LEWISTOWN - Lackluster play in the second half proved haunting for Mifflin County when an already close field hockey game suddenly became a tie.
And visiting Chambersburg was suddenly looking like the team to beat.
Huskies coach Tish Maclay huddled her team for a timeout, and even that seemed not to work when the Trojans took the ball on the restart and moved into their attack end.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Mifflin County’s Anne Harshbarger, second from right, pushes toward Chambersburg’s goal as Trojan keeper Elaine Etter tries to get to the ball Tuesday. Mifflin County’s Sami Morningstar, to Harshbarger’s left, backs up her teammate while Chambersburg’s Vickie Lehtimaki, left, and Lauren Mellott defend.
But when it mattered, Mifflin County came through. Marissa Byler played a ball that landed in front of her toes, right into the cage. With two minutes left in the game, that one held as the game winner, 2-1 in favor of the Huskies.
In many ways, this was the kind of game that has been Mifflin County's trademark in the two years the program has existed. Plenty of offense, all in the Huskies' favor - and a boatload of penalty corners, creating scoring opportunities and keeping the opponent at bay.
It also had notable differences from the past, the biggest being that there was not a single player, or even two, who so dominated the ball that it seemed the rest of the team was just a support cast. A bit slower, at times, but definitely more focused on Maclay's goal to play as a unit.
"This team is team oriented. We want to see them going to everybody," she said. "We don't want one or two players to be dominant. We want to be a total team."
It took a bit of time for the first goal, perhaps a sign of the inexperience of this year's version of the Huskies. But they finally put together the pieces they needed inside the eight-minute mark of the first half. Grace Wagner was the setup and Hannah Kerstetter the delivery that put the home team up 1-0. Maclay said the team knew where it needed to get the ball.
"I thought they did some nice things today. I thought we had some nice passing combinations. I thought we had some nice switches going on out there," Maclay said. "The more they play, the more experience they get, the more comfortable they're going to get."
Chambersburg hadn't broken into the scoring circle before that, but made one trip up field after the goal - an empty one; the Trojans didn't manage to register a shot on goal until two-thirds of the game passed. But a few minutes after that, Sam Russell buried the equalizer out of a scrum in the Mifflin County end; the Trojans got behind goalie Jordan Myers and had a relatively open goal to target.
"The second half, I think we got a little off balance with what we wanted to do. I think we saw a little fatigue set in, a little frustration maybe," Maclay said. "It's nice to start the season with a win, but we know we didn't take advantage of our offensive opportunities. That's something that we need to do and we need to do really, really quickly."
The final tally was an act of pure determination. Kezia Loht brought the ball into the circle for the Huskies; Sara Neff was last to touch the ball before Byler put it in the goal.
Mifflin County (1-0, 1-0 Commonwealth Division) heads to Cedar Cliff Thursday.