Good signs for Lady Chucks despite loss
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Despite suffering a 3-0 loss at the hands of the DuBois Lady Beavers Monday afternoon in Punxsutawney, the Lady Chucks' soccer team was upbeat and positive about its performance after the game, and Punxsy head coach Kevin Hughes said he was "ecstatic" at the way his team played.
"I'm really excited about the way the girls played tonight," he said. "Even though we lost, I'm pretty excited with what I saw. It's been a rough season, but I'm definitely not ready to give up any games after the way we played.
"I'm just ecstatic because there were times maybe only three girls on the field had ever played soccer before this year, so that was a great performance for us."
The game started out a defensive battle with very few scoring opportunities on either end for the first 10 minutes.
The teams were exchanging possessions, but neither came within 20 yards of the opponent's net before the defense gained possession.
In the 11th minute of the first half, Punxsy threatened when Marissa McGuire made an impressive run down the sideline, but DuBois' defense stepped up again and cleared the ball.
In the 14th minute, DuBois put the first shot on goal when sophomore mid-fielder Brie Hughes pushed a ball toward the net, but Punxsy keeper Aly Dickey stopped the shot easily.
In the next minute, the Lady Beavers threatened twice more, but on each occasion, Dickey's aggressive play stopped DuBois before it could put a shot on goal.
Punxsy's first shot on the cage came in the 19th minute, when Allison Fye forced a shot on cage, but after a deflection, DuBois keeper Casey Wilcox beat Punxsy's Hunter Smith to the ball.
Punxsy kept the pressure on and in the next five minutes two more scoring opportunities arose. First, Kelsey Young led Emily Horner to the corner on a rush, but the ball was de- flected out off Punxsy.
Then, Smith led Young to a scoring opportunity of her own, but Wilcox barely beat Young to the ball to make the save.
The teams exchanged scoring opportunities until the 38th minute, and each defense looked as if it would hold the shutout until halftime, but with two minutes remaining in the half, DuBois' Jordan Ball launched a ball toward the Punxsy net.
Dickey came out to challenge again, but couldn't quite reach the ball before it landed, and the ball took a high hop over her head and bounced into the net to give DuBois a 1-0 lead.
Punxsy came out firing with pressure to start the second half, and on two occasions in the first six minutes, it seemed the Lady Chucks might put a ball in DuBois' net, but both opportunities were thwarted by the Lady Beavers' strong defensive corps.
In the ninth minute of the second half, Hughes gave DuBois a 2-0 lead after a shot on goal seeped through Dickey's hands and popped free to Hughes, who was in perfect position to finish.
In the next minute, Emily Holben moved the lead to three goals after barely beating Dickey to a loose ball.
After the two quick goals, the Lady Chucks didn't roll over, and they turned the intensity back up.
"I think they were a little deflated by those goals, because they knew they shouldn't have happened," coach Hughes said. "But they also know Aly's a newer goal keeper who hasn't played much back there, and she's doing really well back there for us. If she really wants to learn that position, she's going to be incredible. She just needed to come and play those long shots before they land, but we'll keep working on that."
Punxsy was able to apply pressure to DuBois and run up some shots on goal, but the Lady Beavers held the fort and preserved their shutout with every Punxsy scoring opportunity.
Several of Punxsy's opportunities came from a skill the Lady Chucks have been working on lately — using the sidelines as a place to push the ball and go get it — and Hughes said he saw some improvement in that area, but Punxsy still needs to perfect it.
"We still have some issues where we sent it to the wing, and we're putting such a steep angle on it that our wing doesn't have time to get there," he said. "Especially when their defense is up, we need to work on that."
The other area he said Punxsy could still improve is its shooting.
"Our shooting is something we can keep working on," he said. "There is also an element of luck, though, and we certainly haven't been on the lucky end of any of those situations when the ball is bouncing around inside the six and we can't finish it off."
Overall, though, Hughes saw many more positives than negatives in his team's play.
"I don't know what got into them, but they played the full 80 minutes, and I was able to move girls into positions that prior to tonight, I wasn't really comfortable with," he said. "Marissa McGuire and Rachael Litak both played very well up front. They've had pretty good touches, Rachel especially, but she's a little shy in the speed department, so it's all about control. She passed when she needed to pass and kept when she needed to keep."
Perhaps the most promising thing, though, is that his team was able to rack up shots on goal without one of its most aggressive forwards — Sierra Milton — in the lineup.
"We didn't have Sierra here due to an illness, and I think we had more shots on goal this game than we have had possibly all season," Hughes said. "That was good to see."
The Lady Chucks hope to roll with their momentum into today's game at Elk County Catholic.