by Tom Utescher

The hockey ball (at left) got behind Shipley goalie Hayley Silva (on ground) in this sequence last Friday, but a foul called against GFS prevented the Tigers’ Isabel Ballester (center) and Abigail Gard from going on to score. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Going back a number of years, Germantown Friends had lost all of its annual field hockey matches with Shipley School, the four-time defending champion in the Friends Schools League.

In a road game on Shipley’s artificial turf last Friday, the visiting Tigers not only didn’t lose to the Gators, but came very close to beating them. GFS scored 10 minutes into the contest and almost made its 1-0 lead stand up until the final whistle, then Shipley got on the board with two-and-a-half minutes left in regulation play. The deadlock could not be dissolved during an overtime period, and the 1-1 tie became official.

Germantown’s goal was credited to Isabel Ballester, who generously wished to share the honor with junior classmate Sydney Weigert, saying each got some wood on the ball at the same time during a scramble in front of the Gators’ goal. Shipley was saved from a shutout by freshman Sage Edelstein.

“It was heartbreaking because this is the best game we’ve played all season,” said GFS coach Maribeth Wicoff. “We passed, we played, as a team. We left it all on the field and I don’t think the score really showed how we dominated the game, so it was hard in that respect.”

The outcome resulted in a 3-1-1 record in for each teams in FSL competition, with each club’s loss coming against the current league leader, Academy of the New Church.

“That game was intense, too,” related Wicoff, “but our passing game against ANC wasn’t as dominant. We played better in this [Shipley] game, played better as a team.”

For the Tigers, last Tuesday’s 1-0 setback against ANC was followed a day later by a 3-0 non-league loss to Germantown Academy, which received goals from Allie Carrigan, Catherine Perlmutter, and Kelsey Remig. At the conclusion of Friday’s match over at Shipley, GFS ended the week with an overall record of 6-4-1, while the hosts were 5-7-1.

Each team had several players sick or injured going into the game; one of the missing for GFS was senior Allison O’Connor, a team tri-captain along with classmate Cary Anne Kane and junior Maddie Andrews.

Shipley took the initiative at the outset, but did not penetrate the GFS circle. The Tigers came back upfield and got their first solid shot from Weigert, who drove the ball a little wide to the left.

The visitors kept up the pressure, and from the right side of the circle, sophomore Sarah Kane put the ball on the leg pads of Gators goalie Hayley Silva. Both teams scrambled to control the rebound, and Ballester and Weigert got to the ball to put GFS on the board with 19:57 remaining in the first half.

The Tigers earned a penalty corner five minutes later but did not get off a shot. With the clock at 11:53 Shipley called a time-out, but when play resumed GFS continued to control the action much of the time. After the visitors came away empty from another corner play, the half ended with the count still 1-0.

Although the Tigers did not add to their lead as the second half got underway, they kept pressure on the Gators, who eventually called another time-out, now with 13:53 left in regulation time. This time, the home team responded to the peptalk and began to take the play GFS.
On one rush the Gators forced Germantown’s Andrews to make a pair of kick saves, then they earned a penalty corner. This did not immediately produce a shot, but a little later Shipley freshman Whitney Harris dribble the ball into the circle and whacked a strong shot a little outside of the right post.

With a tenacious performance from junior midfielder Katharine Cusick, among others, GFS weathered this storm.

“All of our defenders have been consistently tough,” Wicoff said. “Dana Schulman, Emma Newman [both juniors] and Cary Anne Kane have been very steady, and [senior] Lindsay Freed has been pulling off some big plays.”

The Tigers regrouped after the Shipley onslaught, and as the clock wound down in the second half, play drifted back and forth across midfield. On a free hit from outside the GFS circle the Gators sent the ball down towards the goal, and after several touches in front of the cage, Edelstein scored off an assist from Harris. With 2:28 showing, the score was now tied 1-1, much to the relief of the large and vocal home crowd.

In the final minute of regulation, GFS escaped a soul-crushing blow when a well-struck Shipley shot from the left side banged into the post on the near side. The match proceeded into overtime, and here Shipley finally resembled the Gators of old, dialing up the heat on the Tigers for the first eight minutes of the 10-minute extra session.

The visitors finally countered and crowded into the Shipley circle with about two minutes remaining, but back-to-back shots by Cusick and Sarah Kane were both stopped by Silva. On the final assault of the afternoon, Kane took the ball back into the Gators’ circle, but could not get off a viable shot.

Shipley earned the only two corners of the overtime period, but still trailed in that department for the game, 5-6.

While ninth-graders Harris and Edelstein excelled for Shipley, GFS had its own freshman standout in Abigail Gard, who was often in the thick of the action in the midfield and on offense.

Wicoff concurred, “She certainly has a lot of skill, and we plan on putting that to use as we look forward to the playoffs.”

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