Ham’s hat trick lifts women’s soccer to second-straight Patriot League Championship

Elise Covert, Sports Co-Editor

The women’s soccer team hoisted the Patriot League Championship trophy for the second straight year after beating top-seeded Navy 3-2 in the tournament title game.

The Bison beat Boston University 1-0 on Nov. 3 to advance through to the championship game.

The Terriers applied most of the offensive pressure in the first half, not allowing the Bison to settle the ball to keep possession and develop some kind of rhythm. Boston out-shot the Orange and Blue 20-7 in the game, but strong defense from Maddie Dano ’19 and Jackie Ham ’18 kept Boston off the board.

Starting goalie Dani Kaufman ’20 made five saves before Theresa Adu-Attobrah ’20 took over in the second half. Adu-Attobrah made one crucial last-second save to combine with Kaufman for the shutout.

The stalemate was finally broken in the 87th minute when Alexandra Catanzarite ’21 maneuvered around multiple defenders in the box and struck one into the back of the net. The unassisted goal came as the only shot that the Orange and Blue tallied in the second half. The Bison defense would hold off a last effort from the Terriers to preserve the one-goal win. The victory earned them a spot in the Patriot League Championship for the third consecutive year to take on Navy.

The Orange and Blue returned to action for the final on Nov. 5. Kendall Ham ’18 notched a hat trick in the first half alone, first putting the Bison on the board in the second minute with a header off of a centering cross from Karli Cirovski ’18. This goal would set the stage for a fast-paced first half. Ham’s second and third came in the 12th and 22nd minutes for the first postseason hat trick in program history and the fourth hat trick in tournament history.

“From the very first whistle, we went at Navy. We generated a lot of offense in the first half of the game, earning corner kicks and deep throw-ins that resulted in three goals early on. Scoring a goal in the first couple minutes of play set the tone, as Navy was not used to chasing games,” K. Ham said.

The Mids got one back in the 28th minute, but Bison defense held off their increased pressure to enter halftime with a two-goal lead. The Orange and Blue would continue to take an assertive defensive stance in the second half as Navy tried to rally for the comeback win. The Mids cut the deficit to one in the 65th minute, but the Bison defense did not budge until the buzzer sounded, signaling their second-straight tournament victory. J. Ham had a crucial clear off the goal line with 20 minutes remaining, and Adu-Attobrah, who made her first career start for the Orange and Blue, finished with two saves in a performance to remember.

“Hearing that final whistle was such a relief and I was overwhelmed with emotions because we really had to battle all weekend to get that win. We were so close, I told myself to just finish what we had started back in August. Coming home with the title validated the depth of our program and personally helped me to believe in myself,” Adu-Attobrah said.

The matchup was remarkably different from the regular season matchup between the Bison and the Mids just eight days before, when the Orange and Blue struggled to break Navy’s defense.

“There were a few things that needed to change from our previous loss to Navy in the regular season,” Dano said. “First, we needed more grit in our mentality. We also needed to focus on winning 50/50 balls and then keeping possession… The dynamic was so different because we were more familiar with the way Navy played and we wanted redemption from the loss to them in the regular season.”

The three goals were the most scored on Navy since the first week of September and were enough to clinch a 2017 NCAA Tournament berth for the Bison. Catanzarite, Meghan Holtz ’18, and K. Ham were named to the All-Tournament Team, with K. Ham being named MVP for her heroic offensive display in the final.

“I was so proud of this group all season long,” Head Coach Kelly Cook said. “Our defensive unit was incredible in both games and never fully get the credit they deserve, but without their toughness and grit we would not have had the opportunity to lift the trophy. All of the little details of the season finally added up and came together at just the right time. I am just so happy that our senior class was able to bring the trophy back to Lewisburg.”

“Winning back-to-back championships is definitely a surreal feeling. After our success last year, we had a target on our back from league opponents. It’s almost a better feeling be able to pull it off two years in a row, knowing that we had that target on our back. No one in the league was rooting of for us to win — yet we did,” K. Ham said.

The Bison will face No. 2 West Virginia on Nov. 11 in the NCAA Division I Tournament.

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