Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Royals Blank Blue Devils on Senior Night
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Oct 12, 2012, 15:30

Hopewell’s Kaylee Hayes (6) tries to elude Prince George’s Grace Burch (8), Morgan Parrish (9) and Brianna Koser (4) during a Central District game on Thursday in Prince George. The Royals scored in the first half and held on to win 1-0 (photo by Jacob Vaughan).

PRINCE GEORGE — In the moments leading up to a critical Central District clash with Hopewell on Thursday, Prince George field hockey coach Ann Lambert instructed her players to write down a goal they wanted to accomplish on a piece of paper.

The Royals carried their scribbled ambitions in their socks throughout the game. Senior Lindsay Varga’s slip featured one word: “Score.”

The message proved prophetic.

Varga scored the lone goal to give the Royals a 1-0 victory on Senior Night. Though short on scoring, the match was not lacking in physicality. The rival schools — separated by just seven miles — produced a consistent stream of hard-nosed defense that resulted in more disciplinary cards than poker night.

“It’s always a physical game,” Lambert said of the rivalry. “We knew that coming in. We just prepare for it and try to play the best that we can.”

The contest was even-keeled from the start, but the visiting Blue Devils looked more likely to open the scoring in the early going. Amber McCracken, whose gallivanting runs forward created a wealth of opportunities for Hopewell, rolled a shot just wide after five minutes of play.

But the midfield duel soon gave way to end-to-end action, a style that seemed to suit Prince George. The Royals earned two penalty corners in the minutes preceding Varga’s goal, which came on a well-executed counterattack.

The home team won possession near midfield and quickly worked the ball up to the forwards. The Blue Devils defense survived the initial shot, but a goal-line scramble ensued and the ball broke kindly for Varga.

The forward took full advantage, rolling a shot to the goalkeeper’s left that made the score 1-0 with 18:07 remaining in the first half.

“[The ball] was just in the open,” Varga said. “I just stepped in while everybody else was waiting for somebody to react.”

Lambert said Varga’s predatory instincts and tireless work ethic make her an invaluable asset to the team.

“She is a go-getter,” Lambert said. “She is the player that is all over the place. We call her ‘Scrappy’ because she is just one of those players that you can guarantee will be in the play everywhere.”

The Royals held a 3-0 advantage in penalty corners and a 5-1 edge in shots on goal at halftime, a trend that persisted in the second half.

Still, the Blue Devils had their opportunities to equalize. With 19 minutes remaining in the game, Hopewell forward Allisha Sewell nearly managed to redirect McCracken’s long-range shot goalward, but the attempt rolled just wide.

On the opposite end, Prince George could easily have doubled its advantage on two occasions following dangerous cross-field passes from Serena Triscari.

But the goal-mouth action yielded no goals for either team and the Royals stepped off the field at game’s end having completed a season sweep of their backyard rivals.

Six Prince George seniors — Varga, Morgan Parrish, Kayla Hill, Brooke Dancy, Madison Johnson and Mercedes Weber — played in the final home game of their high school careers.

Despite Thursday’s result, Hopewell coach Jordan Jarrett said she saw considerable progress from her team, which lost by four goals to Prince George in its season opener.

“I think they played really well and kept themselves together,” Jarrett said. “I think that’s the best I’ve seen them play as a team. They left their hearts out there.”

The win moves Prince George to 5-2 in district play with a game against top-seeded Thomas Dale looming on Monday. Hopewell fell to 3-4 in district outings but will look to return to its winning ways in a meeting with Matoaca on the same day.

While Thomas Dale — a perennial powerhouse in the Central Region — is well-positioned to finish the regular season atop the district standings, the second, third and fourth spots are very much in flux. Prince George, Matoaca and Hopewell are still jostling for position as the district tournament draws near.

As Jarrett put it, “It’s all up in the air.”

The possibility remains that the Hopewell-Prince George rivalry will be renewed in the postseason. A win against the Warriors on Monday would go a long way towards securing the No. 3 seed for the Blue Devils.

If that happens, they will likely face the Royals in the first round of the district tournament with a region berth up for grabs. Should that scenario unfold, Jarrett said her squad would relish the opportunity.

“It’s in the blood in Hopewell,” Jarrett said of the rivalry. “It’s a game they always come ready to play.”

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