Freshman midfielder Paige Sottosanti prepares to pass the ball down field at practice on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Goodman Campus. The Lehigh field hockey team will play No. 18 American Friday, Sept. 22 at Ulrich Field. (Alexis King/ B&W Staff)

Lehigh field hockey prepares to battle defending PL champ, No. 22 American

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The Lehigh field hockey team (2-6) is set to play its second Patriot League game of the season against the league’s defending champion, No. 22 ranked opponent American University (6-2), this Friday at Ulrich Sports Complex.

American pummeled the Mountain Hawks 7-0 last season, but this year, Lehigh expects a much different outcome.

“Last year, we had a tough loss to American because of the breakdown in our defensive circle,” senior midfielder Jackie Renda said. “It led to quite a few goals against us. This year, we are more fit and more capable of implementing some new skills and new game structures that we feel will set us up to overall be more successful against such a highly-skilled team.”

The team was able to secure its first win on the road against Siena College, 4-1, on Sept. 17, after a string of six consecutive losses.

Senior midfielder Laura Yuh said the team is feeling good after its win this past weekend and looks to carry that positive energy into this coming weekend.

“Our team is excited for our second Patriot League play of the season,” junior forward Lauren Dice said. “We have another Patriot League game against Bucknell next Friday, so we are just trying to take it game-by-game. We’ve really been preparing and focused in practice so far this week.”

Yuh said Patriot League games are important to the team because each game contributes to determining whether or not the Mountain Hawks will make the tournament. She said this Friday’s outcome will set the tone for future games.

The players said the team’s physical fitness has the ability to produce a different result in this year’s matchup against American. Dice said the coaches have made a great practice plan leading up to Friday, and the team feels mentally and physically ready going into competition day.

“During practice we have been pushing ourselves really hard, especially with our individual skills and conditioning,” Renda said. “Staying fit and energized during such a high-level is the most basic way to stay in it, and we have been preparing to make sure we can do that.”

Yuh said the team is primarily focused on fixing details from past games this week. She said the team is following its coaching staff’s game plan and making sure it implements that into Friday’s game.

Following last year’s loss to American, the Mountain Hawks agreed that focus and playing as a team is key if they hope to pull out an upset win this year.

“If our team wants to generate a win, Lehigh field hockey needs to play as a collective unit and hustle to every 50/50 ball,” Dice said. “Each member on our team needs to play with heart and grit on the field so that we perform our best during the entire 70-minute period.”

Renda said the team this year is more capable of implementing new skills and game structures for better overall success, so it’s ready for whatever American throws at them.

“With people playing in different or new positions, the difference comes from us playing to each other’s strengths and ultimately playing as one cohesive unit,” Yuh said. “Our team is improving with each game, so hopefully we can incorporate what we learned last year and from this season’s games to get the win.”

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