By Kevin Eickman
Things have been a bit difficult for Milford field hockey of late, as they dropped their last two decisions to Caesar Rodney and Delmar. This past Thursday the Buccaneers got back on track as they hosted Sussex Central. The game saw Milford dominate the flow of play as the Bucs gained a first half lead of 1-0 on a goal from senior Emily Sylvester with 17:01 remaining in the stanza. The lead and pace of play were key factors for Milford on the day.
“It was real important for us to come out aggressively today and that is just what we did,” coach Andrea Fleming said. “We are gaining confidence and today was a real indication of that.”
After taking the 1-0 lead into the locker room, Milford continued to dominate the pace of play. Although they enjoyed possession, they found it difficult to score the game’s second goal. The breakthrough finally occurred when sophomore Vanesha Daniels found the back of the net with 14:55 remaining in the contest. The goal was a result of Milford sticking with the game plan and not becoming discouraged when it appeared they should have had more goals to show for their efforts.
“It’s all about the effort that we gave. We knew that if we stayed with it, we would find a way to score and we did,” Fleming stated.
The win leveled Milford’s record at 5-5-1 after they fell below .500 for the first time all season. The Buccaneers’ defense was solid as senior keeper Leah Barnett was forced to make only three saves in the game. While on the opposite end, Milford put 16 shots on target and garnered 14 penalty corners as well. This was a game that Fleming had been waiting for from this mostly young Milford team.
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“This was a really good team win. We had everything we have been working to build, intensity, fire and quick passing. We were moving better in the circle and as a result we had scoring opportunities all game long,” she said.
With more than two-thirds of the season in the books, Milford still finds themselves with an outside spot at the playoffs. While that is always the goal, Milford will have to battle some very tough opponents if they are to qualify for the D-II State tournament. First up for the Bucs will be a visit from perennial powerhouse Cape Henlopen, followed by a visit from a 5-2-2 Indian River squad.
“At this point in the season it’s about wanting it, it’s about being ready to play every day no matter who you are going up against,” commented Fleming. “We need to come out and just put our best effort forward.”
While making the playoffs would be nice, Milford has a large number of underclassmen who have been gaining valuable playing experience. The graph has not been going up all season long but Fleming believes that the younger players on the squad have been improving. “I think we have been doing a good job of building foundational skills with our younger players. Each week you can see them getting a little better as their skills and understanding continue to improve,” Fleming stated.
Milford seniors Darby Brennan, Barnett and Brianna Wells have been crucial to the development of the younger players. When asked about the teams development over the course of the season, Wells left little doubt that the team has been improving. “You can see it every game, you could see it today. We had a couple of hard games coming into this, but everybody stayed positive,” Wells stated. “We still have four games left and I believe we can keep getting better.”
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