Intense: the Philafieldhockey Game of the Week between Central League foes Penncrest and Strath Haven was just that from start to finish. Beginning with the Game of the Week poll, the two schools racked up more votes – over 500 – than any other teams to date. Then, the game. What started out as an intense back-and-forth battle with the ball stuck between the 30s for a good seven minutes never let up. It was a physical game with 85 fouls, fiery fans, several cards, enthusiast coaches and players on both teams who clearly wanted the win. The Game of the Week was a nail bitter that had you sitting on the edge of your seat, wanting more. At the final buzzer, it was Strath Haven that earned the win, 2-1.
“It was a very hard-fought game. They were a strong team and we knew that coming out here, and we knew we had to bring our top A game and I feel like we did,” noted Strath Haven senior captain, Katie Capalbo. Regarding the intensity of the game, Capalbo noted: “I had to take a step back… I mean, I took a face-to-face with this one girl; it was really a physical game. I was a little upset with the calls… but we stood our ground, we didn’t let it take us, and we finished strong.”
“We knew this was going to be a hard game but we were more upbeat at practice yesterday. We knew it was going to be tough battle and we were excited for Game of the Week,” noted Penncrest senior captain Jen Peyton. “But I felt like there was just this level of frustration with our players working hard but just not finishing; we’re more frustrated with each than with the loss, I think. We had the ball a lot in the beginning but when they got two quick shots on us, I think it kind of got in our heads. We know how to fight back from being behind – we did that against Lower Merion – we just got frustrated. And the comments from the other team during the game, trying to get us all rattled, were tough but we stayed strong.”
Penncrest junior Margaret Howe-Consiglio got the ball rolling with a shot on goal at the 27:02 mark. The game then seemed to be stuck at midfield for another seven minutes, with lots of aggressive play and a clear indication that both teams were not sitting back. Strath Haven earned the first corner at 21:18 when Capalbo wiggled the ball through a crowd. The corner was one of 14 for the Panthers versus the 8 that the Penncrest Lions secured on the game.
“I just thought for 60 minutes, it was tenacious play from end to end,” said Strath Haven Head Coach Carly Reid. “We actually drew more corners today than we have been, which I was happy about. The (open field) goals are going to keep coming and I was just pleased we could draw so many corners. I have to say that our defense really stepped up. We always talk about the simple game and for example, anytime they’re (the opponent) is laying their left hand low, block tackling, we know to get it wide, get it wide out there and maintain possession. And we did that well. Penncrest had good sticks too but our defense executed well.”
Haven had three quick, consecutive shots on goal – the third one finding the back of the net at 19:43 from Nina Santisi. The goal followed heavy pressure by Haven and strong defense by Penncrest’s backfielders Savannah Harmon, Charlotte Mingey and Abby Race as well as first-year goalkeeper, Audrey Bassett.
“Strath Haven played a lot tighter and with a lot more pressure than we often see, and they talked a lot,” noted Bassett who recorded 14 saves. “But the defense did really well.”
Strath Haven netted their second – and final goal — at 12:57, this time after a savvy pass from junior Emily Raech to Capalbo who finished it with a redirect tip. The two, along with midfielder Olivia Fender and forward McKenzie Raech, strung together numerous passing combos throughout the game to help kindle the Panthers’ attack which fired off 16 shots on goal and had more missed opportunities in the 60 minutes. As the game progressed, the Panthers’ lines were consistent in backing up their teammates.
“We’ve been working at this in practice, feeding off each other and anticipating passes and I feel like we have it down to a science now,” noted Capalbo. “We have so much team chemistry that we can find each other without even looking up.”
Penncrest, too, had many strong offensive pushes and were often met by Haven’s defense, that played a push-it-up style, often meeting Penncrest’s attackers above the 40. Kerry Peyton of Penncrest scored at 5:43 off a goalkeeper rebound on a shot fired from 22 yards. Penncrest also fired off the final shot of the half, off a succession of three corners, with :02 remaining. Haven’s aggressive goalkeeper Kay Walker and Panther defenders Maeve Clark, Gillan Brenan and Sophia Foglio were integral in the team’s win.
“Penncrest was really predictable where they were going to hit it so we were able to pick up on that,” said Brennan. “They didn’t defend the wide pass so on defense, we were able to find that and get the ball out and up. They were also just really aggressive so I just had to make sure I played goal side.”
The half wrapped up with intense competition, a lot of midfield play, and pretty evenly matched teams who are close in the Central League standings; Penncrest stands at 5-3 and Strath Haven at 5-2-1.
The second half, although scoreless, was anything from dull. Strath Haven hit the backboard less than 8 minutes in but the goal was called back; fans were not pleased and the intensity thickened. The Panthers dominated in their offensive circle but could not finish and were continually turned away by intense Penncrest defense and midfielders.
Strath Haven’s Emily Raech noted the team’s frustration with finishing: “We’ve been dealing with it all season but we’re working on it and we’ll get there.”
The last real attempt that Penncrest had to tie up the match came at 6:35 when, after a corner, they applied heavy pressure and lots of scrambling in front of the goal mouth but fell short. At the final whistle, Strath Haven’s depth and strength in their circles prevailed, topping Penncrest 2-1.
“If we had played to our full potential the entire game, we think it would have been a different outcome,” noted Penncrest Head Coach Caitlin Morgan. “We had spurts of our game and spurts of playing kind of timid and we kind of ran out of time at the end.”
Last fall, the first year with Morgan and Assistant Coach Devon Hartzell at the helm, Penncrest advanced to Central League playoffs for the first time in about 20 years. This year, they hope it will be no different. “We’re looking forward to pursuing that again and getting further and continuing to build the program up.” But for now, the Lions are focused on the here and now. “Kudos to their (Strath Haven’s) defense and their goalie. They did great. We usually are at about 2 or 3 goals a game so it was surprising today, not being able to finish. They really held us,” noted Hartzell.
With five Central League games remaining for each of the teams, Penncrest and Strath Haven look forward to finishing strong — and hopefully, intensely advancing to post-season play.
Strath Haven 2, Penncrest 1
at Strath Haven
Strath Haven: Nina Santisi (19:43)
Strath Haven: Katie Capalbo (12:57)
Penncrest: Kerry Peyton assisted by Hannah Christiansen (5:43)
Shots on goal:
Strath Haven: 16
Strath Haven: 14
Strath Haven’s Kay Walker: 8
Penncrests’s Audrey Bassett: 14
photo credit (except team photo): Jake Gallagher
Love the photos? 40 photos by Jake Gallagher can be found at Philafieldhockey’s Facebook page @philafh.
Note: The photos have been reduced for use on the web. Original photos are available.
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