WHITEHALL – Against Crestwood, sometimes no corner is a goal.
A talented Villa Maria team had 16 penalty corners – the most the Comets allowed in regulation all season – yet came up empty every time in Crestwood's 1-0 victory Saturday.
It was just a week prior that the Hurricanes scored on 3 of 9 opportunities against a District 2 foe, eliminating an exceptional Wyoming Seminary squad.
They were under constant pressure from Villa Maria and they withstood it, Crestwood coach Elvetta Gemski said of her team. They had repeated corners over and over again, but we were able to persevere.
The Hurricanes ran their corners through big-hitter Meghan Murphy at the top of the circle. Connecticut recruit Olivia Bolles and Amelia Iacobucci were options for a pass, as was Megan Parsons, who handled the injection play.
The first corner ended on a foul and the second saw Iacobucci's shot snuffed out by Comets defender Rachael Ritz. The third saw Iacobucci get a shot through, but goalie Dallas Kendra was there to bat it down with her blocker. The sixth featured another Iacobucci shot -- again eschewing Murphy and Parsons, who had a combined 51 goals this season -- and another Kendra save, this one off the right knee.
I was expecting them, Kendra said of the shots. They had us outnumbered, but I kept my feet moving and stepped to the ball.
We had trouble on their corners at first, then we fixed it, Ritz said. Morgan (Kile) was flying out but I had trouble with the dump pass. (Assistant) coach (Patsy) Moratori and coach Lissa (Munley) fixed that. They had us make a little change that set us up to pick off passes and deflect shots.
Three Villa corners in two minutes came up empty late in the first half. In the second half, the first corner looked like it might have ended with an Abby Siana score for Villa, but an obstruction foul ended the threat.
They've been amazing, Gemski said of the group, which included Chandler Ackers and Morgan McCole. We got a tremendous fly from Morgan Kile. Rachael Ritz was great. The whole group just shut them down.
The Comets withstood a flurry of five corners in two-plus minutes of the second half and finished with just six shots allowed on the 16 corners. Six other tries saw shots blocked along the perimeter and three ended on Hurricanes fouls.
We knew what we were coming up against and the defense did a great job running them out of the circle, Crestwood's Marissa Surdy said.
Crestwood finished the postseason allowing just four goals on 54 corners.
The stellar defense went beyond corner play, though. With Villa pushing for the tying goal late, the Hurricanes had difficulty just getting across the midfield stripe.
Ritz would cut off an outlet pass. Or Kile. Or Casey Cole. McCole shut down a rush by the dangerous Parsons, a 31-goal scorer. Chandler Ackers intercepted passes and dribbled deep into Hurricanes territory.
Perhaps none was better down the stretch, though, than Hannah Ackers.
She stopped a lot of big balls for us, Moratori said of three key plays in the final minutes. And for a freshman to play with that kind of poise, making the stops, putting the ball into safety. She was very calm under pressure.
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