DERRY TOWNSHIP—To say the Whippets play a tough field hockey schedule would be an understatement. It seems like each week Downingtown West is up against a new nationally ranked opponent. Saturday morning, it was an hour and a half drive to Chocolate Town to square off with Hershey High School, a perennial state powerhouse currently ranked fifth in the nation by MaxFieldHockey.com.
The Whippets battled tough, matching the Trojans shot for shot and goal for goal for 50-plus minutes. But when the Trojans’ Katana Nelson knocked in a backhander with just over six minutes remaining, West (8-5) ran out of answers, and Hershey (11-3) escaped with a narrow 4-3 victory.
“We have a lot of tough games on our schedule,” said West coach Steph Bullock. “Playing tough competition is what makes good teams better. We can work on things now, and get ourselves prepared and in the best position we can be in the post season.”
Perhaps still lagging from the long, early morning bus ride, the Whippets came out flat, and Hershey took advantage, forcing a series of early penalty corners. But with West goalie Kari Schmidt on her game, the shots were batted away until the Trojans final broke the scoreless deadlock when Katana Nelson grabbed a rebound off a Schmidt save and slipped it in for the score.
“I think in the early going, we spent a little bit of time just kind of feeling things out,” said Bullock. “Just testing the waters and figuring out how they were moving the ball, how they were moving and so on. We eventually started to click.”
Moments later, the Whippets were making a move in the circle, when suddenly a Hershey player came up with a steal, sneaking up from behind to do so. The steal seemed to snap the Whippets awake, because not 30 seconds later, Ciana Riccardo brought the ball up inside the circle, made a nifty pass to Tatum Johnson, who hit a rocket of a shot to complete a play that went so smoothly it looked like they were in pre-game warm-ups.
“Ciana and Tatum have a great rhythm and chemistry together,” said Bullock. “They always know exactly where the other is and they make great connections.”
Coming out of the break tied 1-1, it was more of the same—Hershey would score, and West would tie it up again. After Ashley Arnold scored for Hershey to make it 2-1, Riccardo picked up her second assist of the day, dishing off to Ciara Margetich to even it up at 2-2. Nelson gets her second goal to make it 3-2, and West converts a corner with an Ashley Plzak goal and it’s all tied at 3-3 with just under ten minutes to play.
The second half couldn’t have been much closer, with each team getting five shots on goal. West held a slight advantage in second half penalty corners, 4-3.
“We did a lot of things right today,” said Bullock. “We tried to limit shots against us, and shut them down inside the 25. The girls stepped up and did a good job of that. We’ve got some minor adjustments to make before the post season comes around, but while you always want a win, I proud of the way this team played today against a very tough Hershey team.”
DT West 1 2 –3
Hershey 1 3 –4
West—Johnson, Margetich, Plzak
Hershey—Nelson (3), Arnold
Goalie Saves: Schmidt (DW) 5, Andress (H) 3
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