Field Hockey: Haverford’s rolling…to a Central League title?

Two-time All-Delco Jess McCarthy, seen here setting up a Morgan Druce goal in a 3-1 win over Radnor, is one of the big reasons why Haverford is rolling with Central League aspirations. 

TIMES STAFF/COLIN KERRIGAN

HAVERFORD – Take 10 minutes and try to decipher the muddled group that makes up the top of the Central League standings.

When that doesn’t work, consider the fact that most of those teams haven’t played each other yet, and throw in the fact that there’s a solid chance at a “A beat B, B beat C, C beat D, D beat A, etc…” scenario, and it’s not hard to see that we won’t know who the Central League champion is until probably the very last game of the year.

Strath Haven and its ridiculously stingy defense sits atop the league for the time being, but there are still lingering dates with Conestoga and Haverford, among others. The Pioneers, who were stunned by an upstart Radnor team Tuesday, can still bounce back against the Panthers, Garnet Valley, and the Fords. The Jaguars have a victory over Haverford, a loss to the Panthers, and a meeting with Conestoga on the books. The Fords still have to take on Conestoga and Strath Haven.

Got all that? Me neither. But under the Panthers, it’s a big melee for the No. 2 spot. Conestoga, Garnet Valley and Haverford all have one league loss, so it just might come down to whichever team hits its peak at the right time.

After taking in the Fords’ 3-1 win over Radnor Thursday, it’s hard to see them not stringing together a couple more wins and vaulting themselves into the No. 1 spot soon. After downing the Red Raiders, Haverford has back-to-back wins and six out of the past seven, and after a tough start to the year, it seems like the Fords are finally firing on all cylinders.

“I just think our team is so close-knit, we kind of know where each other are, so we’ve just gotten closer and definitely stepped it up in the past few games, and we just want to win,” midfielder Morgan Druce said.

I took in the Fords’ second game of the year, an 8-0 loss to Notre Dame, and came away shocked at the ease with which the Irish manhandled the Fords. Haverford looked flat out of the gate and never recovered from a few early ND goals. The Fords appeared uncomfortable with each other, a little bit out of sync, and definitely not the team that I expected to see. Thursday, though, a stark difference was as clear as could be. Although Radnor isn’t quite on the Irish’s level,  Haverford came storming out of the gate, pelting Red Raiders goalie Emily Snowden right out of the gate and never letting her take a break. While Snowden performed admirably with 22 saves, including several in-close attempts, it was only a matter of time before the dam broke. She yielded a blast of a shot from two-time All-Delco Jess McCarthy, and after making a pair of saves, couldn’t stop Druce’s deflection of a McCarthy shot. By the time the half ended, Radnor found itself on the wrong end of a 2-0 deficit, a 16-1 shot deficit, and behind in the corner battle by a 6-2 margin.

“I think that them beating Conestoga just pushed us even harder,” Druce said. “We lost to Conestoga last year, that was our big loss, so I think that really pushed us through. We wanted to beat this team to show that we’re still in this and we have a chance in the Central League.”

For the Fords, McCarthy gets the headlines because she’s the one giving goalies fits, but Haverford has an impressive defensive backline, too. Gillian Ross, Hannah Beck and Kim Carden had a tough matchup going up against players like Caroline CunninghamLydia Sydnor and Sydney Cowles, but the Fords performed admirably. That backline against, oh, I don’t know, Conestoga’s offense should prove to be an intriguing matchup. Carden admitted that the preseason expectations placed additional pressure on the Fords, but feels that her team has bounced back nicely from a tough start. 

“Coming into the season, there was a lot of expectations for Haverford, and we felt the weight on our shoulders, but I felt like it took the first couple games to really get to know each other better as a team,” Carden said. ” We lost some people last year, but now we’re coming out from the start. As soon as the whistle blows, we’re showing what we’ve got and we’re rolling with it.”

For Radnor, though, Snowden and Charlotte Posauner also really stood out. Posauner is a feisty player who mixes it up with anyone, but she also has the skill to move the ball up the field well and generate scoring opportunities for Radnor. She was instrumental in that upset of the Pioneers with two assists and a strong defensive game, and it’s easy to see why coach Angel DiRocco is so high on her. Snowden is an interesting story, too. Not too many players get the opportunity to commit to a college before they’re a varsity starter, but that’s the case with Snowden. She backed up two-time All-Delco Madi Shutt up until this year, and she’s seized the opportunity to become a starter after committing to Vermont. Of her 22 saves, perhaps none were more impressive than when she robbed Rosie Coogan on a 2-on-0 with McCarthy. Snowden appeared fooled at McCarthy’s first move, but had the athleticism to get back into position to make a save on Coogan.

“…I knew that this year was going to be my time to play for Radnor, and Madi taught me so much last year and I’m glad I can play this year, but I knew I had to be ready,” said Snowden, who boasts 102 saves and an 81.6 percent save percentage to her name. “(Shutt) was just so consistent. Consistency was the biggest thing. Watching her and seeing the way she moved and her consistency, it was great.”

So how does a player who didn’t start on varsity get a look from UVM? For one, Snowden credited her club teams in X-Calibur and W.C. Eagles for the help, and realized that she wasn’t even sure if she’d play collegiately a few years ago.

“I really broke into (the recruiting process) as a junior,” Snowden said. “Most girls really have an idea where they’re going in the beginning of junior year. I had no idea until end of junior year where I even wanted to go. It was all about the club. It was my one-on-one coaching with (goalie coach) Steve (Watson), and it was really deciding that I wanted to do it. I went to Festival last year, I played indoor for W.C. If you want to play in college, there’s ways to do it without having to play varsity.”

Clearly. Before she gets to Burlington, though, Snowden would undoubtedly like to add to Radnor’s W column.

– MATT CHANDIK

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