THIELLS – One team entered the game with three wins. The other had eight.
But there was an extra player on the field Monday when Fox Lane’s field hockey team visited North Rockland for a non-league game: the grass.
The Red Raiders’ field, which has a slower, rougher surface compared to the turf fields that field hockey is usually played on, combined with North Rockland’s effective, swarming defense inside its defensive circle, served to nullify any advantage Fox Lane’s record might indicate it had.
“It was a mess,” Fox Lane coach Kim Gigante said of the grass. “I think we had a hard time executing. The ball was there but we just couldn’t finish. It was a lot slower. Doing something takes twice as much energy to do on grass. We definitely beat them on fast breaks but with the surface the ball got caught up a lot.”
Although Natalie Bazyk generated offense for Fox Lane with her speed, junior Danielle Palladino agreed the surface hampered the Foxes.
“We definitely rely on sweeps and sometimes the reverse and you can’t use that. You have to rely on drives and really strong pushes,” she said
North Rockland, 3-7-3, definitely looked more at home on the surface and, in fact, outshot Fox Lane, testing Fox netminder Grace Kiernan seven times.
The Red Raiders also had a couple of excellent long crossing passes to the far post that didn’t quite connect.
“We had ample opportunities. We just have to finish,” North Rockland coach Jessica Nasuti said.
Player of the game: Palladino, who missed the game’s closing minutes after taking a ball to her chin, had multiple stops on defense, particularly in the second half.
Turning point: An official’s questionable call stopped a potential Fox Lane goal off a corner. Olivia Dey lofted the ball high over a pack of players to a teammate, who was alone on the far post against goalie Megan Mallozzi, but the play was whistled as being dangerous.
“It was a perfect lift,” Gigante maintained.
Another key moment came when North Rockland forward Caitlyn Lynch pushed the ball in front of the goal and beat Fox Lane’s defense to it but was stopped by Kiernan, who came out almost on top of her to eliminate any angle.
Stat line: Fox Lane had an 8-2 advantage in corners but it was largely stopped by North Rockland’s defense. Senior Mary Callan’s corner stop late in the game led to a Red Raider offensive breakout.
“I feel like today we had layers and had each other’s backs,” Nasuti said, referring to her squad’s defensive effort.
Mallozzi had four saves.
Quotables: North Rockland forward Kerri Gutenberger lamented her team’s missed chances off crossing passes but was otherwise pleased.
“Our communication level was really high today and we were using each other a lot,” she said, adding her team’s defense has become a “brick wall.”
“I’m happy we tied and didn’t lose, but we’re trying to get a good seed in sectionals so we need to get as many wins as we can to get a seed that’s high,” Palladino said.