by Tom Utescher
In a non-league field hockey encounter at Penn Charter last Tuesday, the host Quakers and the visiting Spartans of Springfield High School proved to be well-matched teams. The issue was decided by a lone Springfield goal, scored by junior Sharyn Wilson in the first 10 minutes.
The 1-0 win allowed the Spartans to get back to the .500 mark overall at 4-4, while Charter slipped to 0-3 on the season.
“We just couldn’t get anything going in our [offensive] end,” remarked third-year PC head coach Melissa Grosman. “Today we seemed to lose the ball over the endline a lot. We actually worked hard to possess the ball; we just couldn’t get it in the goal.”
Springfield attacked at the outset, earning two penalty corners in the first five minutes. On one of them, a solid shot by senior Marley Berger, was blocked by a defender’s stick closer to the goal. The Spartans kept up the assault until they got on the board with 7:43 elapsed, when senior Meredith Giordano took the ball into the Quakers’ circle and dished it off to the scorer, Wilson.
As the middle of the opening period approached, PC pushed up and was awarded a long hit on the left side, but it yielded no shot. A little later, senior Bella Smith whacked the ball across the front of the goal from near the right endline, but none of her teammates were near the left post to get a stick on the ball. Smith is a team tri-captain along with classmate Ellie Zimering and junior Christina Vahey.
With a little over 10 minute to go in the half, Springside enjoyed a sustained stretch of offense in and around the Penn Charter circle, but the Spartans couldn’t get another ball past the Quakers’ junior goalie, Janelle Sullivan (eight saves).
On a corner by the visitors a little later, the ball escaped out of the circle on the insertion. Charter now called a time-out with 7:04 remaining, but the Spartans continued to attack when play resumed. A promising shot by senior Alison Yoder traveled just wide of the goal on the left, and halftime arrived with the count still 1-0.
With all the time Springfield had spent up in the offensive half, things could’ve been worse for the Quakers.
“Our team defense was better today than it has been,” Grosman commented. “Our goalie did a great job, and I thought our four backs were the most composed of everyone today.”
She was referring to Courtney Cubbin (a junior but a first-year hockey player), sophomores Lily Carpenter and Catherine McInerney, and freshman Isabel Crawford. Two other PC freshmen were on the bench due to injury, Elisabeth Ross (a starter since the preseason) and Julia Lynch.
As the second half got underway, Penn Charter advanced, bringing the ball near the circle many times but rarely getting into it. The visitors regrouped, and about 10 minutes into the new period Charter goalie Sullivan had to save back-to-back shots. Off of a corner, another Spartan shot tracked outside of the left post.
At mid-period the Quakers were back on the offensive, earning two consecutive corners. They didn’t get off a shot on the first sequence before the visitors fouled, and on the second corner Springfield back Madison Baer broke up the play.
The action flowed back and forth until Charter began its final push for a tying goal with about four minutes remaining. The Quakers batted the ball around in front of the goalmouth, but the Spartans and keeper Isabelle Boles (six saves) kept their cage sealed.
When PC drove the ball down low after a corner hit to the top of the circle, it was intercepted by one of the visitors. On a similar corner play that quickly followed, Charter junior Leslie Goodman received the insertion up top and sent the ball back down, but PC lost it in a clump of players.
In the end, Springfield protected its lead by possessing the ball in its offensive half until time ran out.
Asked about efforts the Quakers are making to perk up their offense, Grosman revealed, “We’ve done a lot of drills inside the circle, working on players getting their stick on the ball and pushing it to a corner. Mostly it’s been about trying to take good shots from the top and not as many low-angled shots.”