Expanded article on Greenwich field hockey’s Columbus Day win

Greenwich High School's Kate Palastro works to get the ball from Pomperaug's Allison McCormick during Monday's Columbus Day matinee. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School’s Kate Palastro works to get the ball from Pomperaug’s Allison McCormick during Monday’s Columbus Day matinee. — Paul Silverfarb photo

The Greenwich High School field hockey team was looking for a game like this one.

In a Columbus Day matinee at Cardinal Stadium, Big Red took to the turf against a talented Pomperaug High School team. Scoring early in the second half, Greenwich was able to hold on and secure the 1-0 victory.

“The girls worked so hard,” Greenwich head coach Allyn Orrico said. “I am really proud of the fact that we talked about focusing and we did that. We have had flashes of brilliance throughout the season, but then we had lapses and breakdowns. Today they really were a 60-minute team across the board. We took the great things we did during practice and put them into the game. We controlled the tempo and that was big for us.”

After a scoreless first half, Greenwich didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard.

Greenwich won possession of the ball and immediately marched down the field. Sarah Stinebaugh took the initial shot that the Pomperaug goalie made the save on.

However, she wasn’t able to control the rebound and the ball landed on the stick of Paige Mautner, who calmly took the rebound and found the back of the net for the 1-0 lead only 34 seconds into the second half.

“Paige is such a talented player and she’s young,” Orrico said. “Sometimes you forget that she’s only a sophomore because she’s so talented and wise beyond her years. The thing I love about her is that despite how talented she is, Paige is always trying to ask questions to see how she can get better. It’s great to have someone that is coachable with that level of talent.”

Mautner said getting the goal was primarily due to the outstanding play of her teammates around her.

Big Red's Erika Hvolbeck races down the field during the Columbus Day game against Pomperaug High School. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Big Red’s Erika Hvolbeck races down the field during the Columbus Day game against Pomperaug High School. — Paul Silverfarb photo

“My team did a really great job possessing the ball and bringing it all the way down,” Mautner said. “It was kind of a scrum, but we managed to spread out and I was there to tip it into the goal. It was great to get this win. Last year we tied them and in the last 12 seconds we scored to win, so we wanted to keep the streak up. Since the season has been slow so far, this will definitely get our momentum up.”

Big Red had a chance to add to its lead with 22:21 to play in the game, as Stinebaugh charged through the middle of the field and got through the Pomperaug defense. She went for the shot, but just before, a Panther defender got a stick on the ball for the deflection.

Pomperaug was applying the pressure throughout most of the final 10 minutes. However the GHS defense stepped up its game and cleared the ball every chance it had.

“It happens I guess,” Pomperaug head coach Anne Strobel said. “We still have some of the season left. We have our weaknesses and we’re going to just push forward. I wish this went to our advantage, but it happens.”

Although Greenwich got the victory, it was Pomperaug that started the game on the attack. With 11:52 to play, the Panthers were charging toward the net and were looking for the open shot. However, Cate Decker and Sarah Cicchetti were there to stop Pomperaug.

“Starting from Leah [Hoatling] and working to Sarah Cicchetti, to Maddy [Graves], to Anne [Dunster], to Augustina [Buscaglia], and to Cate Decker, they have just stepped it up as a unit,” Orrico said. “Our mids fed off our defense and stepped it up as well. It was great to see.”

Only 45 seconds later it was Greenwich’s turn on the attack. Alayna Santarosa gained possession of the ball and broke through the Panthers’ defense. She was 1-on-1 with the Pomperaug goalie, but her shot was kicked aside.

Pomperaug’s best chance at tallying a score came with 9:23 to play in the half, as Caroline Dwyer got possession of the ball on the corner opportunity in the middle of the net about 10 yards out. However, her shot sailed high by mere inches and went out of harm’s way.

“I thought we moved the ball well up the field,” Strobel said. “We’ve been practicing on passing and cutting into the space. Greenwich did it very well as well.”

With the victory, Greenwich improved to 4-3-4 on the season while Pomperaug fell to 8-2-1 overall.

“I thought this was very evenly matched,” Strobel said. “There are two strong programs that come out here on this day and I think that we play up and they play up, so it’s a great tradition to play Greenwich every year.”

More important than the victory, Orrico thought, the Cardinals looked stellar from start to finish, and she’s hoping to build off the momentum for the stretch run in the regular season.

“It seems like we’ve been going in spurts,” Orrico said. “The defense will play well and our forwards aren’t cutting back to the ball, or our forwards would have a monster game and the defense won’t step up. Today I felt all three lines were doing what we needed them to do. I think we are moving in the right direction.”

Yesterday, Greenwich traveled to Westport for a game against Staples High School. Results were unavailable at press time.

Tomorrow the Lady Cardinals return home for a match against Brien McMahon High School.

From there, Greenwich High will play its final regular season home game against New Canaan High School and will round out its schedule Wednesday with a game against Wilton.

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