Goalie goes on offense

Titusville forward Emily Finley works the ball up the field in the second half of the game. Finley served as goalkeeper in the opening half of the match.

The Maplewood Tigers girls soccer team managed to run away with the win, 3-1, in an initially close match with the Titusville Rockets, Wednesday.

The Tigers took to the offensive from the start, sending the ball into Titusville’s quadrant of the field in the opening minutes and keeping it there for much of the first half.

However, despite Maplewood’s possession dominance, the Titusville defense proved resilient. Rockets defenders, alongside goalie Emily Finley, blocked 12 shots on goal attempted in the first few minutes of play, a feat Titusville coach Joey Timon highlighted after the game.

Leading the Tigers offense initially were forward Abrianna Phillips and midfielder Jennifer Chamberlain. The pair each made two shots on goal apiece in the opening moments in the match, though none struck true.

While the Rockets’ defense was proving to be a tough egg to crack, the team was on the back-step almost constantly, with the ball rarely making its way near the Maplewood net. While there was a significant amount of midfield play, the Rockets were unable to mount any kind of coordinated offense.

It wasn’t until a little past the midway point of the first half did either team make a goal. Chamberlain finally found an effective angle, launching the ball into the right corner of Titusville’s net, even while she was being swarmed by defenders.

Although the Tigers kept up their offensive push for the rest of the half, the Rockets defense, once more, proved insurmountable, closing out the stanza 1-0.

Heading into the second half of the game, Titusville launched a surprise counterattack. In a polar opposite of the game’s opening, the Rockets sent the ball down near the Maplewood net. While the Tigers were able to work the ball back to the other side of the field, the game became much more of a back-and-forth, as players ran from one net to the other in short periods of time.

Boosting this offense was an admitted risk on Titusville’s end. Midfielder Adeline Hartshorne took over goalie duties for the Rockets to allow usual goalies Finley and Kassidee Szympruch take part in Titusville pushes.

The strategy paid off, as shortly into the second half, Finley made a shot into Maplewood’s goal. In perhaps a moment of karma, the goal was made shortly after Finley was tripped on the field, leading to a Maplewood penalty.

For a while longer, the game seemed neck-and-neck as Rockets and Tigers jockeyed for position and made a series of unsuccessful shot attempts on one another’s goal. However, Titusville’s lack of substitution players seemed to take a toll on the team, as Maplewood increasingly gained possession of the ball more often.

Phillips eventually broke the tie in the Tigers’ favor, coming out on top in a struggle in front of Titusville’s goal to send the ball careening into the netting. Again, a factor of karma may have been in play, as the scoring kick came briefly after another shot by Phillips just barely missed, bouncing off one of Titusville’s goal posts.

With the Rockets down a point once more, defender Olivia Burdick swapped goalie positions with Hartshorne.

Unfortunately for Titusville, Tigers’ forward Natalie Kurt managed a break away shortly thereafter. Free from any defenders, Kurt made a clean shot into the Titusville goal, notching any point for Maplewood, and scoring what would be the last goal of the game.

Tigers stayed on the offensive for the rest of the match, but were unable to find anymore solid shot opportunities. Maplewood coach Ted Eriksen said that while he was glad to see his team perform strongly in terms of possession, he was “disappointed” at the lack of quality shots made on goal.

“We’ve been working a lot on possession,” Eriksen said. “Now we need to work on finishing it up.”

Timon praised the Rockets’ defensive skills. While acknowledging many of the risks in the second half of play didn’t completely payoff, Timon said that the team needs to take risks without any substitutions.

The Rockets will travel to Fort LeBeouf today, at 4 p.m. The Tigers will host Sharon Saturday, at 11 a.m.

Ray can be reached, by email, at sray@titusvilleherald.com.

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