Town Harry Minium
NORFOLK, Va. – Field hockey can be a maddening sport. You can thoroughly dominate an opponent, but if the ball doesn’t bounce your way, you can still lose.
Such was the case for the Old Dominion field hockey team, which fell to UConn, 2-1, Friday afternoon in double overtime at the LR Hill Sports Complex.
The Monarchs (5-2, 0-1 Big East) outshot the Huskies (5-1, 1-0), 11-7, and had nine penalty corner opportunities to two for UConn. And most of the game was played in front of the UConn net, as ODU dominated the tempo almost throughout.
UConn got the game-winner on a 2-on-2 breakaway, when Sol Simone saw Aiyi Young breaking to her left. Young knocked the ball past the outstretched hands of the ODU goalie Cam MacGillivray 6:60 into the final overtime.
ODU was outnumbered, six players to five, at the time because of a yellow card received by a Monarch. Seconds before the game-winner, the Monarchs had broken towards the UConn goal and had a scoring chance.
“Overtime is always like that,” ODU coach Andrew Griffiths said when asked about the breakaway. “I think they got a bit of a lucky touch. Cam played a great game.”
UConn’s celebration was muted at the game’s end, perhaps because their players know they were outplayed and also know they will be returning to ODU for the Big East Tournament in two months.
“I told our players after the game how impressed I was with how they played,” Griffiths said. “UConn is a good team, and we dominated the game.
“We really controlled corners, overall possession on the game. I told them they can walk off with their heads held high. I told them there’s no one to blame and that everyone gave everything they had.
“Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it just doesn’t. We had absolutely every chance to win.”
The Monarchs indeed did. In the final seconds of the third period, Delphine Le Jeune had a shot on a corner kick that was perhaps half a foot wide of the net.
Early in the first overtime, the Monarchs had Rina Tsioles open on a breakway, but the pass to her was a foot or so too long.
As the first OT was about to end, Le Jeune took a penalty stroke just feet in front of the UConn goal, and although it went into the net, it was ruled to be too high a shot.
Earlier, UConn took a 1-0 lead on a Julie Bressler goal with nine minutes and 42 seconds left to play.
But ODU was resilient, pouring on the pressure offensively to send the game into overtime.
Le Jeune evened the score with 2:41 left, when she knocked a back-handed shot from the left side into the net.
She was assisted by Marlon de Bruijne.
Griffiths praised his team for the comeback.
Playing with that kind of resilience, “is something we’ve been on and off with the last couple of years,” he said.
“But that’s what I’ve seen from this team, a lot of resilience.”
The game was chippy and at times more than chippy, with five players receiving green or yellow cards, including three from UConn.
Late in the second half, ODU’s Courtney Lynch was leveled by a UConn player in front of the Huskies’ goal.
“She absolutely got nailed,” Griffiths said.
Referees did not see the play, if they had it probably would have resulted in a penalty stroke,” he added.
Griffiths said he didn’t want his players focused on their long-time rivalry with UConn, which has won 13 in a row against ODU.
“I told them not to get caught up in the rivalry or any stuff that’s happening on the field that’s not OK in your eyes,” he said.
“I’m really proud of how our team played today. They raised their game to a level we haven’t seen this year.”
ODU upset nationally then No. 14 ranked Boston College nearly three weeks ago in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, but Griffiths said his Monarchs played better Friday.
“We’ve grown since we beat BC,” he said. “Honestly, we had nine corners today and we expect to score on two or three of them. And we had other chances.
“The thing I’m happy about is that it was all about us and us performing. They played like that, they played together, they played hard, they adjusted when they had to.
“I’m obviously disappointed that we didn’t get the result. But I’m proud of how the team is evolving.
“Everyone is on the same train, fully, which is nice.”