Knights’ Hilker shines in goalie debut

Knights%E2%80%99+Hilker+shines+in+goalie+debut

Junior attacker Becky Hilker was warming up for the Gannon University women’s lacrosse team’s game against Millersville University Tuesday afternoon with the intention of lighting up the score sheet.

But untimely circumstances left her with the obligation of having to keep the Marauders’ offense off the score sheet instead.

The Knights’ starting goalie, Alexis Strouse, had been battling through a hand injury for the majority of the season, and reinjured it when she was hit by a shot in warmups.

She was unable to continue, and to make the situation worse, Gannon’s backup goalkeeper, Hannah Magee, was still in the process of recovering from a concussion.

Hilker said coach Lindsey Lowman called the team together right before the game was scheduled to start, and asked who could fill in between the pipes.

“It went silent for a little bit,” Hilker said. “I told them I would do it because I had played net before.”

Hilker had played goalkeeper when she was 12 years old in Canada in her first season playing at the higher-tier club level.

After that first year, Hilker left the crease and started to play defense with the intention of leaving those goalkeeping duties behind, but when her team needed her most she answered the call.

Without even having time to warm up, Hilker quickly put on Magee’s equipment and marched out to man her post as the Knights’ last line of defense.

Hilker said her nerves were kicking in, but there wasn’t any time before she was in action. She said that the first shot she faced hit her in the hip and reminded her why she had hoped goalkeeping was a fond memory of the past.

She said the second save she made came purely off instincts.

“I was able to stuff it,” she said with a laugh. “I closed my eyes. It was coming right at my face.”

The Knights jumped out to an early lead when sophomore attacker Tessa Mitchell buried two goals to open the game and senior midfielder Kelly Sundberg added a tally to give the Knights a 3-0 lead.

She said that Millersville caught on in the first half that she wasn’t the regular starting goalkeeper.

“They were shooting from anywhere,” Hilker said.

Millersville was able to score five unanswered goals to end the first half and took a 9-7 lead into halftime.

“We had an a little issue at the end of the first, but in the second half we came out flying,” Hilker said.

Gannon midfielder Leilani King netted two unassisted goals to start the second half and knot the game at 9-9.

Mitchell, who finished the game with seven goals, was able to score with 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining in the second half to force the game into overtime.

If the pressure of playing in her first collegiate game wasn’t enough, Hilker would now have to test her skills with the game on the line.

Mitchell eased her nerves by scoring the first goal in overtime, and then eventually netting the game-winner in the second overtime period to give the Knights a 14-13 lead. Freshman attacker Marie Brockman added an insurance goal to seal the game, 15-13.

Hilker finished the contest with six saves and three ground balls. She was quick to give credit to her teammates supporting her.

“The defense stepped up a lot to help me out,” she said.

Gannon’s newest goalkeeper posted a much needed win her first contest, but said that she wasn’t champing at the bit to get back between the pipes.

“Hopefully no more,” Hilker said of playing in the Knights next game. “But it was fun, and I would do it again if they need me.”

CONNOR SONDEL

so[email protected]