November 3, 2010
Late tally saves Marathon’s day
MARATHON – It may be her first time facing the pressure of Section 4 tournament field hockey play, but Marathon Central’s Shelby Underwood stepped up like a veteran.
The sophomore forward scored the game-winning goal with 2:06 remaining to send the third-seeded Olympians back to the Class C Championship game after a 2-1 victory over seventh-seed Harpursville Tuesday at Appleby Elementary School.
Marathon (13-5 overall) will face top-seed Whitney Point (17-1) — a 4-0 winner over fourth-seed Afton — in Saturday’s 3 p.m. title tilt in Greene.
Underwood scored the winning goal, her second of the game, after taking a nice pass from Margaret Thon off a restart. She spun around before firing home her 24th goal of the season.
“I’m getting use to spinning around and shooting,” Underwood said. “I’ve scored a few goals that way this season.
“It’s been a great experience as I learned during the regular season,” she added. “I’m glad I’m able to help out in the past season.”
“We been working with Shelby on her shoulder turn,” Marathon coach Karen Funk said. “She would shoot the ball wide by not turning enough and facing the goal at the beginning of the season. She’s worked at getting to the ball better and really does go after it now.”
Marathon started with a good opening flurry and put pressure on Harpursville (11-7), but could not get a shot off. The Hornets countered and took a 1-0 lead 7:37 into the match off a penalty corner. The ball came to Mckenzie Townsend and she slid the ball to Amanda Frayer for the solid stroke into the cage. It would be the only ball to elude Marathon goalkeeper Samantha McMahon who wound up with eight saves, seven of them in the first half.
“We hesitated early in the game and Harpursville went hard to the ball,” Funk said. “We knew Harpursville would be tough. They played a tough schedule like us. With them coming down and scoring that first goal off a penalty corner was a wake-up call for us. We could not finish in the circle in the beginning of the game.”
THE HORNETS KEPT up the pressure in the and earned four penalty corners in a five-minute span near the midway point of the first half. Only once was McMahon seriously challenged in the segment and she made the save.
Two minutes after that surge, Marathon tied the game up. Amanda Horton brought the ball into the circle to the left of goalkeeper Ashley Hall. Horton’s initial shot was stopped by Horton (13 saves), but the ball rebounded to Underwood. She passed the ball back to Horton and broke towards the far post. Horton gave her a nice return pass on the give-and-go and Underwood tapped the ball into the corner of the cage with 14:34 remaining in the half.
“Ashley and I have worked the give-and-go play well a few of times this year,” Underwood stated.
Marathon got two penalty corners in the final three minutes and generated a couple of shots that Hall blocked.
Neither team did much in the first 10 minutes of the second half as play was end-to-end with no shots and just one penalty corner for the Olympians.
“We really had a bit of a lapse to begin the second half,” Funk explained. “We were really playing the game in a not-to-lose mode. We began playing to win in the final 10 minutes.”
After a couple of shots were saved by Hall, Marathon earned a crucial penalty corner with 10:25 remaining and nearly took the lead during this opportunity. The Olympians earned a penalty corner and Horton inserted the ball to begin the play. Tatum Knapp took a hard shot, but Hall made the save. The rebound came back to Knapp for a second shot and again Hall made the stop. The ball trickled away as Hall dove to her right. Horton got one last poke at the ball before the ball glance off Hall and went over the end line. Marathon got a long hit and Ashley Lincoln would push the ball wide past the right post at the end of the play.
Underwood got another chance to break to 1-1 tie with 3:40 to go, but her shot went right of the cage. She cashed in 1:34 later for the Olympians.
HARPURSVILLE PUT together one final push in the final two minutes of play and got a penalty corner with 1:35 remaining. The Hornets able a lot of pressure, but the Olympians were able to clear the ball out of the circle and, later, cleared the ball down the field with less than 45 second to go. The Hornets never got back to the circle again.
“It wasn’t easy,” Funk said with a wry smile watching that final sequence for Harpursville. “Ashton Hawks is another one of our sophomores out there like Shelby and Amanda. She did a great job at sweeper and worked hard to clear that ball from the circle in the final minute.”
Harpursville’s first-year coach Kaelyn Shannon was pleased with her team’s effort.
“Marathon did come out strong at the beginning of the game, but getting that first goal really got us going,” Shannon said. “We played a number of tough games against tough teams this season. That helped us out today. That kept us up all season long and kept us going and being able to reach the semifinals. I’m so proud of these girls.”
Marathon will return to the Section 4 title game for the fifth straight year and 11th time in the past 12 seasons. The Olympians posted 2-1 win over Whitney Point in the 2009 championship game at Vestal en route to state title number nine.
“The girls have worked hard all season long,” Funk said. “I am satisfied with what we have accomplished so far and I am glad we had a tough semifinal game. That can only help us in the finals.”
For Underwood, it’s another stop for the team’s leading scorer.
“I am just a sophomore and have learned so much in my first varsity season,” she said. “This is a huge experience for me.”
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