LAURELDALE>> With four consecutive shutouts, and five in six games, Muhlenberg’s improved defense was getting all the notice heading into Tuesday’s early-season field hockey showdown with Wilson.
But against the Bulldogs, in order to win, the Muhls needed to find offense. And fast. They got it, just in the nick of time, to take over share of lead in Section 1 with a 2-1 overtime victory.
Senior Taryn Piano scored off a rebound, in a pile, from point-blank range with 5:50 to go in the extra session to win for Muhlenberg.
“I knew I hit the ball but I didn’t know where it went,” Piano said. “Hearing it hit off the backboard, I was in shock, I was amazed. I’m extremely excited. It was a big win for us and it’s part of a big push for us to be division champs again this year.”
Teammate Meredith Pfennig had tied it at 1-all with just 2:02 remaining in regulation by deflecting a shot off the stick of Piano past Wilson goalie Azure Fernsler.
It was a remarkable burst of juuust-enough offense, seemingly conjured. Consider this: the Muhls (7-3, 3-0 Section 1) had been held without a single shot on goal until 16:50 left to play and showed no signs to that point that they had not one, but two, goals in them. Wilson had carried first-half play, leading in corners 7-3 and shots 3-0.
“I would say we were playing a little sluggish in the first half,” Muhlenberg second-year head coach Lauren Yoder said. “But once they got the nerves out their system — Wilson is our biggest rival in the division — I think they were able to calm themselves down and play much better in the second half and in overtime.
“I sensed it right before the (game-tying) goal. Right before it, they were sensing it. They were getting a lot closer, they looked like they were picking it up.”
Piano and Pfennig were right in the middle of all of it, not exactly to Yoder’s surprise.
“They’re probably two of our fastest players,” she said, “and have two of the best sticks on our team. Key forwards for us. Defender Madison Wilinsky definitely kept us in this game as well. And (goalie) Tiersa Curry made two great saves.”
For all its early possession, for all its dominance, for its taking the first six corners of the contest, Wilson (5-4, 2-1) could not slot one home during the first half, which ended scoreless. It was a huge missed opportunity that came to bite the Bulldogs in the end.
“We need to execute, we need to put the ball in the (goal),” Wilson head coach Kim Underwood said. “Our defense plays great, we come up with the ball, we send the ball, we make great passes, then we get into the circle and we get sloppy. We need to make things happen in the circle.
“Muhlenberg’s a good team. We were not communicating well enough. We need to learn from our mistakes today and play better as unit, rather than as individuals.”
Curry made a sprawling stop on Wilson’s Amanda Boyer from point-blank range late in the first half, before Boyer finally got one past her with 18:56 to play to give Wilson a 1-0 lead, an advantage that looked as though it might hold up, as Muhlenberg had yet to register a shot on goal.
“I think we wear down on the surface sometimes but that’s not an excuse,” Underwood said. “They’ve got to learn to play through whatever circumstances they have and they have to learn to dig deeper.”
Wilson – 0 1 0 — 1
Muhlenberg – 0 1 1 — 2
W- Amanda Boyer (Julia Strobel), 18:56
M – Meredith Pfennig (Taryn Piano), 2:02
M – Piano (Krystie Kuczawa), 5:50
Shots on goal
W, 6; M, 3
W, 12; M, 9
W (Azure Fernsler) 1; M, (Tiersa Curry) 5
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