In its penultimate game of the field hockey regular season, Lower Dauphin ran into a spirited bunch of Mustangs from Elliottsburg.
In fact, the homestanding Falcons needed a big second half effort to turn back pesky West Perry, 3-2, at Kreiser Hallman Field on Oct. 18.
The big push came after West Perry — coming in as the No. 4 squad in District 3 Class A and acting every bit the postseason contender in its class and beyond — scored early in the third period to knot the contest at 2.
Lower Dauphin, trifling on the ball at times despite dominating possession while being expertly defensed on its attack corners, ratcheted up the pressure after losing the lead for the remainder of the third quarter and into the final stanza.
The Falcons finally hit pay dirt for the win when Emmy McCulley found the back of cage from the lower left-hand side of the circle, off a feed from Alexa Lehman, to give LD that 3-2 edge with 12:24 to play. Solid defense the rest of the way saw it through.
“It was just a good moment, because I felt like the whole game (to that point), we were kind of slow,” McCulley said. “We picked it up toward the end, so that moment felt like a big pick-up for us.
“(Lehman) passed it over. It was kind of bouncy and I just hit it. It went off a (West Perry) stick and in.”
LD outshot West Perry 13-1 after break, 21-6 for the game. The Falcons had an 11-6 advantage in corners, with seven of those coming in the second half.
It was not an easy outing for the home side. LD head coach Linda Kreiser — having recently returned from South Africa, where she played for the US Masters squad at the world championships — was effusive in her praise for the Mustangs.
“They are athletic, they’re strong and they have a number of players who’ll be playing college hockey,” Kreiser said. “We knew this was going to be a tough game, because a lot the girls know each other through playing club hockey. West Perry was very excited to play us and they played very well.
“We played well in the midfield; it was our circle play that broke down. But I have to give West Perry credit. Their circle defense was strong.”
Katelyn Strawser pocketed LD’s other two markers. Her first came 7:32 into the game, a deflection off an Avery Pollock howitzer, to give the Falcons the early lead. Pollock was all over the field for 60 minutes, generating chance after chance.
After West Perry tied the game at 1 late in the first quarter with a three-shot flurry during one of its few effective forays into the attack circle, Strawser restored the lead, at 2-1, on a backhander with 3:41 left to play in the half.
West Perry’s Jordan Byers scored with 10:30 left in the third quarter to equalize. But LD’s rising temperature at both ends, in response, made that the only shot on goal the rest of the way for the Mustangs.
LD remains at No. 4 in the D3 3A power rankings following the result, just behind Manheim Township. The Falcons close the regular slate Thursday night at home against Selinsgrove.