KNIGHTS U16 TEAM
Kayla Silva (GK)
What an amazing day. With our first game at 7AM and our last at 8PM, sandwiched between them was an incredible and dramatic win - and with it a place in the National Indoor Tournament.
There were some bleary eyes at 6:15 AM as this young U16 team prepared for their first pool game against Total Dutch, but any lack of sleep wasn't on show as the Knights took the game to a far more experienced NJ rival. It was Talia Cantaffa that grabbed our first goal of the tournament and the goal that put the Knights ahead after great work by Aryana Muscara, but it was a lead that they couldn't quite hold on to as we would go on to lose 3-1. It was a great lesson though and showed the team that they could compete with any opponent.
The next game was a must win - and we did it style. Another local rival, this time G-Force, couldn't handle the intensity of the Knights attack as an early goal settled nerves and led to chance after chance being created. Adeline Horan, Emily Cahill, Claire McGowan and Talia McGowan were dominant on the forward line, while Muscara and Meadow Maguire controlled the middle. In defense, Amanda Halper and Julia Hegarty didn't allow Kayla Silva to face even one shot on goal. It was an impressive performance and meant a 9-0 win.
The third game would decide whether the team would reach the crossover and opportunity to compete for NIT qualification, but perhaps the nine goal win gave the team a little too much confidence. East End were the opponents and despite superiority in every department, the Knights team was scrappy and disjointed in the first half and relied on Kayla Silva in goal to prevent their Long Island opponent taking the lead. Two bits of quality on penalty corners from Muscara would prove to be the difference. Both high flicks, the goalkeeper had no chance and set the basis for a 4-1 win and a place in the crossovers to face Boston's Cape Ann team.
A tight, defensive battle ensued against an excellent Cape Ann team. The game could have gone either way but some sharp finishing saw Cape Ann take a 3-1 win and meant that the Knights had a must-win game against a PA team called Seekers. It was then that the real drama begin...
It is always difficult playing an opponent that doesn't really understand indoor hockey and this game was no exception. The Knights struggled to get to grips with the physical, uncompromising style of their opponent and despite a crucial goal from McGowan they found themselves at 3-1 down going in at half time. They knew they had to improve in the second half if they wanted to make the trip to the Spooky Nook. Quickly it became 3-2 and it looked like we would soon equalize but in a game that ebbed and flowed, the Knights found themselves 4-2 down and staring at the abyss. They answered with three minutes to go to make it 4-3 but as countless attack corners came to nothing it looked as though it was all in vain. And then, playing having subbed Silva to create an extra outfield player, we got a corner with eight seconds left. The buzzer went, time was expired. But the corner had to play out. We had to score. From the bench, Meredith called the corner. Was all that corner practice on Thursday going to be worth it? Knowing the key stages of the corner, Maguire inserted to Muscara, she slipped it to Amanda Halper... cue wild celebrations on the bench and in the stands as the ball hit the backboard. We would go to a shootout to decide who would make the National Indoor Tournament - would it be the Knights or the Seekers, New Jersey or Pennsylvania?
The team had complete confidence in their three shooters and their goalkeeper. And it was Silva in goal that would prove to be the hero. Saving the first one with a dive, it meant that Halper could step up and confidently slip it past the opposing GK. Seekers' turn again and this time they would score to make it 1-1. Maguire answered for the Knights to put them 2-1 up. The Seekers had to score. But Silva said no. A wonderful diving save again cleared the ball and put the Knights through to the NIT.
It. Was. Awesome.
The time was now 6 PM. The team had been at the venue for 12 hours and despite some small amount of delirium and too much talk about puppies and even a suggestion that someone ate Burger King(!), the Knights were still focussed, knowing they still had two games still to play that would affect their NIT ranking.
It was a masterful and controlled performance that led to a 1-0 win against CNY. Some great hockey gave the team a deserved result. Finally, after 14 hours in the varying temperatures of Siena's Field House, the Knights faced Hudson Valley. Once more it would be dramatic finish for a team that doesn't know when it is beaten. 2-1 down with a minute to go and Cantaffa grabbed her second of the game to send the game to another shootout. This time, however, it wasn't to be as the Hudson goalkeeper denied first Maguire and then Muscara and gave them the victory.
This final game wasn't the game that counted, however. An overall record on the day of 5-3 meant that this U16 team qualified for the National Indoor Tournament. A great achievement in our first ever season as as club and meant leaving New York at 9 PM was all worth it.
Congratulations to you all.
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