BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – Can a girl holding a field hockey stick and dribbling a ball run faster than a girl just carrying a hockey stick? Physically, it’s impossible.
But last night it certainly seemed possible to the Cedar Crest field hockey team.
On Tuesday night at Earl Boltz Stadium, Hempfield used its speed, stick skills and transition game to run away from the Falcons 5-0 in a Lancaster-Lebanon Section One contest. The Black Knights scored goals on three of their first five shots and opened a 3-0 lead 10:33 into the contest.
Junior Mckenzie Hukill collected two goals and two assists for Hempfield, which got a huge boost from speedy sophomore Sarah Helgeson.
The loss dropped the Falcons to 8-6 overall and 5-5 in Section One. In the latest District Three Class AAA power rankings, Cedar Crest stood 17th in a field which takes 20 for its postseason.
Hempfield, which defeated Cedar Crest 4-0 in Landisville last month, improved to 10-4 overall and 8-2 in the league.
“Speed is a big thing for them,” said Cedar Crest head coach Dana Risser of the Black Knights. “They keep two forwards really high, which spreads out our defense. And their forwards are very good at finishing.
“Finishing was the difference in the game,” said Risser. “Capitalizing. They (the Black Knights) get the ball down the field in five seconds and score a goal.”
All three of Hempfield’s first-half goals were the results of fast break rushes which broke down the Cedar Crest defense and create odd-man opportunities for the Black Knights around the CC cage.
The first came 3:08 into the hostilities when Hukill carried the ball smartly down the right side of the field and snapped a hard centering pass across the Falcon goal mouth. All that was left for recipient Kyra Brakefield to do was tap it home.
Hempfield’s second goal came four minutes later and originated from the left side of the field. A partial break resulted in Logan firing an attempt from the top of the circle, and Hukill tipping it home.
“We played great,” said Risser, a former United States Olympic player. “We just couldn’t score. We had a ton of opportunities. The score book doesn’t show how many shots went wide. And they (the Black Knights) did capitalize.
“It wasn’t the same game at all (the first time the teams met),” Risser continued. “They had a ton of firepower that we saw tonight. Sarah Helgeson brings a ton of speed and energy to the field, and her teammates feed off of her.”
Helgeson’s speed created the Black Knights’ third goal, as she stick handled the ball towards the Falcon cage from the right. Her cross went past a first teammate but right on the stick of Ryan, who made no mistakes from point blank range.
“It’s hard fighting up hill, and they’re (the Black Knights) already a good team” said Risser. “It’s a mental battle just trying to stay in the game But our kids have a lot of fight in them. I was proud of their effort.
“We’re at where I thought we’d be at the beginning of the season,” Risser added. “The top three teams in Section One are really good. Our expectation was to put ourselves in a position to pull an upset, and I expected to be in contention for the district playoffs. The kids have produced, and met our expectations.”
Hempfield took away any thoughts of a Falcon comeback by scoring five minutes into the second half. Off a corner play, Hukill netted her second of the contest.
The Black Knights’ fifth and final tally also resulted from transition, as Falcon netminder Trisha Gerdes kicked out the first Hempfield attempt, but not the second.
“We’re very pleased,” said Risser, whose program hasn’t qualified for districts since 2010. “It’s come a long way in four years. This is the best we’ve looked in districts, the section and the power rankings since I’ve been here.
“Qualifying for districts would be a nice accomplishment,” continued Risser. “Our goal is to maintain this level of play and get into districts. We just need to keep our eye on the prize and keep working hard.”
Hempfield out shot Cedar Crest 13-10, but the Falcons held a 9-4 advantage in penalty corners.