Field Hockey: Garnet Valley on the hunt for a title

Garnet Valley goalie Hailey Valerio is a big reason why the Jaguars are a Central League favorite. TIMES STAFF/JULIA WILKINSON

Garnet Valley goalie Hailey Valerio is a big reason why the Jaguars are a Central League favorite.
TIMES STAFF/JULIA WILKINSON

Just because it’s true doesn’t make it easy to believe.

Oddly enough, Garnet Valley has never won the Central League before. Granted, the Jaguars haven’t been in the league that often, but at the same time, it stands to reason that they would have been able to snare one title.

Nope, not a single one. But in a thrilling 4-3 win over Central Bucks East Tuesday night, Garnet Valley showed off the skills that have many wondering if this is the year the title-less streak ends … and also provided coach Erin Fidler with a lot of teachable moments.

That win came after the Jaguars knocked off Unionville, last year’s No. 4 seed in the District One tournament, 3-2 in their season opener. So yes, there’s a good amount of early momentum riding with Garnet Valley.

“This is really big for us. I think it boosts our confidence a lot because they were a tough team,” back Alison Amen said. “I think it will help us in the future.”

Garnet Valley coach Erin Fidler was a little bit nervous before her team sealed a 4-3 win over Central Bucks East. TIMES STAFF/JULIA WILKINSON

Garnet Valley coach Erin Fidler was a little bit nervous before her team sealed a 4-3 win over Central Bucks East.
TIMES STAFF/JULIA WILKINSON

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For a while, it looked like Garnet Valley would blow the game open with its constant pressure. The Jaguars put consistent pressure on the Patriots and opened up a 3-1 lead when Molly Savage tapped in a Dana Davis pass and Brittany Talley zipped a shot home less than a minute apart.

Shortly thereafter, it was 3-3 because a pair of defensive breakdowns, but Katie Keyser buried her second goal of the game to make sure the Jaguars walked away winners.

Keyser has already ranked as one of the county’s elite players of the past two seasons, but she looks even better this year. Her long speed has never been in question. You’re simply not catching her in the open field. But she seems a half-step quicker and also stronger and more confident.

She was a dynamic offensive force for the Jaguars and will be a threat to score 30 goals and she has a very clear No. 1 when it comes to recruiting.

“I have an application to Stanford,” Keyser said. “I’m looking to send it in within the next week or two, so I’ll know, like, 10 days after that. I’m talking to Lehigh and Villanova, so those are my other two.”

But Stanford is the leader?

“By far. If I get in, I have to go there,” Keyser said.

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One player that stood out at her new position was new Temple verbal commitment Jessika Daniels. All Daniels was asked to do was to take over for two-time All-Delco Eleanor Kirby, who was an all-purpose machine for the Jaguars over the past few years.

Daniels, though, did well. She covers a lot of ground and is a smart player who can efficiently transition from offense to defense, and her and Amen are the backbone of Fidler’s defense in front of goalie Hailey Valerio.

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It’s been well-documented in this space that I believe Valerio is a top-notch goalie. Her athleticism is second to none. She made an incredible cross-crease diving save in the second half that elicited oohs and aahs from the crowd and the talent is far from the issue with Valerio.

The one drawback that jumps out is that she can be a tad inconsistent and will counter an unbelievable save with a goal that she probably should have had. At the same time, she’s working with some new players in front of her – GV also lost second-team All-Delco defender Giulz Antignani to Kent State – which can be tough to adapt to, and showed last year that she comes on strong down the stretch. When she’s on, she is nearly unbeatable, and the odds are good that she will be at her peak when Garnet Valley needs her the most. Lafayette coaches were there Tuesday night and Penn has also expressed interest. It’s not hard to see why.

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The best way to describe the Jaguars? Ridiculously athletic. There’s no shortage of team speed and I’d have to guess that they are the fastest team in the league. They also only have one sophomore on the team in backup goalie Paige Lawton. With experience and athleticism in spades, it’s not hard to see why the Jaguars have been a favorite of several area coaches to win the Central League.

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