Dale Downs Prince George, Sweeps District
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Oct 19, 2012, 16:19
Prince George senior Lindsay Varga (6) and Thomas Dale’s Becky Kinz (7) race towards a loose ball during a Central District game on Wednesday in Chester. Kinz scored three times to lead the Knights to a 6-0 victory (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
CHESTER – Another year brought another romp through the Central District for the Thomas Dale field hockey team.
The reigning district champions put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season campaign on Wednesday by scoring four goals in the second half to subdue an upset-minded Prince George team and win 6-0 on Senior Night.
Becky Kinz keyed the burst with three second-half goals in quick succession. Regan Flores also scored twice while Maddie Kendrick registered four assists on the afternoon.
By fending off the second-seeded Royals, seven Thomas Dale seniors – Flores, Kelly Richards, Rachel Schrader, Kathryn Barisano, Cameron Kiddy, Kristen Coker and Kathryn Bungarden – ensured that they will finish their high school careers unbeaten in regular-season district play.
In fact, the Knights have never tasted district defeat in the seven-year tenure of coach Beth Jaeckle. The streak has not, however, affected Jaeckle’s approach to district outings.
The coach was quick to remind her team before the game that the upstart Royals would be hoping to avenge an early-season loss.
“Whenever you play a team for the second time, you know they’re out for vengeance,” Jaeckle said. “I know Prince George is probably trying to get a particular spot in the district, so we knew they were going to be playing hard for that.”
Jaeckle beseeched her team to “make it memorable” in the pre-game huddle, and the players heeded her words.
After a brief period of circle-to-circle action, the Knights seized control of the game and a goal appeared imminent. It came at the 14-minute mark following a penalty corner.
Kendrick collected a loose ball outside the circle and sent a speculative shot back towards the goal. The effort would have rolled just wide, but Flores was on hand to redirect the shot into the cage to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
“She’s been really dominant,” Jaeckle said of Flores. “She’s got the speed and I think she’s actually scored the first goal in eight of our games, so it’s pretty good to have a consistent girl that they can count on.”
But the visitors seemed unaffected by the strike. Rather than drop their heads, the Royals stiffened on defense and nearly equalized with five minutes remaining in the half.
Prince George forward Lindsay Varga worked a give-and-go with strike partner Serena Triscari and broke free of the Knights defense. The senior raced in on goal and unleashed a shot that forced a kick save from Thomas Dale goalkeeper Rachel Brinkley.
The Royals would rue the missed opportunity.
Flores struck again just before halftime, this time on a breakaway. The three-year varsity player latched onto a pass from Coker and coolly slotted the ball past an on-rushing goalkeeper to give the Knights a 2-0 halftime lead.
“I had a great pass from Kristen Coker,” Flores said. “I saw that [the goalkeeper] was coming at me, so I just put it around her and somehow it ended up in the back up the net.”
There were signs that the second-half surge was forthcoming. Prince George goalkeeper Kayla Hill was called upon to make four saves in the first half as Thomas Dale racked up four penalty corners and six shots on goal.
Moreover, the Knights garnered an increasingly lopsided share of the possession as the game wore on, working the ball from one side of the field to the other.
“We just work so well together with our passes,” Flores said. “We weave in and out and connect as a team.”
Two players in particular – Kinz and Kendrick – were especially in sync in the second half.
Kendrick registered assists on all three of Kinz’s goals, which came after Kylie Gibson extended the advantage to 3-0 with 18:40 remaining.
Shortly thereafter, Kinz redirected Kendrick’s shot into the cage after a penalty corner. The center midfielder’s second goal also came on a corner while her third was the product of a well-placed shot that clipped the post on the way in to provide the final margin.
The victory moved Thomas Dale’s overall record to 11-1 on the season. The district tournament is fast approaching, but the Knights have already clinched a berth in the Central Region tournament by virtue of their regular-season title.
The occasion gave Flores a chance to reflect on her Thomas Dale field hockey career, which she said she will remember with fondness.
“It’s been an honor to be on this team,” Flores said. “And to meet all these people who are my best friends. It’s been a great career. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
But the Knights are far from finished.
Jaeckle said the team, a perennial powerhouse in the region, is eager to return to the Group AAA tournament after untimely losses put an abrupt end to the last three seasons.
“We haven’t made it past the first or second round of the region [tournament] for a couple years now,” Jaeckle said. “So we’re definitely hoping to get to the state tournament this year.”
Thomas Dale’s Becky Kinz (left) and Prince George’s Alyssa Mertins scramble to gain possession during a Central District game on Wednesday in Chester (photo by Jacob Vaughan).