RICHMOND, Va. – 17 of the 20 players on the Virginia Commonwealth University field hockey team are either a sophomore or freshman. When teams are that young, seasons can be like roller coaster rides due to the inexperience.
At the times when the season seems shaky, that's when coaches look for the upperclassmen to step and that's exactly what the Rams got on Saturday afternoon with the outstanding play of Erin Jablonski (Charlottesville, Va.) in a 2-0 shutout victory over the Hawks of Saint Joseph's University.
"It was a tough battle today, but I'm proud of the way our girls stuck with it and eventually got it going," Head Coach Kelly McQuade said. "Today was just one of those games we started sluggish, but it's a good thing to see our girls do enough to get the win."
Saint Joseph's jumped out early and put pressure on the Rams with three shots on goal in the first five minutes, but Jablonski was stellar, keeping the Hawks off the scoreboard.
"Erin was phenomenal today, she really won this game for us with her play in the cage," McQuade said. "Her defensive leadership was been excellent all season."
The second half started much like the first with the Hawks putting some pressure on the Black & Gold, but senior Marle van Dessel (Oisterwijk, The Netherlands) stepped up in the 60th minute and picked up a loose ball, sped through the defense and blasted a shot from 15 yards out into the back of the cage for a 1-0 lead.
Before the lights on the scoreboard could even switch to a "1", freshman Kelsey O'Brien (Yorktown, Va.) fired a shot home after a scramble in front and tallied her first collegiate goal, just nine seconds after van Dessel's goal.
Jablonski would make sure the 2-0 lead held up with two more saves down the stretch en route to her first collegiate shutout with a career high eight saves.
The win was the second straight for the Rams who improve to 2-2, while Saint Joseph's falls to 1-3 on the campaign.
VCU heads across town on Wednesday afternoon for a 4:30 p.m. showdown with the intercity rival, the University of Richmond.