This past Saturday, the Lady Mules traveled to Westminster, Maryland for perhaps their most crucial game of the season so far. Awaiting them there was Centennial Conference foe McDaniel, and playoff implications were on the line. The squad was in the middle of the toughest stretch of their season, having to play seven straight conference games in a span of three weeks to finish the regular season. This was their fifth game in that stretch, as the Lady Mules went a respectable 2-1-1 in the four games prior.
Muhlenberg entered the game in the middle of the pack in the Centennial Conference standings, trailing Swarthmore for the final playoff spot. They also trailed McDaniel by a whopping seven points in the standings, and needed those three points a win would provide to close the gap. McDaniel is in the midst of a stellar season, coming into the game at 12-4 overall and 5-3 in conference play.
The contest was airtight throughout, with both defenses suffocating the offensive attack on either side. It looked as if the first half would be scoreless until McDaniel’s Kathryn Dixon netted a goal in the 41st minute to give them a 1-0 edge at halftime.
The Lady Mules responded almost immediately after the half with a goal of their own. Cece Peden ‘22 found the back of the net to even up the score. It was her fourth goal of the season.
Despite trailing in most statistical categories, such as shots, where McDaniel led by a wide margin of 22-6, Muhlenberg’s defense managed to keep it close and send the game to overtime with a chance to save their postseason hopes.
Those hopes were quickly dashed in the 95th minute as McDaniel scored the go-ahead goal. The score held up the rest of overtime and McDaniel squeezed out a 2-1 victory. Peden, who scored the only goal for the Lady Mules on Saturday, explained her squad got off to a slow start. “We did not perform up to the level we are capable of in the first half, which led us into half time with a one-goal deficit,” Peden said.
Having such an important game being played on the road was not ideal for the Lady Mules, as they have a lackluster 2-4-0 record on the road thus far. Conversely, they are undefeated on Varsity Field, their home turf, and have posted a 5-0-2 record there. Peden says the Lady Mules are simply protecting their home. “We do not let other teams have control of the game on our home field,” said Peden. “There is something to defending our home turf that inspires hard work on the field.”
The team will have two more chances to finish out the season strong, playing their final matches against Swarthmore and Washington College. While their playoff chances are now gone, Peden is adamant that there is still a lot to play for. “We are here to win out the remainder of our games to prove to ourselves and the conference that we are capable of fighting toe-to-toe with every team we face,” said Peden.
This game was the fourth time the Lady Mules lost by one goal this season, something Peden is all too aware of. “This season has been riddled with so much emotion due to dominating performances, hard-fought losses and injuries that have changed the entire dynamic of our team,” she remarked. “When I look at my teammates, I know more than ever that they will give everything they have for me, and I will always do the same for them. We have proved ourselves this season and I know we’ll keep fighting for our spot in the playoffs in years to come.”