FREDERICKSBURG – You just never really know.
You drill. You plot. You strategize. And then you hope.
For the Northern Lebanon field hockey team, more of the same didn’t seem like an unrealistic expectation. But you never know.
On a brilliant Wednesday afternoon at Northern Lebanon High School, the defending Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three champion Vikings probably got a little more they could’ve hoped for, during a 5-0 non-league drubbing of Cedar Crest in their season opener. Northern Lebanon potted three goals in a 2:38 span early in the second quarter and never looked back.
Autumn Bohr registered a goal and two assists to lead the Northern Lebanon charge, while teammate Rylie Anspach scored twice. Viking goalie Emma Bomberger logged the shutout, behind strong defense in front of her.
For the Falcons, it was their second 5-0 setback in as many days.
“It’s a good start,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Ronda Sowers. “Coming into the season, we knew we had some spots to fill. We lost three first-team all-stars, right down the middle of our field. We knew we had some kids to reload. I think we’re starting to figure it out with them.
“We were lucky enough to have two scrimmages against decent competition,” Sowers added. “They (her players) worked hard over the summer on their own. They just battle. What we lack in talent and experience, we make up with tenacity. I’m surprised the way we dominated on the scoreboard. From what I knew about them (the Falcons), I thought we’d be in the game.”
“That was us not playing well at all,” said Cedar Crest head coach Angie Springborn. “Everything went wrong. We couldn’t finish in the circle.
“I still have a positive outlook,” Springborn continued. “I need my girls to believe in themselves as much as I believe in them. When they do, we’re going to be a completely different field hockey team.”
Bohr assisted Anspach twice in a stretch of 1:14 early in the second period to stake Northern Lebanon to a 2-0 advantage.
Off a corner play, Bohr’s initial shot from the right bounced off Cedar Crest keeper Amanda Wildonger’s pads and right to Anspach. Then, from the left side of the circle, Bohr crossed a hard pass to Anspach stationed at the right post.
With 10:26 left in the first half, Rachel Dunmire made it 3-0 Vikings, converting a dump pass from Anna Kolacek right in front of the Falcon cage.
“Certainly having a goal on the scoreboard helps the attitude on the field,” said Sowers. “I thought we missed some opportunities early. When we knocked one in, I thought, ‘Well, that’s a start.’ But then the floodgates kind of opened.
“My impression was that we were successful in the circle,” continued Sowers. “I don’t know if we scored any goals on the first shot. They were all deflections or off an assist. Being at the right place at the right time always helps.”
“Our marking was off,” said Springborn of the Northern Lebanon flurry. “I fully expected it to be a more competitive game. I expected us to show up more than we did. They (the Vikings) were just the better team today. They beat us to every ball, and they put the ball in the back of the net.”
The Vikings pieced together a similar spurt early in the second half, netting a pair of unassisted markers in a span of 1:57 to stretch their lead to 5-0.
Two minutes into the third period, Hope Ritchie converted a rebound of her own shot kicked out by Wildonger. And from the right side of the circle, Bohr broked in on the Cedar Crest net and scored short side.
“I thought we played well today,” said Sowers. “Each game we’ve gotten a little better. We’re starting to play well together. I’m pleased with that. But we still have some work to do. We have to work on stepping to the ball, but it’s certainly a good start.
“The philosophy is to build our team from the defense up,” Sowers continued. “Our defense has stepped up remarkably. We had midfielders step into help. We want to keep them out of the circle, worry about the possession game and then attack and push. When you’re keeping opponents out of the circle, it gives you more opportunities.”
“There are always positives,” said Springborn. “You learn more from the teams that beat you than the teams you beat.
“My expectation coming into the season was to be competitive in Section One (of the L-L),” added Springborn. “It’s a tough section. Our record last year wasn’t the best. I was hoping we could be more competitive than last year. We’re looking for confidence right now. I’m working on building on that. But it’s not anything you can fix right away.”
The final stat sheet saw Northern Lebanon out shoot Cedar Crest 14-2. Each side was awarded six corners.
“I think they struggled a bit, with the possession game and defensively,” said Sowers of the Falcons. “It probably wasn’t their best performance. They had some bright spots and times of possession.
“We’re all mindful of the (COVID-19) guidelines,” Sowers continued. “But when we get on the field, it’s down to business. It’s field hockey as usual. They (her players) love to battle everyday.”
“The Cornwall-Lebanon school district came out with some strict guidelines over the summer,” said Springborn. “As long as we adhere to them, it’s really not as complicated as I thought it would be. Our girls haven’t been sick. I was more worried about starting school than the sports season.”