By ROB WITHAM
H-P Sports Correspondent
Down two players due to injury after a physical battle the previous Wednesday at Henrico, Patrick Henry Patriots field hockey looked across the way during warm-ups Monday afternoon to see their opponent, the Atlee Raiders, winners of seven straight games. One of the victories was over Patrick Henry three weeks earlier.
But that didn’t phase Patrick Henry, who played with an intensity level, and a sense of urgency, not seen yet this season as the Patriots end the Raiders’ run with a 3-0 victory which saw a dominant first half performance, the talents of goalkeeper Taqiyah Chernesky, and a defense which frustrated Atlee all afternoon.
“I don’t know what the spark was today, other than playing with a purpose, playing with something to prove,” said Patrick Henry head coach Abbey Rossman. “You’d have to ask the girls what the difference was, because it wasn’t me. They were inspired, played with heart, and we’ve been missing that. Today, they stepped up.”
There were contributions all over the field for Patrick Henry (6-6), starting with Catherine Dozier, who tallied the first goal of the match just over five minutes in, setting the stage for a first thirty minutes where the Patriots dominated field position, gave little to Atlee inside the 25, and didn’t allow a single corner.
“We didn’t come into it as hyped as we needed to,” explained Alyssa Farling, Atlee’s head coach. “The girls said in warm-ups, you know this is an intense team. That game didn’t feel like a 3-0 game.”
Farling was referencing Atlee’s 3-0 win over Patrick Henry September 18, where the Raiders were the enforcers, and the team with the constant offensive pressure. The script completely flipped Monday. And, when Victoria Watts made it 2-0 with a goal off a corner with just over 26 minutes left, finally, it seemed, the Raiders found their stride. The only problem was, Patrick Henry’s defense simply played better.
When goalkeeper Taqiyah Chernesky wasn’t making one of her 21 saves, 17 of which came in the second half, the Patriot defense did the work, as Libby Klinger made three defensive saves of her own, saving at least two, possibly three, Atlee goals.
“You hear me tell the girls to put the sticks down a time or two,” Rossman said, jokingly referring to her constant refrain during a match. “I never have to tell Libby to get low. She has wonderful fundamentals and technique, and it proved to be the difference.”
The Patriots finished off, arguably, their best performance of the season, with a Maggie Ward goal with 14:29 remaining. It was a crucial win for a Patrick Henry squad that began the season with high expectations, now finding themselves trying to finish in the top half of Region 4C. The Patriots host Highland Springs on Senior Night Tuesday, then finish the regular season hosting J.R. Tucker Wednesday.
The Raiders, now 8-5, host Henrico Monday, then finish regular season play at Hermitage October 19. Atlee needs two more victories as they fight for playoff position in the rugged Region 5B, which includes unbeaten Deep Run, upstart Mills Godwin, a one-loss Prince George squad, and a Lee-Davis team capable of pulling an upset at about any time. The Confederates fell at Hanover in the other county field hockey match on Monday by a 2-1 count.
The regular season ends next Thursday and postseason play begins October 25. Patrick Henry may point to Monday’s win as the day they turned their fortunes, and their season, around.