A fired-up Long Reach field hockey team made Brandi Franks' first-half goal stand up for a 1-0 victory over 14th-ranked River Hill in the Howard County league opener for both teams yesterday at River Hill.
The Lightning (5-1) was the stronger team in the first half and was rewarded by Franks' third goal of the season from just inside the top of the circle with 9:03 remaining.
"I looked up and there was a clear path in front of me," said Franks, a senior and three-year starter. "Their goalie approached the ball but it went through her feet."
Franks said the Lightning came into the game "pumped up" and determined to score first.
"You have to," said Franks about getting the first goal. "It mo-tivates your team and frustrates the opponent."
Long Reach coach Kelly Snyder was pleased with her team's effort.
"I think we controlled the first half," said Snyder, who has four starters back from last year's team that lost in the Class 3A state championship. "We played like we wanted to win."
River Hill (2-3), which upset then-No. 5 Fallston last Friday, had difficulty generating any offense in the first half.
"They were mentally out of it," said River Hill coach Shelly Chamness.
The Hawks played more aggressively in the second half and created scoring opportunities. However, Long Reach's defense, led by sweeper Linda Nguyen and goalie Jessica Robertson, was up to the task.
"River Hill picked it up in the second half and that's when our defense kicked in," Snyder said. "They were phenomenal."
Said Nguyen: "We weren't nervous [in the second half]. There was more pressure, but we were ready for them."
Chamness acknowledged that Long Reach's defense played well, but couldn't help wondering what would have happened if her team hadn't been so tentative at the start.
"I was happy with our play in the second half," Chamness said. "If they had played like that in the first half, it might have been a different game."
The Baltimore Sun accepts nominations for its Athletes of the Week Sundays 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 410-332-6200 or 1-800-829-8000, Ext. 6200.
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