Field hockey advances past Denison into NCAA second round

Field hockey players celebrate a goal. Graphic showing 3-1 final score and team logos.

NCAA Division III field hockey tournament second round: Lynchburg at No. 3 Rowan, Saturday, Nov. 10, 11 a.m.

Lynchburg, Va. -- The ball hit Kayla Copeman's stick squarely.

But instead of deflecting into the wide open left side of the goal, the white sphere shot upward -- the angle was wrong -- and over the crossbar.

It was a perfect goal-scoring opportunity, but the University of Lynchburg field hockey team remained scoreless, getting shut out on its home field early in the second half of an NCAA tournament game. But Copeman didn't panic.

"I knew that was going to happen again," Copeman said of the scoring opportunity. "It was so easy across the goal."

And indeed, more of those chances presented themselves for Lynchburg.

Sophomore defender Alexis Brown (Culpeper, Va.), Copeman (Williamsburg, Va.), and senior forward Nikki Simpao (Stafford, Va.) all scored second-half goals to help the Hornets overcome a one-goal halftime deficit for a 3-1 win over 20th-ranked Denison.

The victory propels Lynchburg into the second round of the NCAA Division III field hockey tournament; the Hornets will travel to No. 3-ranked Rowan in Glassboro, N.J., on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. The undefeated Profs defeated Lynchburg, 3-1, on Sept. 22.

The game did start out with Lynchburg seemingly out of its comfort zone. After several minutes without a scoring opportunity for either team, Denison earned a pair of corners midway through the half, but sophomore goalkeeper Laurel Nicks (Yorktown, Va.) stymied the Big Red's efforts with the first two of her 13 saves.

Denison thwarted both Lynchburg's first-half penalty corners as well, and the visitors' attack finally broke through at the 29:17 mark. AC Veith corralled a rebound off her own shot and tapped it to Charlotte Godfrey, who gave the Big Red a lead they would take into halftime.

Right out of the half -- and shortly after Copeman's near miss on the deflection -- Lynchburg dodged four more Denison shots before breaking through. Simpao took Copeman's 43rd-minute corner insert and played the ball right, firing it into the arc for Brown to finish from five yards out.

Copeman delivered Lynchburg the lead in the 62nd minute, again after a corner. She inserted and ran to the far post, where quick passing by Simpao and sophomore forward Jackie Lerro (Royersford, Pa.) got the ball back over. This time, she finished the play.

"It definitely felt good, because I needed redemption," Copeman said with a laugh. "Coach can't kill me now."

The Hornets got some breathing room 4 minutes later when Lerro was fouled by the Denison goalkeeper, forcing a penalty stroke. Simpao converted, bringing the score to its final 3-1 standing and setting up the rematch with Rowan.

Lynchburg's team said this trip to New Jersey will be much different than the one six weeks ago. The Hornets have found a lineup that works and have been chugging on all cylinders since that roadtrip.

Tuesday's was Lynchburg's 12th consecutive win but their first in the NCAA tournament since 2012, when Hornets advanced to the round of eight. Lynchburg is also unbeaten at home this season, boasting a 7-0 record on Shellenberger Field.

"They're going to be playing a very different Lynchburg team," Simpao said.

With a win at Rowan Saturday, Lynchburg (16-5) will face the winner of Saturday's other matchup between No. 8 Rochester and No. 11 Franklin & Marshall.

Tickets for this weekend's games will be $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens and students with student ID. More information is available at RowanAthletics.com.

--LYN--