Lions advance to NCAA Quarter-Finals

By Grant Playter | Staff Writer

The game between the TCNJ Lions and Suny Cortland Red Dragons ended in a truly cinematic fashion. With 45 seconds left on the clock and a 1-1 score threatening to send them into overtime, Lions forward Cayla Andrews made the goal, bringing them up 2-1 and propelling the Lions into the Elite Eight.

“We were so excited,” said forward Elizabeth Morrison. “There were only 45 seconds left on the clock, so we knew that, as long as we didn’t let them pass our 25, and didn’t let them get a corner or a shot off, we were gonna win that game.”

Cayla Andrews (Photo by the TCNJ Sports Information Department)

Cayla Andrews (Photo by the TCNJ Sports Information Department)

Contrary to the cinematic end; however, the first half of the game was a slow burn. There were very few shots made, with a lot of defensive and midfield play from both sides. Lions goalie Christina Fabiano was particularly impressed with her team, lavishing praise on her teammates for their defensive play throughout the game.

“Our defense held really steady for the whole game, it’s just a testament to how our defense can play,” said Fabiano. “I got shots, but it wasn’t too many. This was one of our best defensive games… yeah there were shots, but I can’t even stress how well our defense played tonight.”

The second half was a bit of a different beast. Both teams were demonstrating more aggressive play, especially from the Lions end. The 0-0 tie was broken by Morrison shortly afterward, bumping her to 16 goals on the season.

“We played great defense this game and I think in the first half that’s why we didn’t let them have any shots,” said Morrison. “I was very happy to get us on the board, especially because there wasn’t too much time, so I was hoping that, if possible, we could just win 1-0 if it came down to that.”

Unfortunately for the Lions, they would have to make another play when Jessica Walsh managed to tie up the game with just under fifteen minutes left.

“In the second half, our defense broke down a little bit, which is what let them come back and get that goal to tie the game,” said Morrison. “So you can see how important defense is, and they always say defense wins championships. That’s what really helped us get our momentum going in this game.”

There was, even more, to worry about when a near goal happened that would have sent the Lions trailing. Fortunately, Kayla Peters was there to make the save, and the relief, among her teammates.

“That was awesome,” said Fabiano. “I think it was off a corner, I’m pretty sure it was off a corner. They shot the ball and it got behind me and I was just thinking ‘oh no’ and then I just see KP there — we call her KP — just with a big stick and just cleared it out, it was really relieving.”

The Lions still needed to score, which would come from Andrews in the last minute of the game. For her part, Andrews was very humble about her role, and highlighted how the entire team would need to come together to win their next game.

“It’s up to us to determine our fate,” said Andrews. “It’s all on us, whether or not, we want to win or not, it just depends on how we play tomorrow.”

Lions Coach Sharon Pfluger, who has earned 20 national championships in field hockey and lacrosse in her 33 years at TCNJ, was immensely proud of her team for securing the win. In particular, she highlighted the cohesion of the team and how the girls worked together.

“It’s all about the team, I mean field hockey’s a game where you need to maneuver the game down the field with your teammates,” said Pfluger. “You work defensively together, you work offensively together, so that’s something that we work on every single day. We respected SUNY Cortland all the way through, it’s a good program, they have very athletic field hockey players and skillful field hockey players so we had to make sure that we played together.”

With this win, the Lions will play in today’s quarter-finals against the Centre College Colonels, who secured their spot in the 2:00 game against the MIT Engineers. When asked about her hopes for tomorrow’s game, Pfluger kept up her infectious positivity.

“We’re just gonna take it one game at a time,” said Pfluger. “The goal is to see them happy after the game, and that’s my goal every day. Fingers crossed that we play well in our game [today] so that I can see them happy. We have to earn everything, so that’s the focus.”

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