BRYN MAWR, Pa. - It may have taken all season, but finally...FINALLY some breaks went the way of the Bryn Mawr field hockey team. At least, that's probably what head coach Victor Brady is thinking, after his Owls put together one of the most thrilling games Applebee Field has ever seen earlier Sunday afternoon. After falling behind to Elmira early on in today's contest, Bryn Mawr came together and scored two goals to force overtime. There, senior Samantha Heyrich left one last indelible stamp on the program by scoring the game-winning goal with seconds to spare in the first OT frame to give Bryn Mawr an incredible and awe-inspiring 3-2 win on the day.
After a bittersweet Senior Day recognition prior to today's contest, Bryn Mawr (1-15) looked to come out on the hop and take a quick lead. However, it was Elmira (2-15) who led off on the front foot instead. The visitors earned two quick penalty corners in the first three minutes of play, and then two shots followed over the following moments. Owls goalkeeper Angela Meng saved the first two shots on frame that she saw. Unfortunately for the hosts, Elmira's pressure finally resulted in a goal, with the Soaring Eagles striking in the 10th minute on a goal from Alison Mariano. That strong offensive performance would continue over the next ten minutes as well, and it would lead to a second goal. In a virtual replay of the first, Elmira worked the ball low on the right to the stick of Katie Carroll, who fired across the face of goal to a waiting and wide open attacker. This time it was Atu Machika who slotted the ball home to put the visitors ahead 2-0.
At this point, after a season full of results that had gone against them, unlucky breaks, and who knows how many injuries, it would be easy for one to see a team in this situation mailing it in over the rest of the game. In a testament to the players and staff of Bryn Mawr field hockey, the complete opposite happened. The Owls buckled down over the remainder of the first half, tightening the screws defensively and even starting to probe and earn a few offensive opportunities as well. After that second goal, Bryn Mawr out-cornered Elmira by a 4-1 count over the rest of the half. Despite still trailing 2-0 at halftime, things were certainly trending in a better direction for the Owls.
That positive momentum continued in the early goings of the second half as well. Elmira tried to suppress the Owls attack, but Bryn Mawr just kept building and building, and finally the Owls broke through. In the 48th minute, Bryn Mawr earned a penalty corner, and they ran a play to slot the ball up top to Heyrich. The senior let loose with a cannon of a shot, but Elmira's Julie Hockenberger made a great pad save. However, the ball caromed straight to the stick of Lydia Fisher, who controlled with a touch and then slotted a shot of her own into the cage before Hockenberger could recover.
With that goal, the Owls smelled blood, and they stayed on the front foot the rest of the half. Just minutes after the goal, Bryn Mawr earned yet another of their 13 penalty corners. Once again Bryn Mawr got the ball to Heyrich up top, and this time her shot roared through everyone and slammed into the back of the cage. The Owls went wild on the field, but that celebration hid the sound of the whistle, as the referees waved off the goal due to the shot coming just inches outside of the arc. A bit later in the half, the game saw a minute-long stretch where the Owls took a corner, Elmira stole the ball and went the other way and had a shot blocked, and then Bryn Mawr earned another corner and had a shot from Mary Cugini roll just inches wide of the cage.
With time dwindling down and Bryn Mawr still in search of the game-tying goal, Coach Brady used his timeout to give the Owls a chance to rest up before the final push. That seemed to be exactly what Bryn Mawr needed to put them over the hump, as just a minute later the Owls tied things up. After a shot by Elmira, the Bryn Mawr defense collected the ball and managed to get it to Mary Cugini on the left side. The freshman took possession and carried the ball all the way down the field and into the circle. Still alone, she managed to go 1-on-1 with Hockenberger and fire a shot just past her and into the cage, squaring the game up at 2-2.
It almost appeared as if Bryn Mawr might win the game in regulation, as the Owls earned two more penalty corners. However, they were unable to get a shot attempt on either of them, and ultimately the horn sounded with the sides still deadlocked. That set the stage for what was sure to be a wild ending no matter how it came, as the teams would play 7-on-7 with the next goal being the game-winner.
Bryn Mawr got the first 15-minute OT period started with yet another string of penalty corners. Once again, Heyrich, Fisher, and Cugini each had great looks at the cage, but once again the Elmira defense and Hockenberger were able to do just enough to keep the ball out of the goal. A few minutes later, it was the Soaring Eagles who had a few great chances to win the game themselves, but two shots were saved by Meng, and then Yelin Jung came up big with a block on a third. That led to Bryn Mawr counterattacking all the way down the field.
With less than a minute to play in the frame, the Owls earned one last penalty corner. With time winding down under ten seconds, Emma Hicks inserted the ball up top to Heyrich, who made a clean trap and set herself up for a shot by driving inside and to her right. The senior then ripped a shot that clipped off of Hockenberger's pads and into the air, sailing past everyone, and finally slamming into the cage. That goal sparked a raucous celebration with the entire bench and staff spilling out onto the field in overwhelming joy.
It was a storybook ending for Bryn Mawr's five seniors, as Carolina Cabrera, Cassandra Garcia-Bacha, Samantha Heyrich, Haley Newsham, and Holly Senebandith are now able to definitively say that they went out on top in their final game. The Owls will certainly miss each and every one of them both on and off the field. The win for Bryn Mawr snaps a losing streak that dated back to the 2014 season, and the Owls will now look to use today's result, and the entire gutty 2016 campaign, as a springboard onto new heights in the offseason and beyond.