By Eric Thorne
Instead of hanging their heads after surrendering a goal as the first half ended, Eastern High School field hockey instead turned it into motivation and erupted for three goals in a nine-minute span to claim its second straight Apple Tournament Green Division title, 4-2 over Atherton.
The Lady Eagles (5-0) were leading 1-0 as the first half wound down following a goal by Katherine Gerber with 5:26 left. However, Atherton’s Eden Webb slipped a shot into the net as the horn sounded to tie the game at intermission.
Atherton coach Woodrow Murphy praised his team at halftime that they dominated play in the first half, but cautioned them not to rush.
However, it was Eastern that turned up the heat and Coach Carrie Carden encouraged her squad to “go back to the basics” in the second half. Atherton (6-3) then began to wilt and tire under the pressure.
“We had a couple of breakdowns defensively and we got a little fatigued out there,” Murphy said. “We had some scoring opportunities, but just missed them. Eastern beat us to the ball. At times [it] seemed like they wanted it a little more than we did. We’re young and this is a good learning experience.”
With 26:48 left, Eastern’s Haper Zeitz put her team ahead 2-1, and five minutes later Sophie Kandul sent a deflection off the goalkeeper’s pads into the net for a 3-1 advantage.
The Eagles weren’t finished yet as Francesca Stovall lofted a shot over the goalkeeper’s head and into the net with 17:41 remaining. Stovall was named tournament Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row.
“We played them earlier this week and knew it would be tough after just beating them 1-0,” Stovall said. “We always play on the grass and get hard hits, so we felt the turf tonight would be to our advantage. I think they got tired and our momentum picked up. Suddenly our vibe went good and from there we just started scoring goals. We started playing off each other and finished the game and now we’ve won the Apple Tournament two years in a row.”
Carden stressed never to give up a goal in the last two minutes, but was impressed with how her team handled Atherton’s score.
“I was super disappointed we gave up that late goal, but we came back out with an attacking mindset. We stressed the communication and possession aspect, and they came through,” the coach said.
She added that the senior leaders weren’t going to accept not winning. Zeitz and Stovall, both captains, have started since they were freshman.
“We won last year so there was a lot more pressure on us this year,” Zeitz said. “We knew Atherton would be tough, and they are one of our rivals. When they got that goal at the end of the half, it just seemed to give us more energy and we wanted it even more.”
Eastern suffered a pair of blows this week when senior Shannon Ralph broke her hand and junior Anna Applegate needed 16 stiches following an injury. Both were out and left the Lady Eagles shorthanded in the backfield.
Atherton nearly scored with 14:47 left when Harriet Sudduth just missed wide on a shot, but her teammate Annebelle Lein came through two minutes later on a scramble in front of the net for the final goal.
The Lady Rebels had outscored their opponents 25-2 coming into the game and all six wins had been by shutouts. Their two previous losses were by a score of 1-0 to Ballard and Eastern earlier this week in the Apple Tournament pool play.
“People don’t normally think of Eastern as a field hockey power, but I think we showed we can compete on a higher level,” added Zeitz. “Hopefully we showed we can compete against teams that are potential city and state champions.”
Eastern has started the season peppering the opposing goalkeepers with shots and has now outscored their opponents 22-4.
“To my knowledge this is the best start Eastern field hockey has ever had, so we are just thrilled and going to keep building from here,” Carden said.
The all-tournament team included Erin Horton, Stovall, Gerber, and Zeitz of Eastern; Sudduth and Lexi Wingfield of Atherton; Lexi Jarboe of Butler; Zoe Jessie of Holy Cross; Hannah LeBeouf of Male; Rebekah Lewis of North Oldham; Audrey Denham of Presentation; and Avery Periard of South Oldham.