Long Reach teams make statement with big wins; Both improve standing with home victories Friday; Field hockey/girls soccer


Last Wednesday, the coaches of Long Reach's field hockey and girls soccer teams got their players together in the gym for a 15-minute talk about the state of girls' athletics at the school.

"Kelly [Snyder] and I both had the same idea," said soccer coach Jennifer Peduzzi. "We talked about how women's teams at the school have to step it up, and that we need to get our name out there."

Apparently, the players listened.

On Friday, both teams earned memorable home victories on fields that rest almost side by side. First, the ninth-ranked Lightning field hockey team defeated 14th-ranked Mount Hebron, 1-0. Roughly 14 minutes later, the Long Reach soccer team completed the sweep with a 1-0 upset of the ninth-ranked Vikings.

Both scores came within minutes of each other. Senior Shannon Woodward put the field hockey team ahead with 11: 32 left to play, and junior Candice Hills gave the soccer team the lead with a goal from 14-feet with 25: 31 remaining.

It's hard to imagine a team wanting to beat another more than Long Reach's field hockey team did against Mount Hebron. But before getting to that, the soccer team's victory was by far the most unexpected win of the day.

"This means more respect," said Kai Freeman, a four-year starter for the soccer team who assisted the winning goal. "People are going to take us seriously and realize we're better than they thought. Our reputation the last three years is history now. We're a new team."

Long Reach (2-3 overall, 1-1 league) was 9-33 overall and 4-23 in the county its first three years. That was a distant memory Friday as the Lightning earned its first victory over a ranked team.

"For three years they kicked our butts and its nice to know that all our hard work has paid off," Freeman said. "Once we started today, it all clicked. Everybody did their job and really worked hard.

"They're a ranked team and we beat the odds. It's a huge win."

Added Peduzzi: "It can be a turning point for us."

Mount Hebron outshot Long Reach, 13-3. In fact, Hills' goal was the last Lightning shot of the game. But the Vikings couldn't get the ball past first-year goalie Melissa Hueman.

"We outplayed them, but sometimes the best team doesn't win," said Mount Hebron senior Katie Elliott. "They're a better team than last year. They've definitely improved."

Said Mount Hebron coach Jonathan Davis about the Lightning: "That team played with a big, big heart."

And Peduzzi wants her team to remember the moment.

"For many of these kids, they've never experienced a huge win like this," said Peduzzi, whose team faces Centennial, another ranked team, on Tuesday. "I told them after the game to remember how it feels."

Now, to field hockey, and a brief history.

In the first five games spanning three seasons between Long Reach and Mount Hebron, the Lightning had scored exactly zero goals.

The Vikings also had eliminated Long Reach in the Class 2A, South Regional finals the last two years, including a heartbreaker last year when the Lightning outplayed its opponent, only to lose in penalty strokes.

That is why Snyder said Mount Hebron has been "in our thoughts year round." And that is also why Snyder drove down Rt. 99 to work every day last week instead of using the faster Rt. 70, her normal route. She wanted to drive by Mount Hebron "to keep them in my thoughts every day."

Snyder said she "had a stomach ache since Monday" thinking about the game. And Friday morning she woke up at 2: 45 a.m. and never went back to sleep.

Mount Hebron (3-4-1, 2-1) may have had a slight edge in the first half, but Long Reach (4-1-1, 1-0-1) dominated the second half.

"We played every minute like it was the last," said Woodward, whose winning goal went off the right pad of goalie Katelyn Hoffman and into the cage. "We deserved this game. We played with our heart."

Said Long Reach senior Bridgette Burkhardt: "The last time against them we were crying because we were sad. This time we're crying because we're happy."

Snyder called the victory an "accomplishment for all their hard work and dedication," and shows the players they "can play with the best."

The Lightning received an exceptional defensive effort by Theresa Heston, and goalie Jaye Lance made an outstanding save with three minutes left when she stopped Mount Hebron's Katie Jeschke on a breakaway.

"The lesson from this is that they should want it that bad for every game," said Snyder, whose team doesn't have to worry about Mount Hebron in the playoffs because the Lightning has moved up to a 3A classification.

"They should have that determination every time they step on the field. That's what good teams do, and that's what we need to do."

Next for Long Reach is another ranked team, Centennial, which scored on five corners in a 6-1 rout of Hammond on Friday.

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