Field Hockey Notebook: Week 4

Wissahickon. Souderton. Pennsbury.

Those are the three teams atop the American, Continental and National Conferences respectively as the SOL season approaches the midway point, but there’s a whole lot of hockey still on tap for the ’09 season.
A lot could change.
One thing that doesn’t figure to change is Wissahickon’s dominance in American Conference play. Through five league games, the high-flying Trojans have outscored their opponents 24-2. The lone team to score any goals against Wissahickon in league play is Springfield. Annie Crudele and Kierstan McLennan can lay claim to the fact that they are the only players to score on Wissahickon in conference play, but their goals came in a 4-2 loss in the SOL opener for both teams.
More recently, the Trojans rolled to a 5-0 win over Cheltenham in a game that saw five different players – Lauren Becker, Zoe Kale, Ashley Bossert, Jess Keller and Jackie Hibbs – contribute goals. In Wissahickon’s 7-0 win over Norristown, five players once again scored goals.
Upper Dublin rebounded from its loss to Wissahickon early last week to down Upper Moreland (6-0) and Plymouth Whitemarsh (3-1). Emily Hitchings had a pair of goals in both games. Sarah Boyd also scored two goals in the win over Upper Moreland while Kelly Cross and Erin Cummings added single goals.
In the PW win, Jordan O’Reilly added a single goal for the Flying Cardinals while Galen Newsum had PW’s lone goal. The Colonials came back to defeat Norristown 6-0 on Friday.
Springfield notched a pair of convincing wins, downing Cheltenham 6-0 and following that with a 7-0 win over Upper Merion.
Upper Merion got in the win column with its 2-1 victory over Upper Moreland . The Vikings used a pair of second-half goals by Kellie Manoppello and Sophia Liu in the win. In a non-league game on Saturday, Upper Moreland lost a 3-2 heartbreaker in OT to Lower Merion .
Souderton finds itself alone at the top of the Continental Conference, thanks in no small part to its outstanding defense. Last week, the Indians pitched shutouts at North Penn (0-0), Central Bucks South (2-0) and Central Bucks East (2-0). In the win over East, the Indians received goals from Olivia Shoemaker and Natalie Guerreiro.
Central Bucks South suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of Souderton but rebounded to defeat Central Bucks West on Friday.
North Penn rebounded from its scoreless tie against Souderton to defeat Central Bucks West 5-0 and Quakertown 4-0. In Friday’s win over Quakertown, the Panthers battled the Maidens to a 0-0 halftime tie only to watch Brooke Harrar, Kristen French, Nikki Hill and Amy Coughlin score second half goals. The final score could have been worse had it not been for the 20-save effort of Quakertown goalie Vicki Gluck.
Last Wednesday, Quakertown earned a 2-0 win over Pennridge, using goals by Erin Mikolai and Courtney Heverly. The Rams, who remain winless in league play, fell to Hatboro-Horsham 6-1 on Friday. The Hatters downed Central Bucks East 2-1 earlier in the week. Keeping the Patriots in the game was goalie Christina Maida, who recorded 23 saves in a busy afternoon.
The game of the week in the SOL might well have been the Pennsbury/Council Rock South showdown last Friday. In a battle of the conference’s lone undefeated squads, the Falcons escaped with a 3-2 win, thanks to a goal by Ashlyn Stevens (Mia Reed assist) with 2:30 remaining in regulation.
A goal by Maria Karidas just over five minutes into the contest sent the Golden Hawks into halftime with a 1-0 lead. Stevens knotted the score with an assist from Danielle Geller, and the Falcons went on top 2-1 after a goal by Reed (Allie Brady assist). With eight minutes remaining, Sarah Brotman scored the equalizer for the Golden Hawks, setting the stage for the Falcons’ dramatic finish.
Earlier in the week, Rock South defeated Abington 3-1. Pennsbury, meanwhile, eked out a 2-1 overtime win over William Tennent in another classic battle.  Nikki Cuthbert scored the game winner four minutes into OT. Chelsea Prichett (Alex Kistner assist) scored in the first half to send Tennent into halftime with a 1-0 lead, but Ashlyn Stevens knotted the score with five minutes remaining.
Abington got in the win column with its 3-0 win over Harry S. Truman on Friday. Kim Begley had a pair of goals and an assist while teammate Kate Cooper had a goal and two assists. Truman picked up its first win of the season last week, downing Bristol 3-1 in non-league play. Briley Acker had a pair of goals while Mallori Kolar added a single goal.
