Prince George Bounces Hopewell, Advances
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Oct 26, 2012, 01:45
Prince George senior Madison Johnson (16) and Hopewell junior Allishia Sewell (10) battle for possession during the semifinals of the Central District field hockey tournament on Tuesday in Midlothian. The Royals won 2-0 (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
MIDLOTHIAN – Playing a stone’s throw from the rush hour traffic on state Route 288, the Prince George field hockey team put itself on the fast track to the Central Region tournament on Tuesday.
What’s more, the second-seeded Royals did so by securing a winner-take-all victory over their biggest rivals.
Boosted by a goal and an assist from sophomore Serena Triscari, Prince George defeated third-ranked Hopewell 2-0 in the semifinals of the Central District tournament at SportsQuest in Midlothian.
Prince George coach Ann Lambert said the high stakes of the game stoked an already heated matchup.
“Hopewell and Prince George is a big rivalry regardless of what they’re playing for,” Lambert said. “We could be playing for anything and both teams are going to come out and play hard for it.”
Whereas the second regular season meeting between the two teams produced an even-keeled duel, Tuesday’s contest was more one-sided. The Royals implemented an aggressive approach that kept the Blue Devils on the back foot for most of the game.
“Our game plan was a little bit more offensive-minded,” Lambert said. “We knew how they were going to play, so we were going to use that to our advantage.”
The Royals’ assertiveness was rewarded in the seventh minute. Moments after Hopewell defender Kayla Walker preserved the scoreless deadlock with a goal-line clearance, Triscari gave Prince George the lead following a penalty corner.
The fleet-footed forward showed her technical prowess by controlling a pass from Lindsay Varga and slotting the ball through a crowded penalty circle and into the cage.
The Blue Devils had no immediate retort.
Hamstrung by relentless pressure from the Royals, the Blue Devils struggled to generate goal-scoring opportunities. In addition to the one-goal lead, Prince George held an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal and a 3-0 edge in penalty corners at halftime.
“To be honest, Prince George outplayed us,” said Hopewell coach Jordan Jarrett. “We didn’t come to play.”
Lambert said the defensive intensity was another staple of her game plan.
“We’ve been working on our defense all through the field,” Lambert said. “From our forwards to our backs, they all have to play defense.”
The second half was a mirror image of the first. The Royals made the stronger start, dictated the play and scored before 10 minutes elapsed.
The second goal also was the product of a long-range shot from Triscari, though this one needed a clever deflection to beat Hopewell’s goalkeeper. The decisive touch came from Alyssa Mertins, who planted herself inside the penalty circle and managed to redirect Triscari’s well-struck effort into the goal with 21:12 remaining.
Lambert identified Triscari as a pivotal part of the team’s attacking identity.
“Serena is our playmaker,” Lambert said. “She’s got some speed, so we use that to our advantage. She’s everywhere we need her to be, and we’re very fortunate that she’s on our team.”
Facing elimination, Hopewell mounted a series of increasingly dangerous attacks as the game wore on. Senior midfielder Amber McCracken, a first-team all district honoree, embarked on several gallivanting runs that asked questions of the Prince George defense.
But the Royals had all the answers, staving off the last-ditch effort to advance to the tournament championship.
“We didn’t connect passes and I don’t feel like we worked as a team up top,” Jarrett said. “We tried towards the end. We got closer and closer, but it was a little too late.”
The loss put an unsavory end to the high school careers of seven Hopewell seniors. Jarrett said those players – McCracken, Walker, Shelly Estep, Kaylee Hayes, Ciara Qualtieri, Jessica Anderson and Lauren Savage – were instrumental in molding the program into what it is today.
“A lot of them started off on JV,” Jarrett said. “To see how far they’ve come … they’re an amazing group. I’ll always have a soft spot for them.”
With the victory, Prince George earned the right to face off against Thomas Dale for the district title. Undefeated in district play, the top-seeded Knights overcame a 1-0 deficit to beat Matoaca 4-1 in the other semifinal match.
Thomas Dale trounced Prince George 6-0 in last week’s regular-season finale, but Lambert said her team is not content to settle for a second-place finish and its second region berth in three years.
“Every game, we come out to win,” Lambert said. “We’re going to come out and play them. We know what they’re about.”