Two of the newest teams to the Michigan High School Field Hockey Association squared off on Saturday morning at Irish Field when the Pinckney Pirates came to FGR to take on the Irish.
FGR (1-0-0) was coming off a 3-0 win on Wednesday over West Bloomfield while Pinckney (0-0-0) was looking to begin their first ever season of field hockey with a win.
Each team came out trying to set the tone for the game which turned out to be up and down the field play. During the first half, Pinckney had several moments where they nearly were able to grab the game lead, but Irish goalkeeper Anna Nalukwago stopped each shot on goal.
The fast pace continued deep into the first 30 minutes when FGR was finally able to capitalize on one of their trip’s into the Pirate circle. Sophomore Molly O’Leary had taken a self-start at midfield, dodged several Pirate defenders, and sent a shot towards the goal from about 25 yards out.
Though the shot was outside the circle, senior Emma Griffith redirected the ball past the Pirate goalie to give the Irish a 1-0 led seven minutes before halftime.
The second half turned out to be much of the same fast paced game as the first half and 4 minutes out of the break, Pinckney found their equalizer when Jenny Booth lofted a ball over Nalukwago’s head into the net to give the Pirates their first goal of the year.
For the next 20 minutes, both teams moved the ball offensively but neither could finish their drives towards the opponent’s goal cage. It was beginning to look as though each side would have to accept a draw as the final result.
That all changed when with just over 6 minutes left in the game, Irish sophomore Caroline Falahee stole a ball from a Pirate player deep in Pinckney territory then moved into the circle and fired a shot that sailed past the Pirate goalkeeper into the back of the goal to give FGR a 2-1 lead.
The Irish were able to thwart several final Pinckney attempts to retie the game and put a cap on their day when Sara Whitaker scored her third goal in the young season, with one second left on the game clock finishing off Pinckney by a 3-1 margin.
“There was a lot of action out on the field with both teams really pushing the ball upfield,” said Richard Coach Craig Flocken. “We knew Pinckney was going to test our athleticism. We were just hoping we could last the full 60 minutes of running up and down the field with their team.”
Flocken likes the way his team showing some fight early in the season.
“The players never got down after the Pirates tied the game back up, though they could have,” he said. “No, they continued to work hard to create opportunities and finally it paid off late in the game when Falahee got that steal and then took her shot from the top of the circle.”
The Irish are slowly finding their groove and showing steady improvement every time they step on the turf.
“We are still trying to figure out who we are as a team but the players are learning and getting better each and every day,” Flocken said. “It is always fun to start the season on a winning streak, but the more important point for the coaching staff is that the players are improving and developing a deeper understanding of the game.”
Gabriel Richard will have the next 12 days off before they head out for their first away game of the season at Regina on Thursday Sept. 7 at 4:30 p.m. The game will also mark the Irish’s first Catholic League game of the year.