NIT U16 Qualifier @ Ursinus
Gianna Duddy (GK)
This U16 team may have started the day trying to remember each other's names, but by the end of it they not only came together as a team, they played some great hockey and came within a whisker of grabbing a dramatic and deserved victory.
Game 1 was a match-up against WC Eagles, a team whose name sometime comes before their ability. The game was tight and we more than matched the opposition for work-rate but it was their experience that told in the end. A 3-0 loss was respectable and was largely down to Maggie and Hannah in defense, along with some excellent goalkeeping by Gianna.
The next game saw us take on Philly Hockey Club and though the scoreline may suggest otherwise, there was huge progression from our young team. In midfield, Sophia and Emma worked their socks off while a forward line of Haley, Caryn, Carli and Angela created some real opportunities for us going forward. Hannah and Maggie continued to do well, but this was also a game that Olivia really stood out, not for her forward play but for her defensive work and great tackling. We generated penalty corners but just couldn't quite grab the goal our play deserved.
Next up was undefeated Reach Hockey Club. The challenges that the Knights took on board were to create penalty corners and not to be out-fought - they took both on-board. The game started tightly but only a miraculous change of direction stick save from Gianna in goal kept it tied. Up front, Haley was definitely not being out fought and she used her immense strength to win the corner that we needed. It didn't quite come off but her work set the tone for the game. To a player, they worked incredibly hard and passed the ball with confidence and understanding. It was a great progression but it wasn't quite enough to snatch the win.
We went into the final game knowing that qualification for the NIT was beyond us but we knew we had one last great performance in us - and the team didn't disappoint. We outplayed our Electric Surge opposition but some excellent goalkeeping from the opposing keeper frustrated our forwards and APC unit. Still, with the scores tied at 0-0 we knew we had a chance to get that elusive win in a shootout. It would prove to be dramatic.
Maggie went first and confidently put the ball between the goalkeepers legs. Textbook. Surge came back and scored on Gianna, before Haley just missed her chance to put us ahead. Surge scored and Sophia stepped up knowing that she had to score and she did with an outrageous piece of skill! And then Gianna stopped Electric's final shooter to put us into sudden death. Three rounds later - between Sophia having chance to win it with a penalty stroke - Electric Surge managed to sneak the win. Ugh.
Any frustrations from the shootout were put to one side though when we assessed how far we had come over the day. Defensively, offensively and our togetherness as a team, we improved in all departments.
Whenever we play, whenever we train, improvement is always the focus of the Knights. Winning is awesome but we will find longer terms success if we focus on the process, not just the end result. For this group of U16 Knights, the process was more than little impressive.
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