With the precision required to properly execute a penalty corner, the Westfield field hockey team devotes at least one session during every practice to the task.
It all starts with senior Kat Kendrick’s pass from the back line, which typically bounces toward either junior Kelsey Grainer or senior Maddy Curry.
Whoever receives the pass decides whether or not to shoot while the team’s forwards patrol the goal mouth looking for a rebound.
Practice really does make perfect.
During the Concorde District championship game on a chilly Thursday night at Westfield High School, the Bulldogs scored twice on penalty corners and earned a 2-0 win over reigning district champion Chantilly.
“We don’t go through a practice without working on corners,” said senior Amanda O’Sullivan, who finished off a rebound with 19 minutes, 42 seconds left in the second half. “We have some really strong hitters at the top. Kelsey and Maddy are so good, and our forwards are really good at deflecting it if they don’t get it in on the first hit.”
With the win, the Westfield won its first district title since the school opened in 2000. The Bulldogs will advance to play West Springfield at Oakton High School on Tuesday night for the first round of the Northern Region tournament as the Spartans grabbed the Patriot District’s No. 4 seed.
<b>THOUGH HER TEAM</b> delivered a dominating performance, Westfield coach Terri Towle was wary of a Chantilly team that posted a 2-0 win in the teams’ regular season meeting on Oct. 10.
“Just knowing what we did against Chantilly the last time we played them … they beat us 2-0 and they dominated that entire game,” Towle said. “One of the things that I told the girls over the past two days is that they would have to play 60 minutes. I think they came out tonight very focused.”
Additionally, Towle was also aware of how Chantilly (12-8-1) played against district foes Centreville and Fairfax. After a 3-2 win over Centreville in the quarterfinal round of the district tournament, Chantilly upended top-seed Fairfax on Tuesday, 2-1, scoring with less than a minute left in overtime.
But the Bulldogs didn’t allow Chantilly any chance to gain momentum. In the first 30 minutes, Westfield outshot the Chargers, 8-1, holding a 6-1 advantage in penalty corners. In all, Westfield held a 13-1 advantage in penalty corners and outshot Chantilly, 17-1.
In the second half, Westfield maintained its attack and finally broke through with O’Sullivan’s goal. After a corner-generated rebound bounced to the right of the cage, O’Sullivan corralled the ball, spun around to maintain possession, and finally put her team on the scoreboard.
Little more than five minutes later, Grainer wrote the how-to book on burying a corner feed. After receiving Kendrick’s pass, Grainer, from the top of the circle, drilled a shot that traveled through a Chantilly player’s legs and settled in the left rear of the goal.
“When I’m shooting, sometimes my shots go to the left so I tried lining it up a lot,” Grainer said. “Whenever I hit it I tried to go through people’s legs so they can’t get it that easily. When it went through two people’s legs, it went right into the corner.”
“The corner that Kelsey Grainer had … that was perfect,” added Towle, whose team improved to 16-3 this season. “The pass came out, and it was also perfect timing and everything. We practice those a lot because the timing and every little aspect of a corner has to be perfect.”
<b>IN PATRIOT DISTRICT ACTION</b>, South County won its first-ever district title with a 2-1 win at Annandale. The Stallions secured the district’s top seed in next week’s Northern Region tournament and will face Concorde No. 4 seed Oakton on Tuesday.
After a scoreless first half, South County struck first in the second. Junior Megan Wears scored with 22 minutes, 43 seconds left, and senior Tierney Smith put South County ahead by two when she scored at 18:43.
“We played good possession hockey and that’s what we strive to do,” said Stallions coach Leah Conte, whose team improved to 16-3 this season. “They had a great passing game, and they finished in the circle when they needed to.”
Though Annandale scored after its only penalty corner with 1:56 remaining, Conte’s team held strong down the stretch.
“We only gave up one corner the whole game, which is great, and defensively we were just awesome,” Conte said. “We’ll enjoy it [Friday], but we’ll need to re-focus for Oakton on Tuesday.”