GRATERFORD - A quick and accurate pass off a restart and a teammate at the right place for a tip-in. That's what produced the only goal in Wednesday afternoon's Pioneer Athletic Conference field hockey opener at Perkiomen Valley as the Vikings earned a 1-0 win over defending champion Spring-Ford.
Mara Wrzesniewski directed home the lone goal off a pass from Rachel Hamm with five minutes to go in the Liberty Division contest after the Vikings (2-0 overall) had dominated the second half. Strong defense and 16 saves by goalkeeper Dante Vagnoni kept the Rams (2-2) in the game despite an 18-7 PV advantage in penalty corner opportunities.
"A restart play by Rachel Hamm ... they executed that perfect,' said Viking coach Erik Enters, whose team made the PAC-10 Final Four playoffs last season after finishing second in the division to the Rams. "That's what we needed to do. Dante's a phenomenal goalie and that gave them confidence. Their forwards came up huge.'
"She (Hamm) had a nice ball in and they got a stick on it in the circle,' said Spring-Ford coach Jennie Moore, whose team had won 19 in a row last year before a season-ending loss in its first district match. "Our defense has kept us in both of these games (Wednesday's and Tuesday's 3-0 loss to Oley Valley featuring 25 saves by Vagnoni). "Not just the defense, but the forwards and the midfielders have come back. But we haven't been able to translate that into more offense.'
Part of that inability to score certainly had something to do with the absence of two offensive stars from last year — Alyssa Chillano (out for the season after an ACL tear against Downingtown East on Saturday) and Gabby Major (out with an undetermined injury suffered on Tuesday).
"Injuries happen,' said Moore. "It happened the last two years for us with Simone (Vagnoni). It's unfortunate. But we have a lot of good girls who are willing to step up.'
"That's unfortunate for them ... fortunate for us,' said Enters. "That could have been a lot different with even one of them in there.'
The Vikings put on the pressure right from the start, gaining a corner seconds into the contest and putting a flurry of shots on Vagnoni twice in the opening 15 minutes as the Rams could gain possession for only a few seconds at a time here and there.
But the flow of play quickly reversed midway through the half as Spring-Ford forced six corners the remainder of the half and put its only four shots on freshman keeper Miranda Wesley, who came up with a tumbling save off a rebound try to keep the game scoreless.
Then after some back-and-forth play to start the second half, the Vikings once again took control, culminating in the quick-strike goal, followed with strong defense the rest of the way to keep the visitors from getting anywhere near the home cage.
And even though the Vikings scored just the one time despite the one-sided shooting and corner statistics, Enters was pleased with his team's play.
"In the second half, we had so many chances,' he added. "Even our corner plays looked really nice today. Give their defense credit. I was really happy with them. I thought our team executed our game plan really well.
"We told them to don't let the game come to you, take it to the game. But it's only game one out of 13 league games.'
And that's the point that Moore stressed with her players after the match.
"That's what I told them,' she said. "This game isn't going to make or break us. That's how hockey is. They had their runs. We had our runs. We did our best.'
The Vikings had opened their season with a 3-1 non-league win over Easton on Saturday while the Rams had already played on Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday.
"They had a rough start,' said Enters. "They had four games in six days.'
"Our schedule's tough,' Moore added. "We can't do anything about it. We got a couple games to get us ready for the PAC-10. We're trying people at different positions, see what works best.'