Hoping to Field an NCAA Tournament Bid

 By William Masselli ~ Editor in Chief

Photo retrieved from https://www.lynchburgsports.com/sports/fh/2021-22/releases/20211030vxb7ms on Nov. 7, 2021. Jackie Lerro scores a goal while facing off against Bridgewater goalkeeper and player in the quarterfinals.

The University of Lynchburg Women’s Field Hockey team lost to nationally ranked Washington and Lee in the ODAC championship game, but the team can still qualify for the NCAA tournament; however, but not with an automatic bid. 

The team enjoyed a successful tournament by beating Bridgewater 3-0 through Jackie Lerro’s hat trick in the quarterfinals and avenging their regular season loss to Shenandoah by beating Shenandoah 3-1 in the semifinals.

Despite the team experiencing a successful regular season and conference postseason, some impressive streaks were snapped this year. 

In the regular season, the loss to Washington and Lee snapped Lynchburg’s 32 game conference winning streak. 

Head Coach Enza Steele expressed optimism and pessimism when talking about the conference winning streak coming to an end, stating, “It is an honor and something not many teams can say that they were undefeated for 32 consecutive conference games!  The team has had a few obstacles this fall.  One of my top players suffered a knee injury before our Washington and Lee game which limited her ability and now she is just waiting for reconstruction surgery.  We had two more players who have had to miss games due to personal family situations.  We also had graduate students miss games due to class conflicts.  Having all of these things happen in one season has been a big challenge for us.  We are working hard every day to be the best that we can be! Looking forward to having a great ODAC tournament.”

Jackie Lerro, a graduate student and forward, shared some of the challenges that occur with players playing varsity sports in graduate school, stating, “I knew playing field hockey in graduate school while also being a graduate assistant for the college of business, would be difficult but like every other year, I have the same goals of winning.” 

Lerro opened up about how the regular season loss to Shenandoah made the team’s path to the ODAC much more challenging, stating, “I believe we are still on track for an ODAC Championship. We are ranked third heading into tournament play which is ok. It is definitely a different course than I planned on but that is not a big deal when our end goal is the same. We did end up losing to Shenandoah which ranks us third in the ODAC. With losing the game, we also lost home field advantage for the semifinals and now we must play in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Other than having to play an extra game, I don’t think it will hinder any of our opportunities to get to the championship and win.”

In the tournament, University of Lynchburg successfully avenged their regular season loss to Shenandoah and Lerro’s attitude was critical for the Hornets to achieve this upset. 

Heading into the ODAC semifinal and now a potential upcoming NCAA tournament game, Lerro stated, “I definitely think it will be difficult to win but I know it is possible for us. Playing Shenandoah again at their home turf will be our toughest battle. In being able to play for five seasons, I have just developed a mentality to give it my all. I was not sure if I would take my fifth year of eligibility, so I gave 110% in my last few games as a senior last year. I wish I could give everyone my same mentality of doing whatever it takes to win but I know when it comes time for it, we will all dig deep. Yes, our team is young, but I do not think it puts us at a greater disadvantage than any other team would have. The younger girls have stepped up and claimed their roles on this team and will excel in the next years to come. My advice is to always play every game for your teammates. It is a team sport and at the end of the day, my success and the team’s success is only made possible through every single player on the team.” 

Please stay tuned to see if the University of Lynchburg Women’s Field Hockey Team qualifies for the NCAA tournament by visiting https://www.lynchburgsports.com/sports/fh/2021-22/schedule to see updated information about future game times and locations. 

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