The sky’s the limit

By Adam Duke

Sports Reporter

On Feb. 18, the Griffs traveled to central New York to take on the Syracuse University Orange. After a slow start, allowing five unanswered goals, junior Erica Evans put the Griffs on the board.

Before the close of the first half, the Orange scored an additional five goals to the Griffs’ two. Evans and fellow junior Jen Reininger accounted for the Griffs’ goals.

In the second half, the Orange once again started hot, scoring eight straight goals before Evans, freshman Bryar Cummings, and senior Ashley Bull each got a point on the board for the Griffs to close the game with the score 18-6, Syracuse.

The following week, the Griffs hosted the Columbia Lions. Despite a five-goal performance by Evans in addition to goals from Reininger and sophomore Jordan Roemer, the Griffs could not hold on for the win, falling 11-12. Bull and sophomore Tessa Chad added two goals in the loss.

On Feb. 28, the Griffs were once again on the road as they faced off against the Binghamton University Bearcats. In the contest, junior Lauren Smolensky set a school record with nine assists, contributing to her year-to-date total of 17 assists. Smolensky’s total is currently the highest on the Griffs.

Erica has been shut off a lot lately and that just opens up the left side for me,” said Smolensky. “I’ve been able to hit the cutters coming off.”

Chad and Roemer led the scoring in the game with four goals each, while Bull had three. Cummings scored two goals, and Smolensky, Evans, Reninger, Rena Brown, and Allie Stewart each contributed one point for the Griffs.

To kick off the month of March, the Griffs were on the road again for a matchup with the University of Delaware Blue Hens. Chad was once again a scoring leader, as she and Evans each netted hat tricks. The Griffs went on a run to start the game with a 5-1 lead. In addition to the scoring leaders, Reininger scored two goals and Roemer and Smolensky each had one.

Being an inside player, you look to finish, and that’s what Coach wants. He wants the looks inside and it’s working well. Me and Allie [Stewart] on the wing,” said Chad, “we’re finishing. We’re winning some games and it’s working out, so hopefully we can keep that up.”

This past Sunday, the Griffs took on the number two-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in Baltimore, Md. The matchup marked the fourth time in the 2016-17 academic year that Canisius athletics has taken on a top-two team in the nation.

The Golden Griffins took an early lead with a Lauren Smolensky goal on a free position shot. Unfortunately for the Griffs, the Tar Heels countered with eight consecutive goals. The Griffs struck back when Chad scored just before the half, but it did not go unanswered, as the Tar Heels scored to make the halftime tally 9-2, Tar Heels.  

Evans and Reininger scored the first two goals of the second half to cut the deficit. Throughout the half, each team scored three goals, as Evans added two to her total and Roemer picked up her first.

With the Tar Heels scoring four of the game’s final five goals, with Evans scoring the fifth, North Carolina took the victory, winning 16-8. Despite the Tar Heel’s high scoring, Griffs goaltender Rebecca VanLaeken set a personal best with 17 saves, just three short of the team record.

“[VanLaeken] kept us in the game. She made all the saves that were required of her in net,” said head coach Scott Teeter. “They threw 40 balls at the goal and she was on top of her game, or it could’ve been a blowout.”

VanLaeken is currently first in the NCAA in saves with 91 and sixth in saves per game wwwittth 11.4.

With regard to the offense’s overall performance, Teeter was glad to see the Griffs compete with last season’s NCAA champions. He said that the team struggled with putting strings of positive plays together to set up scoring chances in the first half, which was emphasized at halftime.

“We come together as a team and realize that Canisius can play with any team in the NCAA, [even the] defending champions,” said Chad. “We kept with them, we battled, and I think we just had fun. That’s when we play our best is when we’re having fun on the field and everyone’s contributing, and that’s what we saw in the second half against UNC.”

On Wednesday, the Griffs picked up their largest win of the season at home against the Duquesne Dukes. The Griffs’ rebound from the North Carolina game was apparent, as they opened the game with six straight goals, one from Chad, Reininger, Smolensky, and Stewart, and two from Evans.

Duquesne fought back with four goals of their own, followed by each team adding four goals over the next 14 minutes. Canisius’ goals came from Chad, Evans, Roemer, and Stewart.

In the final 90 seconds of the half, the Griffs scored four straight, two from Stewart and one apiece from Bull and Reininger. To start the second half, the team scored four straight again, with Roemer and Reininger each finding the back of the net again and Evans adding a pair to her total.

Through the rest of the contest, Roemer scored her third and fourth goals of the game, while Chad netted her third. Bull scored her second goal of the afternoon and freshman Rachel Ryan scored her first career goal as a member of the Golden Griffins.

Despite the Griffs’ success, coming within three goals of the most goals the team has ever scored, Coach Teeter said he saw two different teams. He commended the team’s great start, but said the team “took [their] foot off the gas” for 20 minutes. He said that once the team got back in the groove, they finished strong, but needed to play all 60 minutes that way.

This Sunday, the Griffs will compete with the University of Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Coach preaches that each game we need to get better and take that next step,” said Chad. “We kind of have something to prove against Michigan. We didn’t play our best last year, so I think it could be a big statement game coming off of UNC and coming off a big Duquesne win, going out to Michigan and playing a full 60 minutes and having a full team effort.”

Last season, the team fell 11-13 at the hands of the Wolverines. This year, the Griffs are 4-4 heading into the matchup against a 1-5 Michigan team.

“We’re playing in ‘the Big House’ so that’ll be one of the biggest stadiums that some of my players have ever seen, much less played in,” said Teeter. “We’ll get that out of the way early by having practice the day before. Michigan’s a good team. They’ve got talented athletes there that I think have been struggling this season, so far.”

Teeter then reiterated Chad’s sentiment that it will take a solid full game effort to win. He said that the team must play their game and play confidently to succeed.

“The sky’s kind of the limit for us when we come together and play how we know that we can play,” said Smolensky. “Right now, our focus is just being able to do that for a full 60 minutes.”

 

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