Neshaminy is making its move in the National Conference, earning a 2-1 win over Tennent last Wednesday. Megan Kelly (Annie Abdo assist) spotted the Redskins a 1-0 lead, but Tonya Gower (Alex Kistner assist) knotted the score. The Redskins won it when Melissa Haus (Julia DeSanto assist) scored with 10:17 remaining. Earlier in the week, the Redskins battled Council Rock North to a 2-2 tie.
Rock North closed out the week with a 4-0 win over Bensalem. Becky Ely led the Indians with a pair of goals and assists. Elly Plappert had a goal and an assist while Devin Everett added a single goal.
Council Rock North made a statement with its 2-1 non-league win over Hatboro-Horsham on Tuesday. The Indians received goals from Becky Ely and Sarah Rowland.
National Conference
Living on the edge – If the sign of a good team is its ability to win the close ones, the Pennsbury Falcons have few equals. Five of their six wins were determined by one goal, and it would be understandable if Brooke Bergmann might feel as though she’s aging just a bit during the season’s early weeks.
 “I feel like I am,” she said with a laugh.  “I tell them to stop doing this to me, but they just don’t seem to listen.
“We don’t get a break. There’s no break.”
The Falcons’ most recent nail biter came last Friday when they edged Council Rock South 3-2 to take over sole possession of the conference’s top spot with a perfect 5-0 record. It was their sixth one-goal game in a row.
“Every game, literally every single game we have played so far has been a battle, and we’re expecting that coming in,” Bergmann said.  “Obviously knowing they were the other team that was undefeated in the league - we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game.
“It was very back and forth. They’re a very aggressive and intense team. We weren’t ready for that right off the bat, but once we started to fight back, things started to go our way, and we had some more opportunities.”
A key to the game was the Falcons’ ability to turn their corners into scoring opportunities.
“All of our goals were scored as the result of a corner, not necessarily on the first shot but in following up a corner,” Bergmann said. “We made some adjustments and got some really good chances, and then it was just a matter of finishing. That has been a problem.”
Midfielders Mia Reed and Ashlyn Stevens were the players who turned the corners into goals while Bergmann also credited center forward Jenna Allen for igniting the Falcons’ offense.
“She did a really good job in the second half of controlling play and moving ball up the field for us,” Bergmann said.
Friday’s win upped the Falcons’ overall record to 6-2 – an impressive start on the heels of last year’s 9-10 season.
“When we get into those close games, we’re finishing them whereas the last two years when we had very talented teams we were not able to get over that roadblock and finish games,” Bergmann said. “Playing with a one-goal lead, being able to make the decisions and be calm as the game ends to hold onto the lead – that’s been the difference because ability-wise and talent-wise, it’s probably as even as it’s been across the league.
“We knew we had a great group of kids, and we were excited for them before the season. We have a long way to go, but just the fact that they have had success in those close games whereas in the past we haven’t had success in the close ones is important.”
The Falcons will start the second go-round in SOL play on Monday when they face a Rock North team fresh off a win over Hatboro.
“There’s no break, which is great because I think it prepares all the teams for the grind of playoffs, but I really do think it’s anyone’s league,” Bergmann said. “I’m happy to be in the position we’re in, but I know there’s a long road ahead.”
Continental Conference
Home sweet home – North Penn has got to be looking forward to starting the second round of SOL play next week. The Maidens, who have owned their opponents on their home turf, played their conference’s toughest squads on the road in the first trip around the league.
“It does make a big difference,” coach Carrie Jankowski said. “As much as we practice on grass and I really try to prepare them for it, it’s just a slower game, and one of our advantages is the speed of our passing and the speed of our play.”
North Penn fell to Hatboro-Horsham at Hatboro and settled for a tie with Souderton on the Indians’ new turf. On Wednesday, the Maidens will travel to Central Bucks South for another key contest.
They enter Wednesday’s game with a 3-1-1 mark, just a game behind first place Souderton and deadlocked with South and Hatboro.
“My quote to the beginning of the year was that you’re probably not going to come out of the league undefeated because it is so competitive and so good, but at the same time, the champion of the league is probably only going to have one loss,” said Jankowski. “At this point, it is important we battle every game and win every game that’s left.”
While all-state midfielder Elizabeth Fedele is on everyone’s radar, the Maidens have some lesser known players who also boast serious talent. Senior midfielder Kaitlin Colbridge, who played every minute of every game last year, has been a study in consistency in the early weeks.
