Stroke of luck

MILLERSTOWN – A fresh pair of legs can be a valuable commodity.

On a hot, steamy Tuesday night in Millerstown, fresh legs proved priceless for East Juniata when Makenzie Bishop came off the Tiger bench and delivered the game winning goal for East Juniata in a 2-1, Tri-Valley League field hockey victory over Greenwood.

East Juniata managed the victory despite being outshot 11-6 as most of the game was played on the end of the field East Juniata was defending.

For the Tigers, it was the first win against Greenwood since 2000, when coach Billie Haines, then Rickenbaugh, was a senior on squad and the Juniata County team won the league, the only time it did so across a span of two decades.

“(Bishop) was a fresh pair of legs that was able to sprint up through there and get the ball on the cage,” Haines said of Bishop’s game winner. “She did not let up on the keeper.”

Not until the ball found the back of the cage to put the Tigers up for good with 4:50 to go in the contest, anyway.

The final heroics were fittingly provided by relentless senior defender Hunter Hepner, who cleared a Greenwood corner – the Wildcats’ 16th of the night – that began after time expired. Hepner was a thorn in the Wildcats’ side all night as time after time she managed to swipe the ball and repel Greenwood offensive attacks.

Greenwood skipper Kent Houser, whose team sustained its first loss in the TVL since the 2009 season, summed it up simply: “You have to put the ball in the cage.

“We’re struggling offensively,” he said. “We’re having trouble getting the ball in the right place and trouble finishing.”

“(Hepner) is a good strong player. I’m proud of her,” Haines said. “She’s tough in the backfield, she always seems to get it out every time. I actually wanted her to play center when (Caitlin Hoover) got hurt, but she kept herself in the back and I did not switch her up there. She seems more comfortable playing behind everybody.”

East Juniata senior Serina Spancake started the scoring with a goal just 3:40 into the contest as she put home a feed from junior Jessie Wagner.

The Tigers held the lead to the break despite numerous Greenwood opportunities, including a barrage by the ‘Cats where Tiger keeper Lydia Strawser blocked a pair of rapid fire shot from point blank range. She ended the contest with 10 stops on 11 tries.

Greenwood’s promising sophomore forward, Kelsey Keener, appeared to tie the game early in the second half but that goal was waved off. Two minutes later, Hattie Kuhns hit for an unassisted goal off a penalty corner and the game was knotted at one.

The Wildcats let several golden opportunities to take the lead go by the boards down the stretch before Bishop’s breakaway. They had another four solid scoring chances sail just wide or just over the net.

Greenwood had a potential tying goal float just inches over the top of the goal just inside the three-minute mark and came up empty on a pair of corners in the final 30 seconds.

In a timeout before the first of those corners, Haines reminded her spent team of the possibility of overtime and used that for extra motivation to preventing Greenwood from scoring.

She said the Tigers remained focused on what they had to do.

“Especially the second half, I felt we did play our game,” Haines said. “They took it to our weak side (and because of that) they were able to control the game, but we got a lucky break.

“It wasn’t the best but we will take it.”

East Juniata (3-0, 1-0) travels to Line Mountain Thursday. Greenwood (2-2, 0-1) hosts Lancaster Country Day Thursday.