For the field hockey team, the MAC Championship game on Nov. 8 served as an opportunity to straighten the score. Wilkes was the only team that field hockey lost to in the MAC Freedom Conference during the year, falling to the Colonels, 1-2, in the Oct. 18 away match.
“The game was nerve-wracking,” senior midfielder Carrie Kline said. “During the regular season, Wilkes was the only team in the conference to beat us. We had a lot going against us in that we were playing on grass and we had to travel two hours to [get to] their field.”
Despite many obstacles, the field hockey team fought together for a 2-1 victory, and claimed the MAC Freedom Championship title, in this, their first year in the new conference. The Eagles went into the game with an aggressive focus, controlling play early on and earning the first shots and penalty corners of the game.
They were soon rewarded for their determination and drive when junior Olivia Derr scored off a pass from senior Kim Cambell in the 17th minute, giving the Eagles confidence and the crucial early goal. That lead was almost doubled a few minutes later when Kline received a ball in front of a seemingly empty goal, but Wilkes first-year goalie Lindsay Davenport, made an incredible diving save to keep the game close.
After halftime, the Colonels came out strong and scored in the 40th minute to tie the game. However, the goal did not seem to phase Eastern at all as first-year Yvonne Herbster slammed home the game-winner less than 30 seconds later.
“I was so excited during the game because I knew that we were absolutely the better team and we just had to put that into action,” senior defender Leslie Messick said. “From the first day of preseason, I knew we could win the title.”
Messick ended up being the one to seal the deal for Eastern when a penalty corner was called against the Eagles as time expired. Field hockey games are not allowed to end in the middle of a penalty corner play, so the intensity was still high when the clock reached all zeros.
Eastern either had to clear the ball out of the scoring zone or Wilkes would have a dangerous chance to knock in a heart-breaking, game-tying goal. Fittingly, it was the senior, Messick, who knocked the ball out of the zone, officially ending the game and giving the Eagles the championship title.
“We played our hearts out that game and came out on top,” first-year Danielle Danser said. “We were a new team in the MAC and we proved we belong there.”
With the conference championship, the Eagles improved to 14-6 for the season and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years.
As if claiming the MAC title was not enough, the team continued to make history by winning their first round game of the NCAA tournament, defeating Skidmore 3-2. That victory put the team in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history.
The team was knocked out of the tournament on Nov. 15 in a tough 0-3 loss to top-ranked Messiah. But the Eagles were pleased with how far they came, seeing the championship victory in their first season in the MAC as a huge accomplishment for both the team and their reputation.
“It puts our school out there and shows everyone in the the new conference that we are always going to be contenders for the title,” Messick said.