Field Hockey Puts Scare Into Top-Ranked F&M

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Muhlenberg field hockey team gave top-ranked Franklin and Marshall everything it could handle, putting a strong hint of upset into the chilly air. In the end, the Diplomats had just enough to stave off history, using a pair of second-half goals and a bend-but-don’t-break defense to outlast the Mules for a hard-earned 2-1 victory.

Rachel Strow Junior Kayleigh Thies scored late in the first half, giving Muhlenberg (4-7, 3-3) the lead over the team ranked first in Division III with a powerful blast off a penalty corner by freshman Rachel Strow (left), who earned the first assist of her career on the play. But F&M, the defending Centennial Conference champion, pulled even just over six minutes after intermission and took the lead in the 53rd minute, both tallies coming off tip-ins. Despite three penalty corners and several close calls down the stretch, the Mules were unable to find an equalizer and fell just short in their quest to defeat a top-ranked team for the first time in program history.

Despite its lofty ranking, the first-place Diplomats’ (11-1, 6-0) stay atop the NFHCA poll will be a short one. They were routed by No. 12 Messiah earlier in the week, and Muhlenberg appeared poised to deliver a second consecutive setback when Thies broke the ice. The junior settled the ball off Strow’s corner and fired a rocket that took a deflection off an F&M defender and into the cage, giving the Mules a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute. The goal was the 24th of Thies’ career, and vaulted the forward into a tie for eighth on the school’s all-time points list with 63.

Despite a 5-3 advantage in shots for the Diplomats, Muhlenberg took that advantage into halftime thanks to four saves by junior goalie Sierra Lenker, who finished with five on the night. F&M, though, came out firing after the break.

The Diplomats netted the equalizer in the 42nd minute. Eight minutes later, Muhlenberg had its best chance of the second half. After the teams traded unsuccessful penalty corners, Thies nearly gave the Mules the lead for the second time when her blast from the top of the circle ricocheted off the side of the cage and out of bounds, putting a scare into the F&M faithful. After surviving Thies’ bid for a second goal, the Diplomats struck back with the game-winner.

Still, Muhlenberg put together a serious bid to upset a highly ranked F&M outfit for the third consecutive year. In each of the last two seasons, a Diplomats group ranked in the top five in Division III came away with a hard-fought 3-1 victory. This time, the Diplomats barely escaped with their perfect CC record intact.
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