Monday, November 18, 2019
Sudden Heartbreak -- FH Cards Fall to BC 2-1 in Shootout -- MONDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
#5 LOUISVILLE FIELD HOCKEY 1 - BOSTON COLLEGE 2
On a overcast and chilly Sunday afternoon in Louisville, two ACC teams took the field at Trager Stadium to play for the right to head to the NCAA Field Hockey Final Four. Louisville Cardinals and the Boston College Eagles. A epic and incredible match ensued.
Yes, the chance to go to Field Hockey's Final Four for one of them.
Louisville had beaten Boston College earlier in the season 3-2 in Boston. Throw all that out the window, though, this was win or go home time. In a battle for the ages...the Cards heart-breakingly lost 2-1 in a sudden-victory shootout that took place after 80 minutes of intense competition.
It is always hard to write about a loss that ends a squad's season. Even harder to do an interview with the coach of that losing squad. That still is the case this morning as it was yesterday afternoon at at jammed Trager Stadium. Still, we go on and review what was a monumental battle between two teams.
Boston College got on the board first. With just six seconds until halftime, the Eagles converted on a penalty corner. Elizabeth Warner gathered a missed Sky Caron attempt and tapped it home to give BC the lead.
Louisville did not score until the third quarter of the match. Dependable senior Bethany Russ drove into the Boston College arc...barely...and released a reverse stick shot from the top of the circle that eluded Dwyer for the Cards goal. An official's review after the score verified that Russ had fired a "legal" shot and it was 1-1 with 5:13 left to play in the quarter.
Neither team could get the decider in the net in the fourth quarter. This classic battle would go to overtime...the Cards sixth of the season and Eagles third venture into extra minutes
Stats-wise, the Cards out-shot the Eagles 20-9 and had nine shots on goal compared to B.C.'s three. Credit Boston College goalkeeper Sarah Dwyer for an outstanding afternoon between the pipes. 10 to 4 in favor of UofL in penalty corners also. The Cards dominated the final 30 minutes of action with a 7-0 shot advantage but the score remained the same.
After 60 minutes of play, that 1-1 score still held. A 10-minute, seven player vs, seven player overtime took place and neither team could grab a goal in the sudden victory format. So, the squads lined up and did it again. Once again, no goals in the second 10-minute session.
For situations such as these, NCAA Field Hockey goes to the "shootout" phase next.
Each team selects five players. One-by-one, they try to score on the opposing goalkeeper in a allotted time period per attempt. The Cards went first. Each team connected on three out of five attempts, so another shoot-out session was called for. It was Boston College's turn to shoot first. This time, if a team gained a one-goal advantage and the other team could not tie, the match would be over. The Eagles made their first attempt against Cards goalie Hollyn Barr. The Cards followed suit and scored. A second score for BC, this time from sensational freshman Margo Carlin, and it was up to Louisville to score or the match ended.
A Cardinal shot from sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Karl was sent. It was Karl who had given Louisville a 3-2 lead in the first shootout.The ball flew over Dwyer, but just a couple inches too high and over the top bar. Nine times out of ten, that shot is a score.
A brilliant idea and the right-thing-to-do it the spur-of-the-moment situation. It was the only way the ball was going to get past the on-charging Dwyer. Credit to Karl for the creativity and attempt.
Boston College had the "W". I sat stunned in a quiet press box...only the sign-off from the ACC Network announcer audible.
Yes, Field Hockey is a game of inches, like the other sports on the Belknap Campus. Inches that had saved Louisville at the end of the second overtime, when a BC shot attempt bounced off the right Cardinal goal post. An inch to the left and BC wins in overtime, not shootout.
You win as a team and you lose as a team.
A tale of two teams developed after the winning goal. The Eagles celebrating loudly and wildly in the north end zone. A stunned, shocked and saddened Cardinal squad wandering around mid-field. Lots of tears and sympathy hugs being shared.
Coach Sowry spoke with me for the post-game media interview after the match. It was one of the hardest interviews I've had to do in quite a while...and I barely uttered just a few words. Link below:
COACH JUSTINE SOWRY POST GAME BOSTON COLLEGE
To mirror what coach said, after the disappointment and sadness eventually fades from this heartbreaking loss, it should be celebrated that this was a team that did reach new heights for Louisville Field Hockey. A lot of distraught, hurt and heartbroken Louisville girls walked off that field, and it will take time for the recovery...but they will recover and come back stronger. You can see it in the eyes, hear it in the words of this flock. They are a band of sisters. They were a part of Louisville Field Hockey history.
The first squad to ever advance to the final eight in Cards Field Hockey history.
I'll let that stand alone a minute.
In over 40 years of recorded, documented Louisville Field Hockey...no one had accomplished what the 2019 squad has. A group of seniors and underclassmen who banded together.
For senior Bethany Russ, a career that saw her a two-time All-ACC selection, tied for seventh on the Louisville all-time list for goal (26) and the primary scoring force late in the season to get the Cards as far as they got. Senior Carter Ayars the glue of the squad.
As I wandered over to talk to a couple of the Cards assistant coaches after the Sowry interview, I happened to glance over my shoulder and Sowry had gone to the turf on her knees, head on the ground. After consoling a number of players, a emotional post-game circle with the team and speaking with the media, it was Coach's turn to "have that moment" and reflect. It was justly deserved. Even the strongest of leaders deserve to have that time of self-realization and contemplation after a major event.
Four teams go on to the Final Four. North Carolina, who will face Boston College and Virginia who won over always-tough Maryland and will face the lone, non-ACC participant Princeton. They'll play on Friday in semifinal action and a winner will be crowned Sunday.
And, so, a fall sports squad's season ends on a chilly Sunday. A season that gave Cards Field Hockey fans and observers a ton of fun, some thrilling wins, the highest ranking ever and the first chance to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
I hope "Ms. B." got a chance to watch it on-line. The patron saint of Louisville Field Hockey, I am sure, is very proud of these warriors for what they've accomplished and how far they went.
It was a season to remember and one I'll not forget anytime soon.
Good times, sad times -- they all are part of running a daily website. Even with the sadness of the Field Hockey loss yesterday, we still have to look for and find a bit of the joy and excitement that is our mission statement here at Cardinal Couple -- joy over how far this incredible bunch of girls went and excitement about the rest of the fall, winter and spring schedule for the rest of the women's sports on the Louisville campus.
What a season, Louisville Field Hockey! Record-breaking and unforgettable.
(PHOTOS BY JARED ANDERSON)
Have a meaningful Monday,