The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

September 27, 2012

Scott Dudinskie's field hockey column: Eagles learn a good lesson

Jill Martz-Yisrael rolled her eyes. She could have reacted any number of ways to the Greenwood goal (angry, indifferent, disgusted, sad), but instead she rolled her eyes.

It’s a typical response to a bad joke, and that’s pretty much what the goal was.

Line Mountain had done everything it could to score, short of suiting up Martz-Yisrael and giving the third-year coach a stick. And there was Greenwood, walking into a third goal with just 31 seconds left.

Cruel irony, for sure.

An eye-roller if ever there was one.

“It was like, ‘Really?’” Martz-Yisrael said shaking her head. “Really?”

For nearly 60 minutes, Line Mountain’s coach was enthusiasm personified, yelling instruction and encouragement to (and sometimes just yelling at) her players as they battled their Tri-Valley League archrival.

The unbeaten Eagles were in tune with her at the start, red-lining all their gauges. They relentlessly scrapped for possession in the midfield, pushed the ball at every opportunity and forced all-state keeper Katie Osborne to the turf more often than she or the Greenwood faithful would prefer.

Nothing changed when Greenwood’s Brittany Fleisher broke a scoreless tie midway through the first half, or while the Wildcats were gradually choking off their attack. The Eagles played with the confidence of an eight-win team, fully expecting to make their own break and dent the cage.

It never happened. There was no timely finish. In fact, there was only one shot worthy of a slash in the scorebook.

Hattie Kuhns scored a right-time, right-place goal about 10 minutes into the second half and Greenwood’s two-point lead might as well have been a dozen; either way it was too much for Line Mountain to overcome.

But that third goal — coming well after the scorekeeper left the table to track the last minute — bypassed the coach in Martz-Yisrael and touched a nerve in the competitor.

It turned a slightly more palatable 2-0 score into a stinging 3-0 margin that underscored both Greenwood’s relative dominance and Line Mountain’s inability to finish.

“They’re very dangerous in the circle. They’re very aggressive, and they do finish well,” Martz-Yisrael said through a grimace. “They were beating us to the balls the second half and just played with more confidence. And I think after that second goal we were a little defeated mentally at that point.

“We’ve been talking a lot about mental toughness as a team, just being able to overcome (adversity) and focus on what we’re able to control. We have to move forward.”

See, Martz-Yisrael was a two-time Susquehanna Valley League Player of the Year for Line Mountain, and a three-time STX/NFHCA All-America selection at Penn State.

She invests a great deal in the program, and far beyond the playing field. Not long ago, she and the players organized and prepared brunch for families at a Ronald McDonald House.

She brought a team to Millerstown primed to knock off the four-time defending TVL champion. They outscored eight previous opponents 37-2, including a strong 2-1 win over Mifflin County three days earlier.

“I think we were very confident — the most confident, I believe, that we’ve felt,” she said. “We beat a tough team in Mifflin County and I think that gave us confidence and showed that we can win those tough games. I don’t think we doubted we could (beat Greenwood).”

Line Mountain played well, it was just that — for the first time this season — the ball didn’t go in the cage. There were several possible reasons: Despite returning top scorer Sarah Lahr and playmaker Ciera Lahr, the Eagles’ forward group is young; they didn’t substitute as liberally as Greenwood; and, oh yeah, the undefeated Wildcats are really good.

The fact is the Line Mountain made Greenwood work hard between the 25s, which is more than most teams can say.

“I think they are an outstanding team,” said Wildcats coach Kent Houser. “For us to get a 3-0 win against them is thrilling.”

The outcome didn’t sit well with the Eagles, as one might imagine, and Martz-Yisrael had a long talk with them afterward.

She was more than a coach or a competitor at that point; she had been in their cleats, and she let them know there was no need to lose sleep and no place for tears.

“What I said to the girls was, ‘We can’t hang on to this game; we have to let it go,” said Martz-Yisrael, “‘but we have to remember the feeling ... and use that as motivation to not have this happen again.’”

To the best of our knowledge, not one of them rolled her eyes.

Scott Dudinskie covers high school field hockey for The Daily Item. Email comments to sdudinskie@dailyitem.com.

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