Just shy of a month ago, West Deptford field hockey avenged last season's loss in the South Jersey Group 2 championship game by defeating the Haddonfield Bulldawgs 4-1 on the road, making a statement that they were a force to be reckoned with.
The Eagles re-asserted that statement on Wednesday, defeating Haddonfield again by a score of 4-1. And while the result was the same as last month, head coach Linda Decker was hoping for a better effort from her team.
“We did not have our best game today,” said Decker after the game. “We were a little out of rhythm with each other with things that we were doing since the last [Haddonfield] game that we were not doing today.”
The Eagles took awhile to get going on Wednesday. A few penalty corner opportunities early in the first half were unsuccessful as Haddonfield was able to pounce on the ball before West Deptford could attempt a shot. The Eagles simply struggled to find quality scoring chances early on.
“They were not being the first ones on the ball when they could have been,” said Decker.
A timeout just past the halfway point of the first half seemed to turn the tide for the Eagles, as they scored two goals in less than two minutes. First, Brooke Brown was able to capitalize on an empty cage, scoring off of a rebound to put West Deptford up 1-0. Just 1:42 later, freshman Jade Freeburg made a great pass to a wide-open Rachel Krott out in front, who pounded home a goal for a 2-0 Eagle lead.
Haddonfield didn't go away easily, as a defensive breakdown late in the first half allowed for the Bulldawgs' Ali LaMaina to score and cut the Eagle lead to 2-1 at the half.
“We started the game off slow,” said West Deptford captain Sydney Ponto. “We need to play well for 60 minutes, not just half of the game.”
While the Eagles were getting beaten to the ball at various points in the game, they were able to take advantage of a large number Haddonfield turnovers committed in the middle of the field. Some of these plays can be credited to West Deptford's Ponto, who commanded the center of the field and made a few excellent takeaways to prevent Haddonfield from getting too much offensive pressure in the second half.
“Our goal is to move forward this year,” said Ponto. “We're always thinking about moving the ball up and getting goals and scoring the first goal.”
The Eagles did add a pair of insurance goals late in the game to seal the victory. Ponto scored on a booming shot that froze Haddonfield goalkeeper Kelsey Walsh to make the score 3-1. Shortly after that, Freeburg added a goal to her earlier assist with about 12 minutes left to stretch the Eagle lead to 4-1.
While a win over the Bulldawgs is satisfying, coach Decker hopes to get more out of her team on Friday afternoon, when West Deptford will visit Collingswood. Collingswood is the one team standing in the way of the Eagles in the Colonial Conference. They are the only team West Deptford has lost to in 2012. The first-place Panthers have not lost to a Colonial Conference opponent this year, with their only blemish coming against field hockey powerhouse Eastern.
“We hope it doesn't rain so we can get a practice tomorrow outside,” said Decker. “But we will look at any weaknesses that we had today and we'll design strategies to work on them in practice.”