The Chesapeake field hockey team went to Arundel yesterday and executed an ideal plan: Get the offense out of the way early and then stay in control.
Erica Sheldon provided the goal in the first five minutes and the Cougars made it stand up, getting to the ball first for most of the first half and then relying on their defense to stifle the Wildcats in the second for a 1-0 win in Gambrills.
After a 1-4 start under first-year coach Tracey Crane, the Cougars have run off three straight wins to even their record at 4-4. The Wildcats, who got started too late yesterday, fell to 5-3 for the season.
"We've been working very hard the last two weeks on finishing, so scoring early on was a big difference for us," Crane said.
The Cougars kept the Wildcats in their end from the start and didn't take long to get their reward. Arryn Prince had a shot go off the cage, and she followed it up with a ball in front that squirted past Arundel keeper Jessica Sinkule to Sheldon, who finished it off for the 1-0 lead.
"Arryn put it right on the post and I thought it actually was in, but it went right through the keeper's pads and I was right there to put it in," Sheldon said. "It relaxes you. When we got that goal, I was more like, 'OK, we can just hold them, and if we score another that's great, but if not, we'll have that one goal to ensure the win."
Sinkule kept the Wildcats in range, with six of her nine saves coming in a busy first half, including a glove save on a high penalty stroke by Chesapeake's Mandy Bathras midway through.
The Wildcats regrouped, anticipated better in the second half and created some scoring chances, but couldn't find the equalizing goal. Ashley Snyder got off two shots in the final three minutes, but Chesapeake goalkeeper Maria Schrum (four saves) easily turned both aside.
Arundel coach Clint Gosnell was pleased with the second-half adjustments that gave the Wildcats a chance, but had a list of things to work on to improve.
"We need to anticipate where the ball is going to go when we don't have it, running onto the ball, making better passes and being more intense inside the circle," he said. "Against good teams that have good defense, you're not going to get a whole lot of chances, so we've got to make them count."