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Madison Field Hockey – Hoping to Peak in the Playoffs

Warhawks looking to turn around late-game struggles.

The Madison High girls' field hockey team, despite what its 4-9-1 overall record indicates, is not far away from being a good team. The Warhawks, in their losses, have played most of their opponents tough but have not been able to get those big, late-game scores to take control.

Perhaps the wins will start to come this week. Madison was set to open up its postseason with a first round Liberty District game versus Fairfax High (14-3-1) earlier this week on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The Warhawks entered districts as the No. 6-seed, while the Rebels of Fairfax are the No. 3 seed.

The winner of Tuesday's matchup was scheduled to play again on Wednesday night, Oct. 20, in one of two scheduled district semifinals games. The semis contests are slated for 5:30 and 7:30 at Madison. Then, on Friday night at 6, the district championship game will take place, also at Madison.

The loser of Tuesday's Madison-Fairfax playoff game will see its season end. The winner, while advancing to the district semifinals, will also earn a seeding at next week's region playoffs.

"It's been a frustrating season," said Madison head coach Marsha Ehrsam. "A lot of our games went into overtime or [game-deciding] strokes, and those games were lost at the very end. It's been frustrating for the girls because they haven't been able to put things together. But they work very hard and encourage one another. It's been a pleasure to be around them."

Seven of Madison's losses this season have come by a single goal, and three of those defeats came on late scores by the opponent. The most recent one-goal setback came on Oct. 8 to visiting Jefferson, 3-2. Jefferson is the top seed at this week's district tournament.

Madison was also in position to win in its final regular season district game last week on Wednesday, Oct. 13 versus visiting Fairfax. The game was deadlocked at 1-1 with eight minutes remaining before Fairfax scored to take a 2-1 lead. Madison came back with a strong offensive rush of its own, but could not capitalize with a goal. Later, the Rebels effectively put the contest away with a late-game score to win 3-1. Both of Fairfax's late goals came off of corner plays.

"I don't think its fatigue at the end of a game," said Ehrsam, of the reason for her team's late-game struggles. "We get anxious. It's hard to explain it.

"We had a flock of activity after they scored that first one, but then they scored again [to clinch it]," said Ehrsam, of the final eight minutes of the game against the Rebels. "We talk about [the lost chances] after each game."

<b>COACH EHRSAM</b> said the potential solution to winning the down-to-the-wire games lies in simply continuing to work hard and hoping that those close games which have gone against the Warhawks will possibly go for them in the postseason.

"We can just prepare the best we can and try to get over that hump and get that one win," said Ehrsam. "Any team can peak in the playoffs."

Madison's leadership this season has come from its six seniors - all team captains. Those 12th graders are forward Belle Tunstall, midfielder Michelle Mittel, defender Katherine Dooley, midfielder Meghan Flounlacker, defender Sam Woloszynski, and defender Liz Zolper.

"They've really set the tone," said Ehrsam, of her seniors. "They come out every day and set that good example."

Fairfax High coach Amber Beaudoin said a key to the Madison playoff game this week would be her team's ability to hold down Madison's Tunstall, a good scoring threat and one of the district's better players, and to jump on the Warhawks early.

"Madison's best player is Belle. It's always hard to beat a team like Madison back to back," said Beaudoin, whose team concluded its regular season district schedule with the win over Madison last week before meeting the Warhawks again at districts. "When we score early we play better."