Saturday, September 6, 2014

Field hockey: Lenape Valley ends High Point's streak

WANTAGE -- As far as openers go, you probably couldn't have scripted a better outcome for Lenape Valley's field hockey team on Friday afternoon.

The defense was rock solid in making a 2-0 victory over High Point stand in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division showdown. The win snapped the Wildcats' 54-game unbeaten streak in divisional play dating to 2010, while giving rookie Patriots coach Lauren Fasano her first victory over her alma mater.

"I couldn't be happier," said Fasano, a former star goalie at High Point. "We played very well as a team today. It's exciting to get that first win. High Point always has a good team."

Seniors Alyssa Falleni and Sally Olson scored the goals for Lenape Valley, which started a season filled with high expectations by dethroning what has been Sussex County's top program the previous four seasons. Coach Bev Keur's Wildcats compiled a 76-10-4 mark overall, including a 53-0-1 record during their time in the American Division from 2010-13.

The loss was the first to a Sussex County opponent since High Point dropped a 1-0 decision to Wallkill Valley on Oct. 26, 2012, and the 'Cats' first in a division game since a 2-0 defeat at Vernon on Nov. 9, 2009. Yet, Keur wasn't extremely disappointed with a game in which her team was held to zero shots-on-goal and penalty corners for the first time in recent memory.

"This is a learning curve, said Keur, who lost the bulk of last year's 16-win team, including three would-be starters who decided not to play this season and last year's leading scorer Alexis Ambrosino, a senior forward who transferred to Kittatinny after notching 21 goals in 2013.

"At halftime [down 2-0] we asked what we were going to do about it. Are we going to lay down or do some things to improve. We've been through the practices and scrimmages. You have to think about what we need to do now."

What High Point did was ratchet it up a notch on defense as it held a potent Lenape Valley attack to just one shot-on-goal in the final 30 minutes. Goalie Autumn Smith, who made six saves overall, turned away several threatening shots in the first half that could have put the game out of reach. Senior center back Kristen English, who is the 'Cats' top player, also had a stellar game.

Falleni opened the scoring just under nine minutes in when she connected during a scrum in front of the cage.

"[Goalie Smith] was on the ground and [forward] Kassidy Forik was next to me and we were battling for the ball," said Falleni, who was second on team last year with eight goals. "It got behind the goalie and I just pushed it in."

Olson, last year's Mugs Media Player of the Year, made it a two-goal advantage when she converted on a penalty stroke with 19:04 left in the first half. The rock-solid midfielder and Bucknell recruit said she used a cerebral approach to the shot, which found its way inside the right post.

"My favorite thing is to use the intimidation factor and never stare down where I'm going with it," Olson said. "I was practicing strokes [Thursday]. I like to change it up a lot, which you probably shouldn't do."

Perhaps the only negative for the Patriots was going 0-for-13 on corners. It's something that Fasano will be sure to go over during the next practice.

"It's definitely something we have to improve on," said Fasano, who has all of the starters back from last year's 15-win team that reached the North 1, Group 1 sectional semifinals.

"It was extremely important to come out strong and have possession of the ball, and keep it going from there. Our defense was extremely solid. They're communicating well and working together."

Lenape Valley (1-0, 1-0)              2                   0             --    2
High Point (0-1, 0-1)                    0                   0             --    0


First half -- LV, Alyssa Falleni, 1st, 21:26; LV, Olson, 1st, (penalty stroke), 19:04.

Shots -- Lenape Valley 8; High Point 0.

Saves -- Kaylee Gentilucci 0 (LV); Autumn Smith 6 (HP).

Penalty corners -- Lenape Valley 13; High Point 0.

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