The Philafieldhockey Game of the Week – the first of 2017 – featured two teams on a mission to win the Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC) season opener, September 6. For two-time defending PAC champion Owen J. Roberts, it was about maintaining their place at the top. For Perkiomen Valley, it was an opportunity to demonstrate that their move to turf had already paid off. Both teams showed glimmers of brilliance, especially for so early in the season, but it was OJR who shone with teamwork, crisp passing and dynamic play, winning 4-1.
Selected by field hockey fans via online polls, this week’s The Game of the Week garnered upward of 1,100 votes on twitter and Facebook, and the teams delivered an exciting game in a steady rain.
Owen J. Roberts showed dominance the first half with characteristic small passes zipping by Perk Valley’s midfielders and defenders that pushed them into their circle for numerous attempts and 10 shots on goal for the game. The Wildcats capitalized on opportunities two times the first half, first off a corner when senior forward Riley Hansen (1g, 1a) scored at 6:54 after a little ping pong in the circle, assisted by sophomore forward Julia Lamb (1g, 2a). Less than a minute later, at the 6:07 mark, Lamb found junior forward Bridget Gallagher (1g) who tucked the ball around Perk Valley keeper, Hannah Roerdan. The play was one of many combos between Lamb and Gallagher who worked seamlessly in tandem throughout the game.
Owen J. Robert’s Head Coach Amy Hoffman attributes her squad’s victory to just that: teamwork — along with passing, and leadership.
“We’re not relying on any single person from the very back to the very front. They’re all just stepping up and making the plays. I think the whole senior class has shown really good leadership. I know we have four senior captains (Sarah Garritano, Riley Hansen, Rylie Hijosh, Bridget Guinan) and they’re amazing, awesome girls but I think the whole senior group has been key. They’ve been here that last two times (championship) and they’ve seen what it takes to be successful.”
The Wildcats may be only two games into the season but they’ve been fine tuning their skills since there was snow, not rain. “We’ve been working since February with non-mandatory practices and open plays. We knew we’d be coming up on hard competition since most of the teams in the league didn’t lose their seniors. So, all our seniors were very determined and pushed the younger kids to really come out. We want to be get to the championship again and to go further in districts and states,” said senior goalkeeper Cassie Micklesavage.
Wildcat midfielders and defense — Hansen, Hijosh, Kelsey Kilgallon, Eloise Gebert, Sophia Murray and Jenna Kirby — enabled the Vikings to penetrate their offensive circle only a handful of times the first half, mostly on big ball hits from the midfield.
The second half started the same with Owen J. Roberts getting on the board quickly, at 27:27, on a goal by Kirby (1g) assisted by Hansen (1a).
And then a shift.
Perkiomen Valley, sparked by junior forward Gabby Martina and sophomore midfielder/defender Danielle Hamm, put it in fourth gear and spurred the Vikings to a 13-minute domination. The team capitalized on one of three shots – a tip from sophomore forward Emma Haas off an assist by Gabby Marina (20:32).
“I think what coach told us at the half got us going,” noted Danielle Hamm. “He told us to get sharper – with our passes and transferring the ball. And we started playing more like ourselves, but not quite.”
Martina acknowledged the rivalry between the squads, and that playing the defending league champs shook them up the first half. She remembers, very clearly, how in her freshman year the team beat OJR two times during the regular season but lost to them in the PAC finals. “I know — even me — we were just really nervous in the beginning of the game. It’s a big game for us against OJR and I think we just really wanted to prove them wrong. We’re finally on turf like everyone else and we wanted to show that we can do it. And the nerves got to us… but the second half we saw that we really needed to stop being this one-person team and start passing the ball a lot more and trusting each other. We need to understand that a passing game is going to win the game… Trusting each other is going to be a big thing next game.”
But that wasn’t enough. Midway through the second half, Owen J. Roberts regained control the way they know best – composure and teamwork – weaving the ball with short passes in transition and a sense of urgency inside their offensive 25. OJR’s Lamb notched the final goal of the game (1:19), assisted by Guinan.
Despite the loss, Perk Valley Coach Erik Enters sees the program on the upswing with the squad now on turf every day. “We love it! Now they can transfer, they can do short quick passes, and our 3D skills are way better than on grass. Last year when we played Owen J., we weren’t able to run up and down the field with them; the same with Methacton. But not now. We were saying, during our time out, ‘you’ve got them back on their heels, you’re going at them, you’re outrunning them.’”
The two teams will meet up again in October 2nd on Owen J. Roberts’ home turf. Until then, many practices and game will pass, and it will be interesting to see how brightly OJR continues to shine and if Perk Valley can find a silver lining in the cloud that hovered over them this game.
Both teams have PAC opponents next week. Perk Valley will face Spring-Ford, Norristown and Methacton. OJR will take on Boyertown, Methacton and Spring-Ford.
“I think we’ll hold our own and hopefully bring out the wins,” said OJR’s Kirby. “We’ve been practicing very hard this past couple of weeks and we always put 100% effort into practice.”
The next Philafieldhockey Game of the Week poll, featuring small schools, will post today, September 8 at 3:00 PM. Vote @philafh on twitter and facebook.
OJR 4, PV 1
Halftime: OJR 2, PV 0
Home team: PV; at The Training Center
OJR Riley Hansen (6:54 1st half), assist Julia Lamb
OJR Bridget Gallagher (6:07 1st half), assist Julia Lamb
OJR Jenna Kirby (27:27 2nd half), assist Riley Hansen
PV Emma Haas (20:32 2nd half), assist Gabby Martina
OJR Julia Lamb (1:19 2nd half), assist Bridget Guinan
goalie saves: 8 (Hannah Roerdan)
goalie saves: 4 (Cassie Micklesavage)
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