FIELD HOCKEY: Penn Manor downs Manheim Township, 2-0
NEFFSVILLE - A vital part of playing September field hockey is putting yourself in the right spot to succeed.
Freshman forward Gabby Bitts was in the right spot on more than one occasion for the visiting Penn Manor Comets in their 2-0 victory over the defensive-minded Blue Streaks on Monday afternoon at Manheim Township high school.
Scoring the opening goal 15 minutes into the first half on a through-ball from junior Brooke DeBerdine and assisting on the clincher to Alyssa Schriver in the second, Bitts followed the leadership of a young but experienced core coming off last year's PIAA co-championship.
"I just know I need to be where the ball is going to be, I have to be ready," said Bitts. "And I know when the ball gets to me I have to do something good with it to help my team."
Bitts' goal came on the seventh of a string of first-half corners for Penn Manor (3-0 L-L, 4-0 overall).
With senior Madi Warfel inserting to DeBerdine on the right side of the circle, DeBerdine slid toward the end line before sending a rocket through the Township defense, where Bitts was waiting.
"I've actually never scored like that," the freshman said. "It actually works. I didn't know it was going to come through, so I was surprised it came through and I took the opportunity and (scored)."
With veterans Warfel (Hofstra), DeBerdine (Maryland), Emily Robb (Lock Haven), and even the sophomore Schriver doing most of the ball handling, Penn Manor rarely gave Township (1-2, 2-2) an extended possession and generated 15 corners overall. But Township played stellar defense in the circle to limit the Comets to just six shots on goal.
"They're a really good defensive team, wouldn't you say? You have to give their coaching staff credit," said Comets' head coach Matt Soto, adding that "it was definitely challenging and fun."
"I'll be honest with you, we try to keep girls in there for two years," Soto said of scoring off corner plays. "We're trying out new girls now because we had Cassie (Kline, now a freshman at Penn State) in there for a couple years. That's the thing, consistency, and we'll get that."
Blue Streaks' keeper Jordan Crispeno finished with three saves, with Olivia Witmer tallying a defensive save on the Comets' first corner of the contest.
"I always tell my girls you have to have an attitude that you can't be afraid to get hit by the ball," said Township head coach Renee Suter, who, incidentally, played under Soto as a student at Penn Manor. "To see the girls get that much pressure and be able to withstand most of it is at least refreshing to see that we have the capability to play good defense against a good team."
Having dominated possession through the game's first 52 minutes and yet leading just 1-0, Penn Manor again found the cage with 7:31 left to play as Robb carried the ball into the circle where Bitts did the rest.
"I was right in front of the goalie and I saw Alyssa post," Bitts explained, "I just did a nice little slide over to her and she took it right in."
"I give her a lot of credit," Soto said of Bitts, who along with another freshman, Emma DeBerdine (Brooke's sister), came into the game one-two in team scoring. "She's a real smart field hockey player. They feed off that in practice, 'what's the smart thing to do?' The young girls have stepped up, the older girls are acting like great leaders."
Putting the Comets' program in ideal position to continue its success.
Penn Manor 2, Manheim Township 0
Girls' Field Hockey - L-L Section One
Penn Manor Scoring: G. Bitts (1st, 14:30), A. Schriver (2nd, 7:51)
Penn Manor Assists: B. DeBerdine, G. Bitts
Manheim Township Scoring: NA
Manheim Township Assists: NA
Corners-Shots: PM 15-6, MT 5-1
Saves: PM A. Schaefer 1; MT J. Crispeno 3, O. Witmer def. save 1