It seems Rowan’s head coach, Michelle Andre, was correct when she said the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) was “one of the toughest conferences out there.”
With the Profs eyeing a repeat as division champions this season, Saturday’s match-up between two nationally ranked programs created a tougher course for the Brown and Gold.
In the first five minutes of the game, it was clear that the Kean Cougars came to Rowan’s Richard Wackar Stadium to make a statement win and prove themselves as legitimate contenders for the NJAC crown.
Kean was scorching right from the first whistle, scoring two of their three goals within the first five minutes of the game, catching the Profs off guard.
“They definitely had us on our toes,” said sophomore midfielder, Kristiina Castagnola. “They came out quick and fast, and we were not ready for that initially. It was definitely a group breakdown, communication the most.”
Andre believed that several defensive breakdowns led to an atrocious start to the game.
“We had some defensive breakdowns and we were caught in the transition,” Andre said. “We made plays that were not the smartest, they were more instinctual.”
The Profs refused to have an embarrassing defeat and narrative quickly shifted after the team’s poor start. The second and third quarter remained scoreless for both teams as the Brown and Gold realized they had to make significant adjustments to gain their composure back.
“During those quarters, we started to rely on each other instead of trying to do an individual play,” Castagnola said. “We were more in their offensive end, and from there the communication we had, we kept on having the offensive push we needed.”
Andre was sure that tactical adjustments would help the team overcome any issues.
“We made a couple of switches in the backfield,” Andre said. “We were moving our front end around to generate sustained attacks.”
After the two scoreless quarters, the adjustments resulted in a goal from Castagnola, her 12th of the season.
Although the Profs were unable to secure the victory at the end, Castagnola credits Kean’s performance that completed the upset and gave the Profs a learning experience.
“They definitely played us well,” Castagnola said. “They saw our strengths and weaknesses, hats off to them for it. But we just have to find a way around that once teams do scout us, we have to figure out how to make the plays happen.”
Andre, without hesitation, assured she is not concerned about the team’s confidence level and believes they will get over their recent loss quick enough.
“We’ll be fine,” Andre said. “We can’t undo it. We will learn from it. Everything we did is fixable so I’m not worried.”
Although the Rowan field hockey program fell from fourth to seventh on the Penn Monto/NFHCA national rankings, it is the sixth straight week the Profs have been nationally recognized. Kean University leaps from 16 to 11 on the national polls.
The Profs will travel to Glenside, Pennsylvania on Oct. 16 as they look to seek their 10th win against Arcadia University, and then visit the 5-8 Ramapo College Roadrunners on Saturday afternoon at Mahwah, New Jersey.
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