POWHATAN – Head coach Stephanie Tyson tells her Powhatan Field Hockey players all the time that, when they are having a good day – when they are on – they can play with anyone and everyone in the Dominion District and be contenders.
Wednesday night’s effort proved that point again.
It wasn’t a win for the Indians in the scorebook, but they more than rebounded from a tough 4-0 setback the previous Monday against Monacan, taking James River all the way to shootouts – the fourth time Powhatan has gone that far beyond regulation this season alone – before falling just short in that stretch, in which the Rapids out-shot Powhatan 2-0 to secure a 2-1 win on Wednesday.
“We just need to have confidence in ourselves and each other and continue to work hard,” Tyson said. “We have a chance to do well the last three games of the season in the district and heading into regional play.”
Due to injuries and other adversities, Tyson said her team has not really been able to get into a good groove this entire season.
“I don’t think we’ve played with the same starting lineup two weeks in a row,” Tyson said. “It seems like we always have to make adjustments for one reason or another.”
But outside of their 4-0 loss to Monacan on the road, the Indians, through all the changes, have dominated four of their matches by six goals or more, and they’ve been in the mix in the rest of their contests, winning three of the four games that saw them compete in shootouts. Five of their six losses were by 2 goals or less.
“This team has done an amazing job of adjusting and doing what we need them to do from game to game,” Tyson said.
Powhatan on Wednesday fended off six first-half penalty corners earned by the visiting Rapids to lead 1-0, courtesy of an athletic shot landed by Michala Taylor. The senior multisport standout crossed the ball and reversed the ball, going low as she sent the shot scooting across the ground, through an opposing player's legs and into the goal.
“That’s my move – I love it, I love to do it,” Taylor said. “It’s my favorite thing; it gets through goalies every time because they expect you to pull back and hit, so they’re prepared for the pullback and they start moving, and then it just leaves a lot of space open.”
“Michala is a really fun player to watch,” Tyson said. “She is one of the most athletic kids I have ever coached and she has so much potential. She puts so much pressure on herself and we have been talking to her about the fact that this is her senior season and we want to see her succeed and have fun. She finds a way to score in the big games and is a serious competitor. I am proud of her and cannot wait to see how this season unfolds for her.”
Erin Barney and Joy Johnson both excelled at putting pressure on James River’s defense. Tyson said that Barney, a senior, “is having her best season ever.”
“She plays hard every practice and game and makes things happen for us offensively,” Tyson said. “I am extremely proud of the way she has stepped up this year. She is quiet but leads with her effort and positive attitude. You will never hear her say anything negative or complain. It has been such a joy for me to watch her this season because she really is one of our most valuable seniors.”
And Joy, as a sophomore, has been “making so much progress” according to her head coach.
“She also works hard every day and wants to learn the game. She is very coachable and wants to know what she can do to improve,” Tyson said. “Because of those things, she is really starting to catch on to the offense and has seen a ton more playing time. I am excited to continue to see her continue to grow as a player.”
Powhatan's defenders were like flippers in a pinball machine on Wednesday, continuously flipping the ball away from the goal and consistently warding off the visitors’ pressure.
“Proud of them every game – everybody gives their all and fights a lot,” Taylor said.
“Our defense has been so strong all season. Ella Weber is definitely the leader back there and we all have so much faith and confidence in her abilities. She is calm and steady, and that really helps when the opposing team is turning on the pressure,” Tyson said, adding of senior keeper Emily Stephenson: “I can’t say enough about Emily’s performance in goal this year. She continues to work hard and it is paying off. I am so proud of her and she has been mentally tough even when facing adversity. It has been so fun for me to watch. And to see her be successful is what it really is all about.”
Tyson also praised the defensive play of sophomore Savanna Johnson against James River.
“I was hard on her Monday after the loss to Monacan because I wanted her to put more pressure on the ball and be aggressive,” Tyson said. “She really stepped up and was a different player vs. JR. She had no varsity experience until halfway through the season when she became a starter, and we really have asked a lot of her. She is quiet but so hard working and has improved more than anyone this year.”
After Powhatan led first on Wednesday evening, James River bounced back six minutes into the second half on a goal notched by Lauren Phan to even-up the contest. The Rapids in regulation earned 11 corners to Powhatan’s 2, but the Indians weathered all 11, as well as a chain of corners earned by the Rapids in the 7-versus-7 overtime period – the first level after regulation – to ensure that the match reached shootouts.
But the Rapids’ goalie made four big saves in the shootouts' 1-versus-1 rounds, which feature five players from each team going head-to-head with the opposing team’s keeper, and James River's Sara Hudson and Claire Kaskey made the decisive shots for the opposing team.
Powhatan (7-6) plays at Manchester on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. before hosting Clover Hill – who beat the Indians 2-0 earlier in the season – on Powhatan’s Senior Night on Monday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.
“I think we are more than good enough to be a good challenger against them,” Taylor said. “We just have to work on positioning - we’ve got a new team this year, so knowing your position makes it easier to not have to go around like you’re in a pinball machine…you know where to go, you know where to run, we can get passes more smoothly – stuff like that so we’re not just pushing and pushing and pushing on our bodies, give some people a break and others a little more potential room to just let loose and fire it at the goal.”