MIFFLINTOWN - Adrienne Gesselman and Katelyn Walter teamed up for a pair of goals to lead Midd-West past Juniata, 2-0, in a non-league field hockey game Monday.
The fact that it took the Mustangs until the 45th minute of play to get one into the cage is a testament to the coordinated defensive effort Juniata put forth in the contest. But the Indians were held to one shot and one corner, an offensive struggle that effectively kept the home team at bay.
Midd-West seemed more lively after the break than in the first 30 minutes, and it almost paid off twice before the first goal. The Mustangs drove the opening ball of the half into the Juniata circle and aggressively forced opportunities, but came up dry. With a little more than 17 minutes left in the scoreless game, a breakaway by the visitors was denied when Juniata's Katie Searer made a timely stick save - but the Mustangs drew a corner on that play, and that's when they drew blood.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Midd-West’s Katelyn Walter (11) gets ready to strike a ball while Juniata’s Jessie Wagner, third from right, reaches in to block during their field hockey game in Mifflintown Monday. Behind the play are, from left, Juniata’s Jenn Houtz and Megan Yeager, and Midd-West’s Abby Millerr, Adrienne Gesselman and Brenee Kratzer.
Walter delivered the ball to Gesselman, who lifted it across the cage and into the upper corner to the left of the goalie, who needed a couple inches in a hurry to have a chance at that one.
The problem for the Indians was, after that goal, they were motivated to move the ball downfield - but only part way. Juniata passes were off, going to the defense, to nowhere and more than once off another Juniata player, which just gave possession back to the Mustangs.
"We need to be able to play defense and we need to be able to attack. That means we have to run back and forward," Juniata coach Becky Loy said. "We get it up to the forwards but we need the next pass. We need to work on that. When we have one pass outside we need all the forwards to move up and get involved."
Then, with 6:23 left on the clock, Midd-West turned a Juniata stoppage to its favor to all but seal the win. For the second goal, Searer kicked back one shot, then Gesselman sent a cross to Walter, who was behind the keeper and able to easily put it away.
"It sort of gave us that cushion to make us feel a little better. It's not nice to have just a one-goal lead," Midd-West coach Mandi Romig said. "And we talked about that in the last time time out they called. We talked about getting another one to finish it off.
"Sometimes we've had trouble finishing games this year and I thought we did a nice job of doing that today."
Although the Mustangs were dominant in the game, they weren't the first to have a chance at scoring. Juniata moved the ball well early in the game, getting it in the circle first, but had trouble firing a shot.
"I thought they had good sticks, and they made smart decisions with the ball after they made the stops, too," Romig said of the opposition.
"This was a good game for (Juniata)," Loy said. "They worked together, they did stay compact on defense."
But by the 10th minute of play, Midd-West started to make its move, and eventually took over.
"(It was) better in the second half than in the first half," Romig said. "I think it was the 'Monday still sleeping' deal."
Juniata (4-4) hosts East Juniata today. Midd-West (5-4) hosts Lewisburg today.