After falling behind to begin the game, a furious Falcons comeback ended just short as the Grove fell 4-3 to visiting Octorara. The Braves utilized an up-tempo attack to put Pottsgrove in a hole, then rode an aggressive and rangy defense to hold on for the win.
Pottsgrove seemed too leery of the ball to open the game. Trigger shy play and non-authoritative passing aided Octorara's attack.
"We started a bit flat in the first half," said Falcons head coach Steve Mellor. "They put us under a good deal of pressure."
That pressure paid off quickly, as Octorara struck first on a goal from Tyisha White. White was disruptive all game for the Falcons defense, constantly crashing to the ball and putting heat on Grove goalkeeper Allie Neel. Well placed crosses and control of the midfield line kept the Maroon and White backed in to their own end. When the Falcons did manage to get past midfield, they were plagued by misfires -- such as a Hannah Steffenino shot that barely caromed off the top bar -- and Octorara keeper Courtney Lunestre's active play. Not afraid to control the box, Lunestre frequently came out to snuff runs before they could develop into shot attempts. With a tall, athletic defense in front of her and constant pressure from the attack, the Braves turned the first into a half field game.
"They were ready to play," Mellor said. "They were getting the ball wide and ripping it in, and we just looked like we weren't ready to play."
Caitlyn Miller beat Neel from outside the box to put the visitors up by two before Pottsgrove finally got on the board. Apparently not content to score solely on Neel, the Brave's own defenders knocked in a Grove corner kick to put the Falcons in the game. They would respond immediately, however, as Devin Tiel found the net on a beautiful cross, making the lead 3-1 at intermission.
Despite the score the Falcons played strong individual defense, particularly from Kylie Yuchimiuk. Molly Chiodo also had a potential goal saving play, managing to stab a foot in and disrupt the dribble to stop a clean Octorara break at the end of the half.
"I had a talk with them at halftime," Mellor said. "The second half was a lot better effort and we were able to get some chances on goal."
The Grove came on like gangbusters in the second, as Tori Coyle keyed up a shot to close the gap to one shortly after the whistle. Coyle took a pass from Steffenino before maneuvering past no less than three Braves on her way to the goal. After shaking off the Red and White Coyle buried one to spark the Falcons.
"I'm looking for her to get us going," Mellor said. "A little bit more pressure up top, and doing what she did. She can get a solo run and finish."
Buoyed by the individual effort, Pottsgrove began to look alive on both sides of the ball, playing more evenly with Octorara. But the Braves battled back, as Tiel scored her second goal of the game. After an indirect kick opportunity by Steffenino fell short, the Grove had one more shot left in it, a header from Krissy Antonio off of an Amy Defnet corner kick. It was too little too late; time ran out on the comeback.
Mellor attributed the sluggish, timid start to a reconfigured line up.
"We brought up some girls from JV to get a run in at the varsity level," Mellor said. "Since we have a big game tomorrow with Phoenixville, I wanted to rest some of my starters and give some of the other girls some minutes."
Mellor and the Falcons must look pass the loss with a critical conference clash baring down upon them.
"It kind of determines if we're still in the hunt for the top two in the division," Mellor said. "We need a (win)."
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