Nov. 27, 2012
It's been a successful fall season on College Hill, with two Patriot League championships safely tucked away in the field hockey and men's soccer trophy cases for the rest of time. There have been plenty of congratulatory handshakes with many people over the past two weeks, but there's only one person who has been able to celebrate and appreciate each equally. Director of Athletics Bruce McCutcheon has witnessed multiple championships in the same season before, when men's soccer and football each won in the fall, back in 2005.
"Lafayette Athletics has enjoyed an amazing fall season culminated by the terrific championship performances by both the field hockey and men's soccer programs," McCutcheon said. "We could not be more proud of our student-athletes and the marvelous job they have done."
This is the eighth sports season in which Lafayette has won multiple Patriot League Championships and the two this fall push the Leopards' total to 43 in the 22-plus year history of the conference.
The similarities are evident between Lafayette's two titles this fall; both were won against American, the Leopards scored two goals in each championship game and each team defeated Colgate in the semifinal.
They were each teams Patriot League opponents feared.
Andrew Griffiths' field hockey team rolled through the regular season with a 5-0 mark against Patriot League opponents, a 15-1 overall record and won 13 straight games heading into the tournament. For men's soccer and head coach Dennis Bohn, the team entered the championship weekend as the No. 2 seed, but had not lost to any of the four playoff teams and was unbeaten in its final five matches (2-0-3).
They were also both peaking at the perfect time.
Ironically, it was the dominant field hockey team that needed overtime in its two games on the way to its second consecutive championship. The Leopards edged Colgate 4-3 before the drama of Deanna DiCroce's penalty stroke lifted Lafayette to a 2-1 come-from-behind win to capture the crown.
Bohn's group, which is no stranger to winning during his 12 seasons at the helm, continued its stifling defensive play in front of goalkeeper Nathan McDonald, posting four straight shutouts on the way to bringing the Patriot League championship home to Easton.
They both represented Lafayette in the NCAA Tournament.
For field hockey, the road to the NCAA Tournament field of 16 was in question because of the process that didn't award an automatic qualification to each conference champion. Five league champions and three play-in game winners take the eight automatic bids, while eight at-large selections are made from the remaining teams. No. 12 Lafayette was pitted against No.2 Princeton a play-in game, based on last season's conference RPI, and Princeton controlled from the beginning, en route to a 6-0 victory.
Based on their resume, the 17-2 Leopards earned an at-large bid into the dance and were matched up with defending National Champion Maryland. Lafayette hung with the Terps, falling 2-0, a day before Maryland advanced to the Final Four by beating Connecticut. The team certainly proved it belonged, as it did all season long, after knocking off three conference champions in the regular season. With success comes accolades, and Griffiths was honored shortly after the conclusion of the season with the Synapse Sports Division I National Coach of the Year Award.
The format is different in men's soccer as the Leopards took one of 22 automatic qualification spots in the 48-team field. The anxiety wasn't nearly as high during the team's selection show, but certainly exciting when the team found out it would play Virginia in the first round.
Lafayette held a 6-2 shots advantage in the first half against the Cavaliers, but went into halftime without a goal. The game remained scoreless until the 87th minute when Virginia found the game's only goal off a corner kick, ending the Leopards' championship run and 12th consecutive winning season.
They each represented Lafayette, and the Patriot League, well, among the nation's elite.