Field hockey shuts out Swarthmore
The Muhlenberg field hockey team bolstered its postseason hopes with a 3-0 shutout at Swarthmore.
The Muhlenberg field hockey team has its sights set firmly on the Centennial Conference playoffs. With their latest gem, the Mules took another step toward the postseason.
Muhlenberg rode a relentless attack and typically sound defense to a 3-0 victory at Swarthmore, improving its positioning in the conference standings with its third shutout in four games. Senior Mariah Alston scored her first goal of the season and junior goalie Sierra Lenker stopped all five shots she faced as the Mules (7-5, 4-3) picked up another crucial win in their quest to reach the postseason. Starting with a 6-0 blanking of Bryn Mawr two weeks ago, Muhlenberg has joined the playoff hunt with a successful four-game stretch, the only loss in that span a 2-1 thriller against top-ranked Franklin & Marshall.
“I think we really started stepping it up at Bryn Mawr and we’ve continued to play really well as a unit since then,” said Lenker, who recorded her third career shutout. “We’ve continued to build momentum off those games.”
It showed in this one. The Mules posted season highs of 22 shots (12 on goal) and 17 corners to keep the Swarthmore defense under pressure throughout the contest. The Garnet hung on for dear life, nearly making it to halftime unscathed. Thanks to Alston (left), the Mules had something to show for their dominance.
The senior midfielder recovered her own rebound and fired home from three yards inside the circle in the 29th minute, staking the Mules to a 1-0 lead with her first tally of the year and the second of her career. Lenker, meanwhile, made three saves in the opening half to preserve the advantage. After intermission, it was all Muhlenberg.
Juniors Kayleigh Thies and Lauren Jordan found the back of the cage after intermission, helping the Mules pull away in a second half in which they outshot the Garnet, 13-4, and earned 12 corners.
Thies doubled the advantage just 2:36 into the second half, taking a long pass from classmate Christine Germaske at midfield and beating a Swarthmore defender one-on-one to the cage to deposit her ninth goal of the season. With her 25th career goal, Thies moved into seventh place on the program’s all-time points list with 65 and gave Germaske her fifth career assist.
Muhlenberg continued to control play throughout, spending much of the remaining minutes camped in the Garnet’s end. That eventually led some insurance, when Jordan finished a feed from fellow junior Meghan Gill out of a scrum in front of the net to put the Mules ahead 3-0 with just over two minutes to play. The assist was Gill’s second of the season.
Despite the final result, Lenker said the team gained plenty of confidence from taking the Diplomats down to the wire last weekend. The Mules’ latest win certainly leant credence to that claim.
“We took that message away, that no game is set in stone,” Lenker said. “No matter the ranking, it doesn’t mean a team is unbeatable. We proved to everyone that we had the ability to play with anyone.”
With a challenging closing stretch awaiting them, the Mules will need that attitude the rest of the way as they chase their first postseason bid in six years. Muhlenberg has dates with Gettysburg and Haverford, both right behind Muhlenberg at 3-3 in the conference, as well as a home matchup with 6-1 Ursinus left on the docket. All three of the Mules’ remaining opponents were CC playoff teams last year.
“We think we’ve put ourselves in a very good spot for this part of the season,” Alston said. “We’re trying to go one game at a time, but we’re focused on the playoffs.”