing spectacular in the shootout in extras, Freeman had the ball on her stick and had a chance to do something special. She dangled the ball from center, strode in with lots of speed and shot short-side on Keating. The eruption of the crowd told Freeman all she needed to know about her shot. Now the pressure boiled directly on York.
Senior midfielder Amanda Boclair needed to score a goal and Andriani had to make one more save. Boclair strode in and shot the ball with power, but missed the net, giving the Red Hawks a victory they sweat bullets for.
Overcoming adversity measures the heart of a champion and now we know that Montclair State can do that. Time will only tell what the future will hold for the Red Hawks going forward.