At the beginning of Eastern’s final fall season in the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference, four of the Eagles’ teams were voted by coaches to end as champions.
On Nov. 3, those same four teams, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball, fought for the conference title. In the end, the soccer teams swept over their competition with 1-0 victories and earned the coveted PAC trophy.
The women’s soccer team ended their impressive 2007 season with a resounding win against Centenary at home.
The first-place Eagles went on the offensive from the start, with sophomore Jill DiRenzo scoring early in the first half. The offense kept the pressure on, coming very close to scoring several times.
The Eagles’ back line was like a brick wall, denying every single one of Centenary’s attempts at scoring. The game became tense in the last few seconds, with Centenary aggressively trying to tie up the score. However, their attempts fell short and the Eagles snagged their first PAC Championship in team history.
Junior Kara Neef, who assisted DiRenzo in scoring the game’s only goal, was named MVP of the finals.
Head Coach Dan Mouw was impressed with the team’s performance. They did not win any style points, but did everything that they needed to do to win.
Entering their finals match as the second place team, men’s soccer made up for a previous regular season overtime loss to top seed Misericordia, by cracking an 0-0 tie in the last minutes.
In an very physical match, which saw first-year Dann Delorenzo leave the game early with a concussion, the Eagles stingy defense prevailed. The back line protected junior goalie Michael Dorsch, who made one save, by stopping the majority of Misericordia’s attacks.
Without two of their main offensive weapons, senior Lance Burris and sophomore Brian Raffle, the team had a hard time finding the opposing goal. They were finally able to capitalize in the 89th minute when sophomore Nate Goble found senior Aaron Tritch behind Misericordia’s defense. The eventual finals MVP made a great first touch and slammed in the game winner for the team’s third title in five years.
Both field hockey and volleyball went into Saturday’s matches hoping to defend previous titles, field hockey to show that their earlier 3-2 loss against Alvernia was a fluke and volleyball to put a final exclaimation point on their dominating 103 consecutive match win streak in the PAC. In games that could have easily gone either way, the Eagles saw their seasons end earlier than expected.
With two goals from first-year Hope Donnely, field hockey looked as if the title was theirs. However, Alvernia knocked in an equalizer with just a few minutes left, sending the 2-2 tie into overtime.
After two overtime periods, the game went to penalty strokes. These two teams have been evenly matched for the past couple years, having met in the last three PAC finals. After two five-shot rounds, it was still tied, forcing sudden death strokes. Alvernia was able to convert, but the game could not have been any closer.
The volleyball team saw their ten-year streak as PAC Champions end in an emotional and shocking four game loss to Neumann.
The Eagles fell behind early in the first game, as the second place Knights capitalized at the net, taking Game 1, 25-30. Seeming to rebound, the Eagles won an important Game 2, 30-28. However, the Knights came back firing and claimed the pivotal Game 3, 24-30.
Game 4 initially seemed like it would belong to Eastern as the Eagles quickly pulled ahead 5-0. However, Neumann tied it up at 8-8. The game went back and forth until the score reached 29-29. As the tension grew, the crowd rose to its feet in excitement and watched the teams battle it out, each desperate to snatch the two-point lead needed for victory. Ultimately, Neumann managed to hold things together, winning Game 4 and the PAC Championship, with a score of 34-36.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Head Coach Mark Birtwistle is proud of his team and the legacy they leave behind in the PAC.