RACHEL SAMIA reaches in to knock a ball away from a Lebanon attacker during action Oct. 20 in Lebanon. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 22, 2012LEBANON — Less than four minutes into the second half of their Division II quarterfinal game in Lebanon, the Kennett field hockey girls appeared to have the momentum.
The Eagles had tied the game at one on a Vonde Saunders goal and were looking to get a lead for the first time.
However, the top-seeded Raiders stepped it up on their offensive end, attacking the Kennett net with vigor and it eventually paid off.
The hosts snapped the tie 10 minutes after the Eagles tied the game and went on to a 4-2 win, ending Kennett's season.
"Lebanon definitely had a very strong forward line," Kennett coach CJ Lang said. "Just maintaining possession today was a lot harder than in the past."
That showed in the first half, as the hosts basically controlled the flow of play for the first 30 minutes, much like the Eagles had dominated that category in their first round game with Kingswood.
"After Kennett had a couple of early forays into the offensive zone, the Raiders took over, forcing the Kennett defense to step up in a big way.
Leah Kelemen and Emily Richard answered the call for the Eagles and goalie Lara Murnik turned in a couple of saves, but the Raiders continued to pressure the ball.
With 17:36 to go in the first half, the hosts got on the board, scoring on a penalty corner for a 1-0 lead.
Lebanon didn't back down with the lead, however, as they continued to attack the Kennett defense, sending a couple of shots wide, while Rachel Samia stepped up with strong defense.
Kennett had a few chances, with Brooke Lemerise helping to lead the way in the offensive zone, but she was turned away. Amanda Nusbaum also had a scoring bid denied. The Raiders played down a player the final five minutes of the half thanks to a yellow card, but the Eagles couldn't convert on their pressure and the game went to the half with the Raiders up 1-0.
The Eagles stated their case early in the second half. On a penalty corner, Saunders fired the ball on net. The Raider keeper made the save, but Saunders followed up the shot and pounced on the rebound, knocking it in for the tying goal.
Lebanon wouldn't let the Eagles seize control, however, as they pushed forward with a strong offensive attack, aided by a series of six corners in a row. However, the Eagle defense didn't back down, with Saunders and Aimee-Kate Gutowski stepping up their defensive pressure to keep the ball out of the net.
The Raiders were able to retake the lead with 15:57 to go in the half, as a Raider forward maneuvered through the defense and got in with a breakaway and put it home for a 2-1 lead.
Kennett tried to answer, with Elyse Clancy, Lemerise and Nusbaum all getting in on the attack, but they were stopped in their tracks and Lebanon was able to tack on another goal, this one with just under 10 minutes to play on a great centering pass that bounced around in front of the net and was eventually struck home for a 3-1 lead.
Kennett continued to look for its next goal, with a couple of corners helping out, but Lemerise, Emily Watson and Nusbaum were denied in their chances and Lebanon had a couple more corners. After Murnik made a save on one and Gutowski made a nice defensive play on the other, the third proved to be the charm, as the Raiders used solid passing off the corner to take a 4-1 lead with 3:53 to go in the game.
Kennett answered a minute and a half later, as Watson stuffed the ball in the cage to cut the lead to 4-2, but that was as close as it got and the Raiders closed out the win and earned the trip to the Final Four.
"I don't think they played badly at all," Lang said. "They played hard."
Lang pointed to the fact that the Raiders were the top seed, which could have played a role in the Eagles' early offensive problems.
"They felt as if there was a roadblock in that first half," Lang said. "But that goal gave them the assurance that they were right in it.
"Coming off two really strong games, the girls felt confident and they appeared to not be intimidated," the Eagle coach continued. "But you can't not be, at least a little, they are the number one seed."
She noted that the Eagles played the game she wanted them to play, but in the end, it just wasn't enough.
Kennett finished the regular season at 7-6-1 and beat Kingswood in the preliminary round of the tournament by a 2-0 score.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126