It can’t be called a surprise, or even an upset necessarily, but the Class 1 Springfield Catholic squad visited their Class 2 neighbors and earned a 1-0 victory tonight. The goal was scored by senior Anne Prenger, on a 50 yard direct kick that appeared to surprise the Kickapoo goalkeeper, dropping in front of her on the edge of the six-yard box and settling into the net after bouncing over her head. That was in the 9th minute and was decisive as the Chiefs scoreless string stretched to 260 minutes following the OT loss to Lebanon on Wednesday.
It was a game of two halves, with the first half a somewhat lifeless affair that didn’t match the fervor of the fans who overflowed the bleachers. The Irish lost senior midfielder Tara Bailes to an injury in the 28th minute, the early guess is a meniscus tear, that occurred on a 50/50 ball. Another factor may have been the rapidly dropping temperatures.
It was the Irish who responded in the second half, turning up the heat and shaking off the loss of one of their captains. It was junior Anna Delong, a diminutive 5’1″ forward, who stepped back into Baile’s midfield spot and led by example (pictured above). Delong used her speed and tenacity in winning balls in the midfield and creating the attacking opportunities that kept Kickapoo off-balance the rest of the evening.
Freshman Shelby Hatz (pictured at left) was the beneficiary of the majority of Delong’s support. She had one shot cleared off the line behind the GK by Paige Blotter in the 45th minute and was denied by the upright in the 64th minute, as well as forcing the GK to come far out of the net twice late in the game for diving saves.
The other key to this game was the play of Catholic’s freshmen. There were eight on the pitch for significant amounts of time, and four that loomed large in addition to Hatz. Carsen Baron and Natalie Smid play defensive midfield, behind Bailes and Delong. Andrea Parker is the stopper, in front of senior Anne Prenger, and goalkeeper Rachel Scott is a freshman. In baseball speak, that’s the heart of your order folks. Your defense begins there and if you’re lucky, so does your offense (Prenger).
I talked to Parker and Smid after the game, one of the most anticipated on the Catholic schedule every year, and asked how they felt playing in their first derby. The response was a coaches dream – initial nervousness but once they stepped onto the pitch, it was exhilarating. Exhilarating. What’s up with that! How about playing against Chealsey Russell and Katy McLain and the Class 2 Quarterfinalists – A thrill and an honor. Apparently Smid in particular is a daily reader of my modest website. Well Natalie, I consider that an honor as well. Congrats to the Irish and get well soon Ms Bailes!