There is nothing better for a struggling offense than a good meeting between rivals.
Coming into Monday night’s field hockey game, Homer Central had scored two goals and Cortland High had netted a lone tally as both teams entered the game with matching 0-2 OHSL Freedom Division and 0-4 overall records.
So this became an unexpected shoot-out of sorts as the longtime rivals combined for seven goals as the host Trojans posted the 5-2 triumph on Butts Field in Homer.
Cortland came out strong as the Purple Tigers scored twice in the first 10 minutes of play to build a 2-0 advantage. Natalie Gier took a pass from Isabella Rosas and fired the ball between the legs of Trojan goalkeeper Madalyn Mallory for the first goal 3:36 into the contest.
The Purple Tigers kept up the pressure as Rosas delivered a shot that was heading wide of the right post, but hit a Homer defender in the ankle and deflected into the cage for the 2-0 advantage. It was the first goals of the season for Gier and Rosas.
Homer coach McKenna L’Homme-dieu called a timeout to regroup her girls.
“We had a tough set-up to start this season,” L’Hommedieu said. “The anticipation for this game was through the roof. The girls had been talking about this game for weeks. I simply think our heads were too big coming into the game. We thought we were going to dominate and it got to us.
“We didn’t dominate,” she continued. “We weren’t playing our game. That’s basically what I told them. That’s what I saw and I told them so. We weren’t playing our game.”
It was as a switch was thrown at that moment. Homer became the aggressor. They used their speed and quickness and began turning the momentum.
WITH 18 MINUTES left in the half the Trojans got on the board. Alsasce Sanders slid a ball across the goal mouth to Isabelle Case and she swept the ball into the corner and Homer was on the board.
“I am pleased how things went,” Case said. “In seventh grade I played defense, but I didn’t like not being able to score. I started playing forward more and just feel at home there. I have gotten better at sweeping the ball since practice started. I am proud of how I able to get the ball in the goal that way.”
With 13:28 remaining in the half, Sanders collected the ball again and fed a pass to Rachael Osterhoudt for the finish and the game was tied 2-2.
“We were struggling in the beginning,” Osterhoudt said. “Our coach talked to us and our intensity level grew fast. Izzy (Case) did a good job of keeping the ball up high. We were able to get the ball to her and get a lot of shots on goal.”
The Trojans were gaining confidence and Sanders scored a goal of her own with 10:18 showing as Homer took a 3-2 lead.
The last real good scoring chance for Cortland came with 9:10 left in the half when Gier got a shot from point-blank range near the left post, but Madalyn Mallory stood her ground and blocked the shot. Homer was able to clear the ball away to avoid a second scoring chance.
“We beat ourselves up more than the other teams do,” Cortland coach Lisa Caselle said. “Homer worked really hard tonight. that timeout they called really shifted the momentum. Once the other team scores, we start getting down on ourselves. It is something we are still working through as we are trying rebuild the program.
“We are still trying to work on our offense,” she added. “A lot of our stronger players are more midfield and defensive minded. We continue to work on getting the ball to the forward line. We are a small team and I also think people get tired playing different positions throughout the field.”
CASE GOT TWO more shots from close range, but Gibbons stopped both of them and cleared the ball.
With 1:33 left in the half, Sanders was struck in the head with a stick and left the game. Other than a big lump on her head, she remained on the bench to support her teammates, but did not return to the fray.
With 18 seconds to go, Osterhoudt created a scoring chance that drew Gibbons way out of the goal. Osterhoudt got the ball to Case who did a little backhanded sweep shot and found the empty net for a 4-2 Trojan lead.
The second half saw a little more back and forth play with few good scoring chances. Homer was controlling the ball more and forcing the play.
“Our confidence got better as the game continued,” Osterhoudt said. “We grew as a team.”
“We work together a lot,” Case said of working the forward line with Sanders, Macy Boice and her other teammates. “We all have the same goal and it’s all worth it when we get done. The team has really come together and improved every game we have played this season.”
“Izzy had her best game I’ve seen yet,” L’Hommedieu said. “She’s a great player. she is fast and she is confident. She works well with Alsasce, Rachael and Vivienne (Knobel). She had a great game tonight.
“The momentum and positive attitude I’ve been telling the girls about all season paid off tonight,” she added. “Like this game, Macy’s play gets underlooked, but she carries the ball up the field very well. Macy dribbles the ball and dodges people very well and that helped set up a lot of our goals.”
With 4:25 left in the match, the Trojans were pressuring the goal and a penalty stroke was called against Cortland. Osterhoudt took the stroke and lifted the ball into the upper left corner of the cage for the 5-2 final score.
“Most of the time I do good for the upper corner,”Osterhoudt said. “That’s what happened tonight.”
HOMER DOMINATED the final stats with a 21-10 edge in shots and 11-4 advantage in penalty corners. Gibbons did a stellar job with 16 saves. Mallory overcame her shaky start with eight saves and her first win of the season.
Cortland will return to action Wednesday as the Purple Tigers host Cazenovia at 7 p.m. in a division game. Homer will be back in action Friday when Baldwinsville comes to Butts Field for a 5 p.m. non-league contest.