August 23rd, 2016

Sacred Heart squeaks past Assumption in pool play

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer

Sacred Heart squeaks past Assumption in pool play
The Sacred Heart defense stifled the potent Assumption attack in its 2-1 win / photos: Paul Najjar

Field Hockey rivals Assumption and Sacred Heart hooked up in pool play of the Apple Tournament Tuesday night and the host Valkyries played fast and physical in the 2-1 win.

Sacred Heart opened the game on fire peppering Assumption starting goalie Shelby Wuest with 14 shots in the opening 10 minutes. The Valkyries controlled the tempo earning five penalty corners in that span. On their second penalty corner Mary Kate Kessler stuffed it into the back of the cage to give the hosts a 1-0 lead just 5:25 into the match.

“Our girls played a great game tonight and we were playing Assumption,” Sacred Heart head coach Eleanor Mitchell said of her team’s early attack. “And Assumption played great, too. Both teams always get so up to play each other. But one of our goals tonight was to maintain possession and be solid with our passes, our girls did a good job with that.”

After allowing that early goal, the Rockets ratcheted up their offense in the second ten minutes of the match earning four penalty corners and posing threat after threat. Sacred Heart goalie and captain Meghan Strite was solid in the cage throughout and had 12 saves on 24 Assumption shots.

“We’ve really focused on passing and receiving,” Strite said of her team’s effort. “Our passing and receiving was awesome tonight and our defense kept making great plays in front of me. Assumption is very, very quick in the circle and they shoot quickly, but our defense did an amazing job marking their attackers. That early goal felt really good, but there was so much time left and Assumption has a great offense.”

With 4:35 remaining in the first half SHA sophomore Mattie Tabor, a Louisville commit, took a pretty feed from her sister Audrey to give the Valkyries a 2-0 lead.

Just a minute later Assumption’s Wuest got tangled up with a Sacred Heart player and was down for a couple minutes with a charley horse injury to her right leg. Kamryn Lococo replaced her and played the rest of the game.

As the Valkyries carried the action in the first half, save for that ten minute stretch, the Rockets sprung free time after time in the second half only to see Strite make a big save or the Sacred Heart defense turn away an attack.

“We had a few opportunities, good opportunities, in the first half and just didn’t take advantage of them,” Assumption head coach Debbie Judd said. “It was frustrating standing on the sideline and watching because we just needed a little better technique with our stick to score. But Sacred Heart played a physical game on defense and we have to adjust better to that. By being stronger and reacting better to that physical play, we should be able to score a little more.”

The goal that the Rockets did score came on a searing drive from Erica Cooper that was deflected neatly into the back of the cage by senior Emma Spinetto with 16:40 left in the game.

“On corners I always go to the stroke mark and my job is to deflect that ball if it’s coming at me,” Spinetto said. “Erica had a great shot and I just tried to get a part of my stick on it. We’ve been stressing to get ahead of the ball trying to get our forwards all moving towards the goal and getting ahead of the action. Sometimes when we play here we get a little frazzled and we have to block out all the noise and just play.”

Sacred Heart finished with nine penalty corners to Assumption's eight. Assumption took 24 shots on goal.

"Sacred Heart played great defense and we just have to keep working with that in mind," Judd said. "We have to get our offense to play the game, not just play the play that we call. When we play the game, it's beautiful. We have to get used to seeing the space, put the ball there and go get it."

Semifinals of the Apple Tournament will be played Thursday and the championship game on Friday. 


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