MADISON >> On Tuesday, the Hand field hockey team dominated Southern Connecticut Conference rival Cheshire in ball possession, the Tigers had 21 penalty corners to Rams’ four and the Tigers outshot the Rams 27-11. But the difference in the game was the Rams’ stifling defense.
Sophomore goalie Alyssa Stevens had 25 saves and Erica Stauffer and Kya O’Donnell each had a goal and an assist to lead Cheshire to a 3-2 win over Hand at Hand High’s turf field
“We were dominated on the field tonight and we knew it,” Cheshire coach Eileen Gallagher said. “We have a little less experience coming back this season and that inexperience was evident. But the teamwork is there and their skills will develop as the season goes on. What they lack in experience they make up with heart and muscle.
“When we went ahead 3-0 that worked a little against us because I saw a little complacency after that third goal. If you sit for one second Hand will be all over you. The difference for us was our defense. Alyssa had a great game.”
The Rams’ defense was led by Caroline Hague, Maggie O’Reilly and Mikayla Crieger. The win improves the Rams to 2-1-1 and Gallagher’s career record improves to 99-22-3-2. She goes for No. 100 on Friday when Cheshire hosts Sheehan at 3:45 p.m.
In the first half, Stauffer gave the Rams a 1-0 lead with 25:51 left.
Hand’s Hannah Leckey, Hand coach Sue Leckey’s daughter, had a chance to get the equalizer with a penalty stroke opportunity with 23:59 left in the half. But her shot went wide left
Sara Como would pad the Rams’ lead with a goal on the Rams’ second penalty corner of the game with 18:38 remaining in the half. Her shot from in front of the right post made it 2-0.
Hand (2-1) continued to pressure Stevens in the second half but the Rams made their first shot on goal in the second half count. Kya O’Donnell received a pass from Stauffer in front of the net and one-timed a shot into the lower right corner to give the Rams a 3-0 lead with 24:52 left in the game.
The Tigers didn’t let up and Leckey’s hard shot from about six feet in front of Stevens cut the lead to 3-1 with 22:41 to go. The Tigers were awarded another penalty stroke with 15:45 to go and Erin Mammele’s blazing shot rolled under Stevens’ glove to cut the lead to 3-2.
“Hand is a really good team and they had a ton of penalty corners,” Stevens said. “I guessed wrong on the penalty stroke, I thought she would shoot right and she shot left. But the bottom line is our defense played great. Mikayla Crieger really saved me and blocked a shot in the second half that looked like it was going to go in.”
Hand coach Leckey said her team’s missed opportunities were the result of inexperience on her team.
“It’s early in the season and we’re still learning,” Leckey said. “We took some great shots that didn’t go in because of their goalie but we probably blew 5-6 opportunities we had during the penalty corners.
“Tonight Cheshire had some good defensive sticks and their goalie was very good.”
Cheshire 3, Hand 2
Cheshire 2 1 — 3
Hand 0 2 — 2
First half—C: Erica Stauffer (Kya O’Donnell) 25:51; C: Sara Como (Maggie O’Reilly) 18:38.
Second half—C: O’Donnell (Stauffer) 24:52; H: Hannah Leckey (Samantha Pavano) 22:41; H: Erin Mammele (penalty stroke) 15:45.
Shots on Goal: C 11; H 27.
Saves—C: Alyssa Stevens 25; H: Mel Rennie 8;
Team records—Cheshire 2-1-1; Hand 2-1.