*Editor's note: Updated to include Caroline Mullen's defensive save in the second half.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just four nights ago, The University of Scranton field hockey team wasn't even sure it had qualified for the Landmark Conference playoffs. Now, the Royals are headed to the championship game.
Fourth-seeded Scranton posted one of the biggest wins in program history, stunning top-seeded Catholic, 1-0, on Wednesday on a late goal by sophomore midfielder Megan Gallagher (Thorndale, Pa./Bishop Shanahan) to advance to Saturday's title game. The Royals will face third-seeded Susquehanna at 2 p.m. in Selinsgrove, Pa. The River Hawks defeated second-seeded Elizabethtown, 1-0, on Wednesday.
Scranton entered last weekend needing a win or a loss by one goal at Juniata to secure a playoff spot. When the Royals lost, 2-1, they thought they were the fourth seed for this week's playoffs. But the Juniata team celebrated and claimed it was the final playoff qualifier. After the initial confusion, it was confirmed that the tiebreaking procedure did, in fact, give the Royals the no. 4 seed, earning them a trip to Catholic for a semifinal.
The Royals (13-5) took advantage of the opportunity, shutting down the Cardinals (8-9) for the entire 70 minutes. But the game entered the 59th minute in a scoreless tie with the help of a defensive save from junior defender Caroline Mullen (Chester Springs, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) 11 minutes into the second half. That's when Gallagher stepped up, knocking the ball into an open cage off a rebound of a shot by senior midfielder Katherine McVeagh (Flourtown, Pa./Springfield Township) that had hit the post.
With 11 of the biggest minutes of their careers ahead of them, the Royals were up to the challenge. They allowed just one shot the rest of the way, which sophomore keeper Jenna Cyr (Coopersburg, Pa./Southern Lehigh) stopped for her fourth and final shot of the match. The Royals even played the final 1:14 essentially down a player as Catholic pulled its goalie for an extra field player. But he Cardinals did not register a shot in that span.
Scranton avenged a 3-2 overtime loss to Catholic in the regular season by overcoming an 11-6 disadvantage in shots. The Cardinals also had a slim 4-3 edge in penalty corners.
The Royals will be making just their second-ever appearance in the Landmark Conference championship. They also reached the title game in 2013, but lost to Catholic, 2-0. Scranton will be looking for its first overall conference championship. In 1997, the Royals won the Freedom League, but lost in the Middle Atlantic Conference championship match.