Upper Moreland edges Norristown in tight contest

WEST NORRITON – When it comes down to the numbers, it seemed as though the surging Bears of Upper Moreland would have easily trounced the winless Eagles, but this was not the case Wednesday.

While the Bears were victorious, 2-1 over Norristown, the Eagles’ field hockey team, which is built of very young players, left the field uplifted by a valiant effort — just one drive short of a tie or win.

“This was an intense game because we’ve known they’ve been on a winning streak and playing some really good, competitive teams and they’ve come out winning or tying,’ said defender Jenny Kennedy. “So, we really wanted to get this win.’

Upper Moreland (4-1-1) stuck first with 10:28 remaining in the first half, when Maura O’Leary came up with a winning shot in Norristown’s box. Too many offensive players crashed to the goal for the Eagles’ defense to come out unscathed.

“Upper Moreland is a really aggressive team and they don’t stop going for the ball the whole time,’ Kennedy said.

Yet, the Eagles (0-6) responded quickly with a drive up field, first led by their nimble and elusive center-mid, Natalie Mitchell, and eventually finished by Tori Braxton with the equalizer just two minutes after the Bears’ goal.

“I saw an opportunity and (with) the faster you go you can try to catch a team off-guard,’ Mitchell said. “I wanted to get it in the cage, we just wanted it very badly.’

Heading into the half with a 1-1 tie, Upper Moreland came out in the second half with a new game plan: keep the ball away from Kennedy and Mitchell.

“Realizing that their center-mid is as good as she was, it took a little while to realize we had to keep the ball away from her,’ said Upper Moreland coach Karen Grossi. “We have to recover, we have to get back and we can’t be afraid of her.’

Scoring just three-and-a-half minutes into the second half didn’t hurt much either. Jenna Getz, assisted by O’Leary, once again crashed the cage and jogged back to midfield with a lead on the board — 2-1.

“I think once Norristown scored that equalizer our morale went down a little bit,’ Grossi said. “But, once they came out and scored they realized they were still in this.’

Between playing keep-away from Kennedy and Mitchell, the Bears were able to keep pressure on the Eagles’ defense throughout the second half and stifled many opportunities for Norristown to break into the open field. Twice they were turned away on scoring opportunities due to turnovers.

“I commend them,’ Mitchell said. “They played a really good, strategic game.’

Grossi chalked the win up to the girls “playing off momentum.’

“(Norristown) gave us a run for our money,’ Grossi said. “But, we’ve come up some wins that we haven’t had in the past … All of our games have been close.’

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