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Villa Maria prevails over Conestoga in matchup of field hockey powers

Tredyffrin – Tuesday’s non-league field hockey matchup of Conestoga and Villa Maria, two teams ranked in the national top 25, turned out to be a tightly-contested battle in the first half.

The Hurricanes (8-1 overall, 6-0 AACA), who are ranked slightly higher in the national and regional rankings than the Pioneers (8-2 overall, 5-0 Central League), prevailed in the second half for a 5-1 win at Teamer Field.

“I have a great deal of respect for Villa Maria – they have a beautiful thing going,” said Conestoga head coach Kerry de Vries. “They have very good, athletic players. My kids put up a fight today – we just don’t have the depth that Villa Maria has.”

Villa Maria senior forward Emily Doyle, who scored the Hurricanes’ first three goals (and chipped in with an assist late in the game), said, “I knew it was going to be a fun game – Conestoga is a good team. We were trying to spread the field, trying to get Conestoga to crowd the midfield so we forwards [Doyle and junior Hannah Miller] could get open in the corners.”

In the middle of the first half, the Miller-to-Doyle combination was good for a pair of goals seven minutes apart to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead with 11:35 to go before halftime.

Just 26 seconds before the first half ended, Conestoga senior midfielder Grace McEvoy fired in an unassisted goal from just in front of the cage to cut the Hurricanes’ halftime lead to 2-1. Conestoga’s spirited effort was keeping the Pioneers close.

“[Senior back] Lauren Cauley had a good defensive game for us,” said de Vries. “[Senior midfielder] Kiley Allen gave a heroic effort today, dropping back in the back line [to help out] and distributing the ball well.”

The first-year Conestoga coach has faced Villa Maria head coach Daan Polders on the coaching sidelines before, when she was head coach at Kent State, and he was an assistant coach at Michigan State.

“I was expecting Villa Maria to play more of a possession-type game, up and down the sidelines, with controlled passing,” said de Vries. “But they were [displaying] a quick transition game, north and south, focusing on their fitness and maximizing their offensive opportunities.”

Polders said, “I thought this was a very dynamic, quick game, a little sloppy with a few turnovers, but that’s what can happen when you play at that [pace].”

Midway through the second half, Doyle (a Bucknell commit) tallied her third goal of the game, scoring off a rebound just in front of the cage to give the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead with 16:12 left. Six minutes later, senior defender and co-captain Erin Zielinski fired in an unassisted goal to make it 4-1.

“All of our midfielders started passing more in the second half – [junior] Adele Iacobucci, [sophomore] Magnolia Powers, [senior co-captain] Lindsay Dickinson,” said Polders. “[Junior defender and co-captain] Mary Harkins and Lindsay Dickinson were [especially] combining well.”

The combination of Doyle to Villa Maria sophomore forward Meghan Dillon closed the scoring with 2:42 left in the game.

Throughout the game, Villa Maria senior goalie Danielle Acuna came up with a number of fine saves to help keep the host Pioneers off the scoreboard.

“I thought Danielle played a good game today,” said Polders. “Conestoga had some good shots at the goal.”

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Conestoga was rated just behind Villa Maria in the national and regional rankings – the Pioneers were 24th and 11th, respectively, while the Hurricanes were 17th and 10th. Villa Maria’s only loss this season is to Downingtown West.

Today (Wednesday), Conestoga will be playing at Haverford High School for the top spot in the Central League. Even after Tuesday’s 5-1 loss, the Pioneers have outscored their opponents 55-14, with All-American junior midfielder/forward Charlotte de Vries scoring 22 of Conestoga’s goals, followed by senior midfielder Kiley Allen (seven), senior midfielder Grace McEvoy (five), senior midfielder Emma McGillis (five), sophomore forward Sarah Rogalski (five) and freshman midfielder Carly Hynd (four).

“One of our goals [on offense] is not to just rely on Charlotte on the attacking line,” said Coach de Vries.

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