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Knights led by big 'D'

MANCHESTER - The biggest question mark facing Century's field hockey team coming into this season might have been defense.

As in all of it.

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The reigning county champion Knights graduated each of their starters from a year ago, leaving coach Terry Duryea to fill some important roles with new players. So far those players are performing quite well for Century.

The Knights used their lockdown defense to blank host Manchester Valley 2-0 on Wednesday and stay unbeaten in county play.

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Century (8-1-1, 5-0 county) needed only a goal in each half to put away the Mavericks, and the defense made sure one goal was enough to post its ninth shutout.

Junior Maddie Willis, sophomore Madi Hall, and junior Kelsey Harmon teamed with senior goalie Steffie Pfisterer to form a formidable back row. The Knights were particularly stingy whenever Manchester Valley's offense tried to near the cage.

Duryea lost all-county players Jess Curto, Alice Mercer and Emily Richardson to graduation, and only Willis came back this fall with defensive experience. But the addition of several contributors, led by Harmon and Hall, has become a strength in the first half of the season.

The Knights have allowed five goals this year, and four of them came in a season-opening loss to Garrison Forest.

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"We've actually worked on [defense] at every practice," Hall said. "Defense is really important, and we lost a lot of defenders so we're trying to build that back up."

Senior Kailey Wolfe scored in the first half and sophomore Mandi Trostle added another in the second, with Pfisterer making four saves along the way.

Manchester Valley (5-2, 3-2) totaled eight penalty corners but couldn't find its offensive flow. Mavericks goalie Mariah Durrant made five saves and the Mavs had their chances at the other end, said coach Jen Etzel.

But Century's defenders and midfielders seemed to be first to the ball more often than not.

"Offense has been the area that we've struggled with all season," Etzel said. "When you play against a good defense, you have to be on that ball. You have to be aggressive, and you have to be the first one to want it. It's just a matter of putting your body into it and taking control of it."

Etzel said she knows the Mavericks have the talent to do such things - they started 4-0 and outscored the competition 14-2 - but need to be more consistent the rest of the way. Manchester Valley has won the last three Class 1A West regional championships.

Century is also a three-time reigning regional champ (2A West) and if the team defense continues to play like it has, the Knights should be contending for another crown at the end of the month.

"There's always communication back there," Hall said. "If there's something we need to work on we always talk about it. That's huge for us."

Goals: C-Kailey Wolfe, Mandi Trostle.

Assists: C-Sydney Hawes, Sami Bialozynski.

Saves: C-4 (Steffie Pfisterer); MV-5 (Mariah Durrant).

Halftime: Century, 1-0.

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