“She has always been a steady player,” Jankowski said. “This year she’s just more comfortable with the ball and more confident, so I think she’s tending to do things that make her shine a lot more.”
Junior Macie Hauck has moved up from the junior varsity to make an immediate impact, anchoring the Maidens’ defense at center back.
“From the first practice I watched her, and I knew she was going to be that good,” Jankowski said.
Junior Jan Ikeda has also been a rock in the defensive backfield for the Maidens while Nicolette Hill and Kristen French are doing most of the scoring.
After a 4-0 start, the Maidens are 6-1-1.
 “If I’m going to be a positive person, I can look at the first half of the season and see how good we can be because we really did show flashes of greatness,” Jankowski said. “If I’m going to be constructive, I think we need to figure out how to make those flashes permanent.
“I said before the season started – I like how we look this year, but we play in a very tough league.”
American Conference
Young and on the rise – With the graduation of nine seniors from last year’s squad, which included seven starters, coach Marianne Paparone knew this year’s team would have to endure some growing pains.
The Colonials found themselves 0-4 after a tough preseason schedule that included 4-0 losses to both North Penn and Ridley. They extended Quakertown and Haverford to overtime before falling in both of those contests as well.
“Playing those tough teams gave us an idea of where we were,” Paparone said. “You always try to emphasize that you can learn something from a game whether you win or lose.
“But it was tough in the beginning. I think if they had won a couple of those games, it would have given them confidence, which is what I think they lack. We don’t lack skill or ability. We just lack confidence and a little bit of some of the intangibles.”
Paparone starts just one senior (Katie Bauer), five juniors and five sophomores. Two of her first three players off the bench are sophomores. One of those sophomores – Mollie Getzfread – is anchoring the team at center midfield.
“That’s a tough position because she’s going up against the kids that are often the best on other teams,” Paparone said. “We just call her the Energizer bunny because she’s all over the place. She doesn’t stop, which is awesome. She has to learn a little more control sometimes, but her fouls are out of hustle.”
Sophomore Meg McCullough is PW’s corner striker and plays left midfield.
“They’re probably two of my best skilled players,” Paparone said of McCullough and Getzfread.
Recently, the Colonials have started to find their legs, notching three wins in their first five SOL games.
“That’s huge,” Paparone said. “Even though we lost to North Penn, I thought we played pretty well. You can tell the kids that, but they still came up on the short end in terms of goals.
“Getting some wins definitely gives them confidence.”
The junior class, according to Paparone, is beginning to assume a leadership role. Galen Newsum and Haley Gorenflo bring experience to the forward line.
“Haley has really stepped up and tried to be more of a vocal leader,” Paparone said. “Galen with her play has stepped up, and kids are looking to her for leadership.
Amy Powell comes off the bench and does what she can to be a leader, and she’s supportive of kids when she’s not in the game. Everybody is trying to do their part.”
The Colonials also are small in stature, which sometimes works against them.
“Field hockey is a sport of skill, but it’s also important to have some size out there,” Paparone said. “We have speed, but boy, are we tiny.”
After an 0-4 start, the Colonials are 3-6 overall.
“They’re good kids,” Paparone said. “I couldn’t ask for them to work any harder.  
 “These kids just love the sport. They put a lot of extra time in – they play club, they play indoor, and that’s great for our future.”
 
SOS.com’s Fab Five
  1. Wissahickon (5-0) (The Trojans have outscored their opponents 24-2 in SOL play.)
  2. Souderton (6-0-2) (The Indians made believers out of their critics with a 2-0 win over Central Bucks South.)
  3. Central Bucks South (5-1-1) (The Titans suffered their first loss to a Souderton squad that shut out three opponents last week.)
  4. North Penn (6-1-1) (The Maidens rebounded from their scoreless tie against Souderton to win a pair of games.)
  5. (Tie) Pennsbury (6-2) (The Falcons won their showdown against Council Rock South to remain undefeated in National Conference play.)  Hatboro-Horsham (5-2-1) (The Hatters , who fell to Council Rock North in non-league play, will find out what they’re made of when they take on Souderton in the start of the second SOL go-round on Monday.)
Others to watch: Council Rock South (5-1) (The Golden Hawks fell in a tightly contested game to Pennsbury on Friday and have a showdown against William Tennent looming on the horizon.)