Rowan faced off in both second and third-round matchups in the first set of NCAA Division III Field Hockey Championship Tournament games, which were hosted in Glassboro this postseason.
The Profs started their weekend games on Saturday, Nov. 12, going up against Christopher Newport University. Rowan recorded their fifth shutout of the season, defeating the Captains 4-0.
Despite the final score, the game was a lot closer than it seems, with the Captains matching Rowan’s nine shots on goal throughout the contest.
“I think every playoff game you can expect it to be pretty high intensity and to see a lot of shots,” Goalie Abby Hainsworth said. “To see that much action in the first, I was a little nervous so I’m glad we got through.”
In first quarter Hainsworth recorded four saves, as Christopher Newport’s style of play was allowing them to find early opportunities.
“This team had a really high press, which is kind of similar to what TCNJ [The College of New Jersey] did but a little more aggressive,” Hainsworth said. “So we had to learn to shift where more girls were without putting people too far back where they can’t step up enough.”
The captains were unable to capitalize on their opportunities, despite their four corners in the first.
On the other hand, the Profs cashed in on their big opportunity of the opening quarter when Captain Kristiina Castagnola scored her first goal of the weekend off a penalty corner. In fact, two of Rowan’s four goals on the day came off corner plays.
“They are super important, there’s a reason why it’s an advantage,” Castagnola said. “I think just being able to finish on them right now, when we weren’t able in TCNJ really is showing that growth we’re able to make from the NJAC [New Jersey Athletic Conference] Championship.”
Going into the fourth, the Profs held the 2-0 lead. It would have been enough to advance to the next round, but the offense still had a few last tricks up their sleeves. Within the last five minutes of play, fellow captain Bridget Guinan and Castagnola both had goals that solidified the victory.
“Both of the goals were things we’ve been working on in practice and it just felt like they’ve come to fruition,” Castagnola said. “It definitely felt like a dagger, it sealed the deal for the rest of the game.”
Rowan moved on to the third round on Sunday, Nov. 13, where they knocked off Messiah University 3-1.
The Falcons, a higher-ranked team, were able to get on the board but had a hard time getting anything going on defense. On offense, Rowan started out strong once again with Castagnola scoring the first goal within the first nine minutes of play.
“If she’s [Castagnola] at her A-game, we’re in good shape,” Head Coach Michelle Andre said. “She came to play, she’s risen to the occasion and everyone around her has risen to the occasion and the thing with our team is that if somebody is having an off day, somebody is there to pick them up. We played a lot of team hockey.”
The next two goals of the day came off assists from four other members of the starting lineup. Guinan got on the board for the second day in a row off a corner from Liz Fox. The final goal of the Profs’ weekend was a sophomore connection as Julia Patrone connected with Julia Cavicchio.
“I think everyone’s stepping up, a lot of our younger girls are really coming into their roles at this point of the season,” Guinan said. “They’ve really just stepped it up and picked everyone else up on the field.”
After this successful weekend, the Profs now return to their third Final Four in five years, and this time it’s on their home turf. As they enter the time of the season when only the best of the best are left, every advantage is of the utmost importance.
“First and foremost you’re home. You get your own fans, they don’t have to go far,” Castagnola said. “Then the fact we know this field, we’ve been playing on this field for four, five years and just having that advantage of just knowing where the certain bumps are and knowing how the ball’s going to move on this turf is just so important.”
Rowan is looking to improve on last season, where they came just shy of the national championship game, losing to Middlebury College in the semifinals. They are once again facing off against that team, but with the home-field advantage, the Profs believe there will be a different outcome.
“It’s awesome, and we also get home advantage, which is a little boost of confidence,” Cavicchio said. “We’re just really excited to do it all again and hopefully go further than we did last year.”
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