by Tom Utescher
Germantown Friends started the 2014 field hockey season without 10 members of last year’s varsity squad, and the personnel difficulties didn’t end there for the Tigers.
In the team’s first game in October, senior starter Cat McNally was just returning to action after taking a wicked whack to one of her fingers, but she had to wear an awkward protective glove that detracted from her stickhandling. Sidelined altogether for last Thursday’s home match was junior Abigail Gard, a fixture on the squad since her freshman year.
All in all, it wasn’t the best time to be taking on Academy of the New Church for the first time since the two teams met in the 2013 Friends School League Championship game. In the FSL final, a lone second-half goal had decided the issue in favor of the ANC Lions, but last week’s regular-season bout was not as close, with the visitors coming on strong in the second period to climb from a 1-0 halftime lead to a 4-0 victory.
Even with that setback, the Tigers were at the .500 mark overall with a record of 4-4, and although they came away with a 1-2 record in the FSL, those losses have come against the two of the toughest opponents GFS will see in the league this fall, ANC and Shipley School.
After an early assault by ANC produced the game’s first penalty corner last Thursday, GFS came down the field and had senior Sarah Kane send a drive across the front of the cage from the right side. No one was in place at the far post through, and soon Germantown had a narrow escape at the other end, where a visitor’s reverse-stick shot went a little wide to the right. Soon after that, GFS senior goalie Hayley Rost used a leg pad to stop a drive by New Church junior Chelsea Duggan.
With the midway point of the first period approaching, GFS earned a penalty corner and inserted the ball to Kane at the top of the circle. She drove it down to the left post, where sophomore Livia Pinover came very close to tipping it into the cage.
The action soon flowed in the other direction, and with 14:15 remaining in the first half, the Lions got their first goal. GFS let the ball bounce loose in the circle a little too long, and ANC’s Duggan teed off from about eight yards out.
The Lions were back down pressuring the Tigers in their circle almost immediately, but the attackers were foiled for the time being when Germantown senior Magda Andrews-Hoke swept the ball away from the mouth of the goal and dribbled it out of the circle. Unfortunately, Germantown’s Kane was hurt during that sequence. She left the field, but would return later on.
Although the visitors did not score again before halftime, their initial strike seemed to inspire them. They would continue their offensive, forcing five penalty corners later in the first half while allowing none by the home team.
The momentum carried over into the second half, and in the opening minute Duggan dribbled into the circle on the left, moved to the middle, and banged in her second goal of the day. Less than four minutes into the period, another goal went up on the board as the Lions made good on the second of back-to-back corners.
Junior Kyla Rogers (who had scored the lone goal in the 2013 FSL final) received the insertion high in the circle and sent the ball down toward the right post, where senior Ashley Smith redirected it into the cage from a few feet out.
New Church added one more goal in the final 26 minutes, while spending most of that time on the attack. On a hard drive from the right of the scoring loop, Duggan completed her hat trick with 20:29 to go. ANC enjoyed five penalty corners after that (the visitors ruled this statistical category, 15-3), but GFS was able to prevent a direct shot off of these restarts, with the exception of a drive by Rogers that was repulsed by Rost.
The Tigers’ last best chance to avoid a shutout by ANC senior keeper Heather Schauder came as the clock dipped below two minutes remaining. On a corner, the ball came out to Kane, then a foul by the Lions produced a second corner opportunity for the hosts. The insertion went high in the circle once more, but Germantown could not settle the ball up top before the ANC arrived to disrupt the play.
The Tigers will look to get back in the win column this week, playing back-to-back games against Westtown School, a 2013 FSL semifinalist, and against non-league rival Germantown Academy, which finished last week ranked smack in the middle of the seven-team Inter-Ac League.