As a general rule, Skidmore College field hockey coach Beth Hallenbeck says she likes to see offensive and defensive balance from the Thoroughbreds. In today's season opener with Castleton State, she got that balance.
Sparked by three goals and two assists from forward Kelly Blackhurst, Skidmore recorded a 7-2 victory Friday over the Spartans at Thoroughbred Field.
At the same time, the season opening victory had a little good news and slightly bad news for Hallenbeck.
"It's not every coach that's still disappointed when we're winning by that margin, but we have a lot of high expectations," she said. "We want to clamp down, making sure we're doing better defensively and taking advantage of our opportunities on attack."
The Thoroughbreds did take advantage on the attack, taking a 1-0 lead at the 31:21 mark of the first half on Blackhurst's first goal of the game, coming on a Molly Gile assist. Skidmore took a 2-0 lead on a Sam Skott goal with 7:17 left before intermission and got what would prove to be the game winner just over two minutes into the second half on Blackhurst's second goal.
"Even though we did win, it's disappointing because we let in two goals," Blackhurst says. "And we weren’t strong at some points defensively, but many people up front were scoring, which is great."
Castleton State got on the board at 31:11 of the second stanza, but two straight Skidmore goals created a 5-1 margin with 21:59 left in the game. Following a Spartan goal from Rachel Preusser, Skidmore got goals from Hillary Cranston, the first of her career, and Dani DeGregory finished the scoring.
"I was hoping to have this one tighter," Castleton coach Tammy Landon says. "They're eighth in the country for a reason and this is one of the toughest teams on our schedule."
On the occasion when Castleton mounted a serious scoring threat, the Skidmore goal keeper was equal to the task.
For the game, Saratoga Springs native and Thoroughbred keeper Haley McDougall collected 7 saves. Spartan keeper Heather Ploof collected 11 saves.
"I must say the score could have been closer, but their goal keeper made a couple of really fantastic saves," Landon says. "We did a great job creating a couple of good fast break opportunities and I must say she was really outstanding and shut us down."
Adding to the offense for Skidmore were goals from Skott with a second goal and Blackhurst with her third. Contributing assists were Anna Wahl, Shannon Sebor and Ceilidh MacNeill.
Overall, the bottom line is Hallenbeck was happy with the win.
"It's a work in progress, but it was nice to see some contributions from some other forwards and some of the younger players," she said. "So I'm happy with it."
Skidmore will try to start the season 2-0 with a noon contest with visiting Babson College on Sunday.
Don Willman is a seasoned sports writer, with more than 15 years of experience as an editor and reporter. He is the Sports Editor for Saratoga Wire
Kelly Blackhurst scores her second goal
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