JENKINTOWN >> There aren’t many defensive prospects more fearsome than Jill Bolton at the top of the circle on a penalty corner.
The Christopher Dock junior has a lethal and powerful shot, and if she has any time at all, a very accurate one. If she doesn’t have time, Bolton is a capable passer as well.
Tuesday, Bolton displayed how potent her scoring ability is by putting three corners away for goals as Dock topped Jenkintown 5-1.
“Dock is very, very strong in their corners, they know to execute it and if they get a shot it, it’s almost a guaranteed goal every single time,” Jenkintown (2-2-1, 2-2-1 BAL) coach Katie Small said. “Of their five goals, four were from corners. We need to work on our corners, we’re not executing them as well. I’m extremely proud of how the girls play, Dock is an extremely strong opponent.”
The Pioneers knew Bolton was Dock’s (4-1, 4-0 BAL) main focus on offense, so the Drakes tried to keep the ball away from her in the middle of the field. While Jenkintown’s defense did an admirable job of that, and in general, there wasn’t much it could do to keep the junior from getting the ball on corners.
Dock won its first corner a little more than a minute into the game and Bolton put it away when Ali Balmer fed her an excellent insert pass right to the top of the circle. Balmer had a strong game as well, picking up an assist on the first three Dock goals, all on her direct insert passes on corners.
“Corners were really clicking for us,” Bolton said. “We practice them a lot, we work on them. Myself and Emme (Raieta), we work on them from the top of the circle. We’re really trying to get them down and be accurate like we were today and we felt really strong in them.”
Raieta proved that Dock’s set-piece play isn’t a one-trick show, scoring the Pioneers’ second goal with a quality shot of her own on a corner. The back also chipped in an assist on the Pioneers’ final goal, making an extra pass off a corner to set up Bolton.
Bolton made it 3-0 with her second goal with 22:15 left in the first half, showing that Dock’s corner game was very much locked-in.
“Jill is the best player in the league and the goal is to keep the ball away from her,” Small said. “I think we did a pretty good of that but she got the ball a lot in the circle and was able to put it off our feet. In the second half, our goal was to beat them for that half and we did, 1-0.”
Even as the Pioneers have gotten off to an excellent start, they’re still building the team. With just two seniors, there are plenty of underclassmen getting time for coach Michelle Waldspurger.
“I have great captains,” Waldspurger said. “Ali (Balmer), Jill and Deanna (Clemens) have done a great job. They’ve worked hard, they’re on a mission and they have things they want to accomplish this year.”
Bolton and Balmer had a reduced role in the second half with the Pioneers up five at the break. The Drakes continued to battle though and controlled the ball for long stretches.
Small felt her team played equally in each half, but the Drakes did see some more success offensively after the intermission. Freshman outside mid Mia Kolb had a nice showing as she continues to be an impact player while forward Lila Mullins had some strong forays up the field.
The Drakes’ play in the second half certainly warranted a goal as a reward and the breakthrough finally came in the last minute of play. After Bolton made a defensive save on a shot, the Drakes were able to collect the rebound as Jen Kremp got it to Claire Griffin, who finished the chance off.
“We need to work on that next touch,” Small said. “We’re going to have to continue to work on that re-direction, not just the initial hit.”
The Pioneers have goals for this season, starting with winning the league title again. It’s the reason they put in all the time and reps at practice. That’s also why they view each set piece opportunity as an extremely valuable one.
“Our coaches are always saying we’re up and we have to score,” Bolton said. “We have to take advantage of the opportunities. Today we really did.”
Progressing further into the season, Bolton said she’d like to see the Pioneers be a little more diverse on offense by working the ball outside and not going through her and the middle of the field every time.
Bolton feels the team’s younger players are starting to really find their way and that as a whole, the team is clicking right now. On offense, the passes are crisp and even the touches and tips are going where they need to while on the back end, the defensive unit is coming together.
The junior captain said her side’s corner defending was very strong Tuesday and it didn’t allow a Drakes goal on Jenkintown’s nine corner chances.
“We have really good team chemistry this year, and it’s something we’re really happy about,” Bolton said. “We knew we had good freshmen coming up and we had faith that they could perform up to what we wanted them to.”
Top Photo: Jenkintown’s Jen Kremp moves the ball past Christopher Dock’s Emma Chimera during their game on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)