Both Barker and Roy-Hart entered the season as the two favorites to win the Niagara-Orleans league; it couldn’t have been more fitting that the two teams concluded their league play by going head-to-head with the N-O league title on the line.
Both teams entered tonight’s contest with a 10-1 league record; Barker’s loss came to Akron early in the year, Roy-Hart’s only blemish was a 2-1 decision with Barker in September.
Tonight’s bout between the top-2 teams ultimately proved to be another defensive battle more than anything else; neither team was able to generate many offensive opportunities in the first half thanks to great defensive play from both sides.
“We talked yesterday in practice and again today during pregame, and again at halftime, that it may only take one shot to be a hero today,” said Barker coach Jeff Costello.
The team took that to heart and kicked off the second half with a flurry of offensive pressure. It was Freshman Kaedynce Schumacher who took the shot the team was hoping for, ultimately netting the game winner just two minutes into the second half.
However, the game was far from over.
Costello knew his squad was going up against the best defense in the league; a 1-goal lead, although a relief, was hardly satisfying.
The Lady Raiders continued to apply heavy pressure, controlling play in and around midfield until the 10-minute mark when a crack began to open in the Barker defense.
Roy-Hart took advantage and began winning the 1-on-1 battles.
Barker Field Hockey narrowly escapes Roy-Hart with 1-0 victory to claim the N-O League Championship and #1 seed in the Class C Playoffs.@LadyRaidersFH pic.twitter.com/GvGPmJsYfv
— WNY Athletics (@WNYAthletics) October 16, 2018
By the 5-minute mark, play had completely left the Roy-Hart side; the Lady Rams proceeded to release all of the offense they could muster in hopes of sending the game to OT.
The team was able to generate a few corners and offensive opportunities, but unfortunately for the Lady Rams, the Barker defense was able to stand strong and outlast the pressure, much in the same way September’s game ended.
“Natalie Bruning had her finest game of the season at the most critical time. Madison (Gancasz) and Natalie didn’t score, but they defended well and had numerous great plays for us. They helped us win that game in so many other areas.
I’m so happy for our entire team and the effort we got from everyone. ‘Total team win’ is cliché, but this team was full of individuals tonight who stepped up to play an incredible game.
It was our players who don’t get as much recognition that really elevated their level today. Everyone truly did a great job!”
With tonight’s victory, Barker has repeated as N-O League Champions and will carry the #1 seed into the Class C playoffs. They’ll host Newfane in the first round on Monday.
Roy-Hart finishes 2nd in the league and will carry the same seed into playoffs. They will kick off their post-season when they host Holland on Monday.
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