Strong second half pushes Hoosick Falls to victory
That fact was plain and simple for the Hoosick Falls field hockey team in its Section II Class C semifinal game against Warrensburg Friday afternoon.
Stuck in a 0-0 tie at halftime against a team they were expected to beat, the Panthers knew something had to change.
Hoosick Falls coach Denise Campbell had no problem letting them know that, getting animated with the girls during her halftime speech to let them know they had to play better.
"We just had a lot of nervousness inside of us," said Campbell of the first half play. "We had a lot of first-timers for getting this far and so much was going through their head of not making mistakes and trying to be perfect, that we made the mistakes and we didn't know what to do after we made them."
Five minutes into the second half when Burgers senior forward Kayla Raymond scored to give Warrensburg a lead, it was make it or break it for the Panthers. Either get down on themselves or use it as motivation to keep pushing forward.
Hoosick Falls decided to go with the latter. The Panthers scored three second half goals to top the Burgers 3-1 and advance to the sectional finals on Sunday. Jayda Stell-Gulley scored the first, Lillian Hickey put in the second and Mackenzie Sprague finished off the scoring with the third.
To Campbell the difference was night and day between the halves.
"The girls hung tough. They played and got it back together," Campbell said. "They did way better after that initial goal out of the way. It seemed like it really inspired us to play better."
For Sprague, a defender, goals aren't the most common, but in the moment, she was happy to get it done for her team.
"I just really wanted to push so hard to win today," Sprague said. "I am so proud of my team and I wouldn't have been able to do that without all of those girls just pushing me. I just can't explain how much I love my team. They're just great."
As successful as the Panthers have been this season with just one loss, it's no secret who their offense revolves around. Hickey has been the go-to player on the offensive side of the ball all season, so the fact that Hoosick Falls was able to have three different players score in the game was a huge boost moving forward.
"That's a huge boost. We've been struggling with scoring all year," Campbell said. "We've been relying too much on one player to do so much for us. I think it threw us off our game when (Lillian) wasn't having a good game herself. We've been talking about this over and over again. The girls have got to step up."
With a team as dominant as the Panthers have been all season, situations where they are down a goal and have to come back don't come around too often, but Hoosick Falls knows they have to be ready for them and Friday's outing gave them a little taste of how they'll have to play in high-pressure situations.
"We're going up against a very strong Schuylerville, season-heavy team," Campbell said. "They got knocked out early last year and I think they have a lot of desire to play well. Being down a goal is not a bad thing today. Hopefully we can learn from this and move on and hold them off the best we can."
Schuylerville topped Johnstown 5-1 Thursday in its semifinal game. Lauren Morency and Ali Burnham combined for all of the Black Horses goals. Schuylerville enter the game game undefeated at 16-0.
The Class C sectional final game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @AAucoin_Banner
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