WITMER — Following a tightly contested game earlier in the week in which goals were hard to come by, the Conestoga Valley girls’ field hockey team adjusted on the fly Wednesday night.
Carli Eberly tallied a game-tying goal in the first half, Jada Martin scored less than four minutes into the second, and the Buckskins’ defense limited section one rival Hempfield to just one shot on seven second-half corners as Conestoga Valley held on for a thrilling 2-1 victory in front of their enthusiast home crowd.
“I love when there’s a big crowd, it just makes it that much more intense,” offered Martin, who caught Theodora Dillman’s transition pass in stride before burying it past Hempfield goalkeeper Alycia Goins for the game-winner. “And apparently it’s national field hockey day, so great win on that.”
Fact is, CV (2-1 section one, 4-2 overall) and Hempfield (1-2, 3-4) put on a premier of why the sport of field hockey continues to garner national recognition in the first place.
Clean passing, solid defensive tackling, and a first half interrupted by few whistles evolved into a gut-wrenching second half made so by Hempfield’s constant pressure in the circle and Conestoga Valley’s constant answer on defense.
“(Hempfield) scored off that first corner so we told the kids, we can’t give one player three shots, especially when it’s the kind of player that had those three shots,” said Buckskins’ coach Lee Gerdes in reference to Hempfield’s first-half goal scored by Rachel Gantz. “We made some adjustments there, but that group has been really gelling under the leadership of Kayla Allgyer, she’s the senior back there.”
While Allgyer had a defensive save in the first half, Dillman led the defensive charge on each of the Black Knights’ second-half corners, marking Gantz and clearing the ball out of harm’s way of steady goalkeeper Carolyn Spotts (1 save).
Gantz’ goal came at the 14:20 mark of the first half on the game’s first corner. Receiving the insert from Claire Myers, Gantz fired not once, not twice, but three times before her rocket from the elbow reached the cage.
CV answered right back on its second corner opportunity. Maddie Handwerger inserted to Dillman, who passed to Madeleine Weaver, who shot toward the cage where it was corralled by Eberly on the left side for the tap-in.
After the break came the game-winning play, with Dillman passing the ball between a pair of Hempfield defenders to the speedy Martin.
“Yea, I think we caught their defenders square and just threaded it through and it was just a matter of beating the goalie, which in high school is a big deal,” Gerdes said. “I thought Jada did a fantastic job of being composed and putting it in.”
That play only occurred, however, because Gerdes and her staff opted to move Martin to forward after she had been playing this season at midfield.
“This game they wanted me high to score goals,” Martin explained. “They knew Hempfield pushed up and they could get me the ball forward. I knew the goalie came out early so I had to get rid of it early. Theodora knew that, too, she knew to get it up to me.”
The win helps the Buckskins continue to climb the ranks in a challenging section one — a section going through a transition on the fly, itself, with both Manheim Township and CV looking like the top challengers to current section leader Penn Manor, with Warwick, Hempfield, and Cedar Crest always in the mix.
“In section one there is never a night off,” Gerdes said. “Hempfield played a great game, they have great players and great execution, too, so that makes it even sweeter when you can beat a nice team.”
Conestoga Valley 2, Hempfield 1
HM _ 1 _ 0 _ — _ 1
CV _ 1 _ 1 _ — _ 2
1. HM, Rachel Gantz (UA – corner), 14:20
2. CV, Carli Eberly (Madeleine Weaver – corner), 20:42
3. CV, Jada Martin (Theodora Dillman), 33:22
CORNERS-SHOTS — HM 8-3. CV 4-4.
SAVES — HM Alycia Goins 2. CV Kayla Allgyer 1 (def. save).