Spartans Get Wake-up Call En Route To First-round Win
HAZLETON — For Valley West’s field hockey team, the splash of cold water came midway through the first half of its PIAA Class 2A opening round game on Tuesday night.
An apparent Great Valley goal was waved off, keeping the contest scoreless, stalling the Patriots’ momentum and giving the Spartans a chance to rub their eyes and start anew.
The result: a workman-like 2-0 win for the District 2 champions at chilly, wind-swept Harman-Geist Memorial Field.
“I think it might have been a (wake-up) call. ... It was a big relief for us,’’ Valley West coach Linda Fithian said of the negated goal leading to a quick swing in momentum in the game’s signature moment. “We’re the ones that like to ... get the first goal. It’s critical because it sets the tone for the rest of the night.’’
A few minutes after Valley West got its reprieve, Cameryn Forgash knocked in Valley West’s first goal from point-blank range and Rina Tsioles followed with a successful penalty stroke for the only goals that Valley West needed to advance.
“We were like, ‘Oh, no!,’’’ Forgash recalled of about the possibility of falling behind in a win-or-go home situation until fate intervened on behalf of the Spartans. “It could have been a tighter game (at the end). They were a very good team.’’
Alas, the referee stepped in to disallow the Patriots’ would-be goal.
Valley West (15-3-1) regained possession and controlled the ball shortly therafter. Karaline Stelma quickly put two shots on goal as the Spartans started to generate traffic in front of Great Valley goalie Ryan Curely.
Finally, Forgash was able to find an opening and knock a shot past Curely for the game’s first score at the 11:23 mark.
“Just keep going with it and never giving up on the ball,’’ Forgash said.
Yet, even with the one-goal lead, the Spartans kept up the pressure. Their persistence paid off when they drew a penalty in close.
Tsioles took the penalty stroke and drilled it into the upper right-hand corner of the cage for the game’s final tally. It came with 7:12 left in the first half.
The Spartans didn’t need any more offense. At least not on this night. Not with Great Valley unable to dent the Valley West defense and get anything past goalie Sydney Rusnock.
“I don’t think the (called off) goal took that much out of us,’’ said Patriots coach Maddie Craig after her team finished its season at 15-8. “It was unfortunate and really unlucky. We just couldn’t get it back after that.
“We did have a few corners (five), so we had some (scoring) chances,’’ she continued. “We just didn’t score on the opportunities that we did have.’’
Meanwhile, the Spartans made the most of their chances.
“This feels amazing,’’ Forgash added. “It gives us more confidence moving forward. ... We know coming in here all the pressure that’s on us and we know what’s expected of us (because) a lot of us have been in states.’’
With the win, Valley West will move on to the Class 2A quarterfinals opposite District 11 champion Bangor, a 2 -1 winner over Manheim Central on Tuesday.
“We’re just blessed to be here,’’ said Fithian, whose team graduated five starters from last year’s team that advanced all the way to the state final before losing to Villa Maria Academy 2-1.
“We want to play and enjoy each game one at a time. It’s not like we want to get them over with. We’re excited to play every game.’’
FIRST HALF: Cameryn Forgash (VW) unassisted, 11:23; Rina Tsioles (VW) penalty stroke, 7:12.
Shots: VW 13, GV 4. Corners: VW 6, GV 5. Saves: VW (Sydney Rusnock) 2, GV (Ryan Curely) 2.
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