WEST LAWN>> The excitement shown by Exeter on the turf at Wilson’s John Gurski Stadium could be forgiven. It had been a long time coming.
Rachel Richards’ overtime goal, just 33 seconds into the extra session, gave Exeter a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Wilson Monday night and with it, the outright Berks League Section 1 field hockey crown.
Exeter (12-3, 8-1) is a game-and-a-half up on second-place Wilson (9-7-1, 6-2-1), and the Bulldogs have one regular-season game left to play.
Not only did Exeter completely reverse a 1-9 league campaign from a year ago, but the Eagles capped the finish on Wilson’s home field, against a team they hadn’t beaten in eight long years.
“Consistency, I think, is definitely key, but these girls play 100-percent with heart,” is how third-year Exeter head coach Lisa McCoy explained the program’s reversal of fortune. “We had some talented freshman who came up, sparked both offense and defense, and things started clicking. They work together well and they practice very hard.
McCoy said it first occurred to her that her team had a legitimate shot at the section crown in late September, after beating a highly-rated foe on road.
“It first dawned on me after our win over Muhlenberg (2-0 on Sept. 29),” McCoy said. “It was when the girls first started to buy into it. Myself and are coaches saw the potential, though. We have a lot of talent and a lot of seniors. We have 10 seniors and they’ve been playing together for a long time.”
The night had been one of frustration more than anything for McCoy’s Eagles. Despite dominating long stretches of play, to the point that it felt as though the field was tilted toward one end, Exeter could not find the back of the cage. The Eagles racked up a heavy 17-2 edge in corners and had two flurries of scoring chances during the first half — but it was Wilson that cracked the scoreboard first.
That happened with 15:06 left in regulation, when Jackie Strobel took a feed from Amanda Boyer in the circle and beat Exeter goalie Maranda Albin. Despite having been blasted at all evening at a 19-4 clip, and having to rely on goalie Azure Fernsler to make some remarkable saves, somehow, Wilson found a way at the other end.
“We have an unbelievable goalie,” Wilson coach Kim Underwood said of Fensler. “She’s a junior and was awesome in goal. She’s a great leader and a great kid and is everything you can ask for in a goalie.” Fernsler made 16 saves on 19 shots.
But it was a call in the crease, involving Fernsler, that allowed Exeter to dent the scoreboard. She was controversially called, from Underwood’s perspective, for sitting on the ball after Exeter’s latest flurry, with 10:53 left. A penalty stroke was awarded. Peyton Halsey took it, converted it, and the game was tied at 1.
“What they (officials) said was that our goalie was on the ball and didn’t get off,” Underwood said. “The goalie was attempting to get off the ball, but their players were shoving it into her.
“But, the refs are there to ref the game and they do the best job that they can.”
Exeter – 0 1 1 — 2
Wilson – 0 1 0 — 1
W – Jackie Strobel (Amanda Boyer), 15:06
E – Peyton Halsey, penalty stroke, 10:53
E – Rachel Richards (Anabelle DiStefano), 14:27
Shots on goal
W 4, E 19
W 2, E 17
W (Azure Fernsler) 16, E (Maranda Albin) 3