MYERSTOWN – There is very little conjecture about the fact that speed kills. And if indeed that is the case, that would mean speed and stamina are a lethal combination.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Annville-Cleona field hockey team employed both quickness and persistence to overwhelm rival Elco 3-1, in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three opener for both sides. After the Raiders had seemingly built a measure of momentum in the first half, the Little Dutchmen simply dominated the action in the second stanza.
Some five minutes into the half, Annville-Cleona struck with both speed and precision, netting all three of its goals in a matter of 9:03 to turn a competitive contest into a rout. During the second 30 minutes of action, Annville-Cleona out shot Elco by an eye-popping 17-0 margin, while taking 12 corners to the Raiders’ five.
“It was probably not one thing,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Sue Felty. “Our stick skills were relaxed in the first half. The difference was we picked up the pace in the second half. We wanted them to go until they got tired, and then bring someone in off the bench.
“It was definitely a combination of both,” said Elco head coach Lisa Kercher. “Once Annville-Cleona got their first goal it energized them. It was the opposite for us. When we got our first goal, we needed to get more, but we didn’t. We were coming off a strong game against Tulpehocken, but we didn’t play as well today.
“I think it’s an emotional thing,” added Kercher. “We’ve got to capitalize on our snowball effect. It’s something that hasn’t been a strong point for Elco in the past. We don’t score multiple goals on multiple occasions.”
Facing a 1-0 deficit early in the second half, Tori Malloy touched off the Little Dutchmen explosion.
After some sustained pressure on the Elco cage, Malloy attacked from the right baseline, dribbling, before getting off a shot from a hard angle. Raider goalkeeper Amanda Axarlis was up to the task, but Malloy stayed with it and knocked her own rebound into the short side to tie the score.
Six minutes later, Malloy rushed a ball into the Raider circle, before unleashing a blast on Axarlis. Axarlis again stood tall, just as she did on A-C’s Emily Feibig’s follow-up, but Morgan Zimmerman was there to push the Little Dutchmen’s third attempt into the cage.
“This was important for a lot of reasons,” Felty added. “It was our first section game, and cross-town rivalries are always big. And there were some bragging rights involved.”
“They (the Little Dutchmen) have fewer numbers, but we don’t have a deep bench,” said Kercher. “But no one had a good game. They (the Little Dutchmen) have speed. They make those quick breakaways. They’ve always had a speedy team. They have a couple of quick players, and send the ball to them. And their goalie (Tori By De Ley) was solid.
“Amanda’s (Axarlis) a very strong goalie,” continued Kercher. “Our girls know that and we lean on her. But those balls went through ten other players first. Sometimes we rely on her too much. They (her players) tend not to recover because of Amanda’s reputation.”
Feibig attempted to one-time a long pass into the circle, but only managed to get a piece of it. But the ball seemed to fool Axarlis, and it dribbled past her, to a waiting and unmarked Courtney Conners, who banged it home.
“It’s a great, great group of girls,” said Felty of her troops. “They’re so easy to spend a lot of time with. They’re smart. They listen and they want to learn. We don’t have one or two standout players.
“I know they’re (the Raiders) a young team,” Felty added. “They’re the same as us, looking to fill holes and rebuild. It’s going to come. Their goalie does a nice job.”
“I thought the energy from that win (Friday’s 3-0 triumph over Tulpy) would carry over to today,” added Kercher. “We haven’t started off a season with a win in seven years. We felt that energy would help us at the beginning, but we came out sloppy.”
After weathering an early Annville-Cleona storm, Elco enjoyed the better of the play in the second portion of the first half. Then off a counterattack rush 8:22 before intermission, Raider Alysa Keath set up freshman teammate Katie Fields for her third goal of the season, and a 1-0 Elco edge.
“We did a lot better defensively. We’ve been working a lot on defensive positioning and things like that,” said Felty. “It looked better today. But in the first half, we were not doing things well. They (the Raiders) got the ball on the right side of the field, and that affected us a lot. That’s not where we want the ball to be. We were not pleased with our stick skills in the first half, but we adjusted well.
“With such a young squad, I wanted to be .500 this season,” continued Felty. “If we could keep that up, it would be great. To make districts, I would be surprised. Things started to click for us last year when things mattered most. It’s early on, but so far we’re very pleased.”
“Today was definitely a disappointment,” said Kercher. “But that doesn’t have to dictate the rest of the season. We’ll see them (the Little Dutchmen) again. The plan is to beat them next time. We really have high expectations to be stronger than last year. Our core group has been together for four years.
“Two years ago we had four wins, and last year we had six,” Kercher continued. “We’re looking for ten this year. I’m counting wins and looking who we play. But ten wins gets us to the district playoffs, and that would be great. The girls want to get there. But to do that, we’ve got to do better than we did today. When you’re looking for wins in the section, you’ve got (Lancaster) Mennonite, you’ve got Donegal, and you can’t count those. We have a tough section. We’ve got to win the games we can. I thought this was one we could win.”
According to the final tally, Annville-Cleona out shot Elco 19-5. The Little Dutchmen executed 17 corner plays compared to the Raiders’ ten.