Freshman midfielder Sophie Gehrels scored the winning shot for UMass Lowell against Georgetown Friday night. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics)
The UMass Lowell women’s field hockey team faced off against the Georgetown University Hoyas Friday evening, barely eking out a 2-1 victory after a long-fought match. With both teams playing neck-and-neck for the majority of the game, not even the added pressure of overtime weakened either side’s defenses, and the match was decided by a sudden death penalty shootout. Freshman midfielder Sophie Gehrels scored the winning shot for the River Hawks.
“Sophie putting that ball in to win the game for us was outstanding,” said head coach Shannon Hlebichuk. “She’s a freshman player and we haven’t practiced [penalty shots] that much, so for her to come up big and have that confidence to win the game was awesome to see. I think it speaks to the future of this team and the character of this team that we have some young players that we can rely upon in big moments like that.”
The River Hawks began the match with an early lead on the Georgetown Hoyas, with sophomore forward Anouk Lalande scoring a goal by 1:37 of the first period. Georgetown didn’t take this challenge lying down, however. For the remaining minutes, the Hoyas went on the offensive, maintaining consistent possession of the ball and keeping play squarely on the River Hawks’ end of the field.
UMass Lowell struggled to form a solid counter-offensive to this strategy, but was able to tally five consecutive shot attempts late in the second half. While their defensive line held for most of the match thanks in large part to sophomore goalkeeper Eva Berkhout, Georgetown midfielder Anna Farley scored a goal early into the second half to tie the game 1-1. Berkhout ended the game with 11 saves.
“It wasn’t our prettiest hockey game, but we fought and put ourselves in a situation to at least go into overtime,” said Shannon Hlebichuk. “Learning through adversity is something that going to be really important to take away from tonight’s game, and I appreciate the fight that the team put in, but we let it get a little bit out of our hands too early.”
By the beginning of overtime, the River Hawks re-focused their efforts, taking much greater control over the ball and being more aggressive in their goal attempts, forcing Georgetown onto the defense. The team out-shot Georgetown with five shots, while the Hoyas had two. However, while there were some close calls during this period, the River Hawks were unable to secure a lead over the Hoyas by the end of the second overtime period.
The match went into penalty shootouts, with both teams selecting five members to each go one-on-one against the other team’s goalkeeper in a best-of-five competition. While the River Hawks made a strong showing during this period, with Anouk Lalande scoring two of the team’s three total shots, this round ended with a 3-3 tie, resulting in a sudden death situation. Georgetown’s attempt was saved by Berkhout and Gehrels stepped up to take the game-winning shot for the River Hawks.
The UMass Lowell field hockey team is set to play against University of the Pacific this Sunday, Sept. 10 at 12 p.m.