VIRGINIA BEACH -- Virginia Wesleyan College's field hockey Marlins took another major step forward Thursday with a rousing 2-1 Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory over perennial power Eastern Mennonite University.
Playing their only game of the season on Marlins Field, the Marlins did not let playing on grass affect a game they've become accustomed to on the turf of the U.S. National Training Center. VWC combined an effective offensive attack with a consistent defensive game to post its first win over EMU since 2005, snapping a five-game losing streak in the series with the Royals.
The win improved Virginia Wesleyan's overall record to 7-6, the first time the program has been above .500 since 2005, and gave the Marlins second place by itself, for now, in the ODAC with a 5-1 record. The ODAC record is also the best for VWC since it posted a 7-1 finish in 2005.
Eastern Mennonite, an 11-time ODAC champion and runner-up in four of the last five years, dropped to 8-8 overall and to 4-2 in the league.
Standout defensive play highlighted the game for VWC, with big stops from numerous players. Seniors Tara White (Alexandria, Va./Thomas A. Edison) and Valerie Nowlan (Virginia Beach/Salem) and juniorEvan Bunting (Poquoson, Va./Poquoson) led that effort, with plenty of help from Kelly Mullahy (Royersford, Pa./Spring-Ford) andJillian Gorman (Nassawadox, Va./Eastville Northampton).
Amelia Goebel (Virginia Beach/Mercersburg Academy, Pa.) and Courtney Copeland (Yorktown, Va./Tabb) also helped keep the Marlins on top of things, as did goalie Kirsten Olson (Springfield, Va./Lorton South County), who frustrated the EMU offense by producing seven saves.
VWC owned a 3-2 edge in shots in the first half and took the lead when sophomore Taylor Lober (Wilmington, Del./Concord) took the ball in front of the cage and fired it in from about five yards out in the 31st minute.
A regrouped EMU squad put the pressure on the Marlins throughout the second half, posting an 8-4 advantage in shots and a 7-3 advantage in penalty corners, but the Virginia Wesleyan defense responded impressively. Jenessa Derstine (Harleysville, Pa./Christopher Dock) did find a opening on the right side to put in an EMU goal in the 64th minute, but it only stopped VWC's bid for a shutout.
Fourteen minutes prior to the Royals' goal the Marlins moved out to a 2-0 lead when junior Allie Lanna (Midlothian, Va./Manchester) knocked the ball into the left corner off a pass from Lober.
EMU had a little more than six minutes to find the tying score, but the Virginia Wesleyan defense held up to the final horn.
Eastern Mennonite finished with advantages in shots, 10-7, and penalty corners, 10-3. Royals' goalie Mary Beth Danaher (Matoaca, Va./Matoaca) recorded two saves.
Virginia Wesleyan, which has won seven of its last 10 games, will attempt to get things moving forward on Saturday, Oct. 22, when the Marlins vist Roanoke College for an ODAC game starting at 2 p.m.