By Kevin Eickman
Last season was a tough one for Milford field hockey. Forced to play a large number of underclassmen, the Bucs struggled to a 5-10 record. The one positive that coach Andrea Fleming took out of it at the time was the valuable experience that her players were gaining. While it is early in the season, the results to this point have been very encouraging. “The experience that we gained last season is paying off for us, we are a much better team than we were last year,” Fleming stated.
This past Thursday, Milford hosted Polytech in a game that the Bucs lost last season by a score of 7-1. On a rainy day, this young Buccaneers squad gave the visiting Panthers all they could handle. During the first half of the game Milford continually pressed the issue, producing constant pressure and demonstrating just how far they have come. Time and again in the opening half, Milford earned corner chances, unfortunately they were unable to convert any of them.
On a strange play in the first half, Tech was able to score as a Milford defender fell allowing a chance that the Panthers did not miss. From that point forward, Milford did not allow another goal. Starting the second half trailing 1-0, Milford was faced with the task of trying to come back against the undefeated Panthers. Milford was able to play solid defense in the second half, but they simply could not maintain any solid possession on the offensive side of the ball. With time becoming a factor, it looked as if Milford would not seriously challenge Tech again.
Finally in the closing minutes of the game, the Buccaneers began to apply some pressure. With the clock winding down the sense of urgency was evident and the question became, would Milford be able to create and convert a scoring opportunity. With less than 10 seconds left, Milford created the scoring chance they had been seeking, creating a corner with no time left on the clock. Milford passed in from the corner and let go with a blistering shot towards the Tech goal. The ball was slightly deflected and passed just a foot or so to the right of the Panther goal. While Milford had not managed to tie the game, they most assuredly took another step in their development. “The second half was very tough for us, it was a real challenge for this team,” Fleming said. “The fact that we were able to dig down and almost score a huge goal like that is big, it shows that this team won’t quit.”
Milford now stands at 4-2 and will be trying to find their way back into the DIAA State Tournament, after last season’s disappointment. Make no mistake about it, this is a team that has just five seniors on it and their underclassmen look to be key components, both now and in the future. “The playing experience our younger players got last year was huge,” Fleming stated. “This has the potential to be a very special group of players, especially with the work ethic that they possess.”