Abby Warren's goal propels Royals past hosting Matoaca

CHESTERFIELD - Another game versus Matoaca. Another second half coming close to going scoreless.

Another big play.

With about two minutes left in regulation, Prince George senior Abby Warren got her stick on the ball as Matoaca keeper Ally Butler dashed forward and went for the diving save.

But Warren stayed on the ball against Butler's dive, and she found the goal wide open.

“I just hit it as hard as I could,” Warren said, “hoping it was gonna go in.”

She powered the grounder in a diagonal line slanting right.

It tapped the back of the goal…

...and the Royals erupted in celebration.

The powerhouse field hockey teams of Matoaca and Prince George dueled it out in yet another 2018 classic between the two units, with Prince George once again emerging victorious 1-0 over the Warriors.

“It feels good. It’s exciting,” Warren said. “But it’s also nerve-wracking that whole game being 0-0. Every time you touch the ball, it has to count.”

Following a scoreless first half, the Warriors powered their way to the Royals' goal, but a shot sailed wide. The Royals then proceeded to keep the ball on the Warriors' side field for the most part, earning six penalty corners. The Warriors' defense persevered against the first five; Warriors keeper and Wake Forest commit Ally Butler in the second half added several stops, including a diving save and a big block on a mid-air shot.

But Warren capitalized on the sixth corner to send her team ahead for the first and final time on that bright and sunny Saturday morning.

“It was a corner, so whenever we have corners, I know that’s our chance to score because it’s an advantage,” Warren said. “I think Lauren [Peade]’s the one that took the shot, and I saw that Ally had dove, so I knew that was my opportunity ‘cause the goal was gonna be open.”

“I think we picked up the momentum,” Prince George Field Hockey head coach Julia Ellison said of her team’s play in the second half. “We had a talk...and we’re like: This is it. You have to do it now. We talked about some things that they needed to work on...and I think it drastically changed. I don’t know what was going through their minds, but once we started to get that passing motion going and moving it up the field together as a team, that’s when you can see a difference.”

Warren agreed. She felt that as the game went on, the Royals started connecting more.

“And I think that’s why we scored,” she said.

For the second time this year, the Royals and Warriors battled each other to a halftime draw. Defenders on both sides - Matoaca's Annie Grace Louthan, Anna Pletch, Emma Kate Everhart and Jillian Pueppke and Royals players Izzy Adair, Rachel Bowen, Kamryn Johnson and Rileyanne Collins - played tremendously to keep the pressure off their keepers.

“We talk about that: protecting Kyla [Nase], keeping her safe, keeping her away from the ball even though we know Kyla can save some goals, Kyla’s a tremendous goalie,“ Ellison said of her Royals defenders, “but we want to keep it up on the other end of the field. We want to keep possession of the ball.”

Louthan and Royals senior Georgia Adair each made big clearouts, and Adair showed in the game that she could chip and air-dribble her way forward inch-by-inch with several Matoaca defenders swarming her in search of the ball.

Matoaca's Butler had five saves. Nase had two saves for the Royals, with both saves coming in the first half.

Following the conclusion of Saturday morning’s contest, the Royals’ completed a four-game week with wins also against Hopewell (11-0) and J.R. Tucker (5.0).

“We’ve played three games this week already, so for them to come out and still push and still fight, I’m just so proud of them,” Ellison said of her players.

The Royals continued their momentum off of an extremely competitive Wednesday night match at Atlee, with Atlee edging the Royals in shootouts.

“We didn’t end up on top on that game, but we played such a great game, and that was such great hockey,” Ellison said of Wednesday’s contest. “We were like: We have to keep that momentum going and that intensity going for the rest of our season.”

“I think we took what happened at Atlee and we used it as a learning experience,” Warren said, “and we came out today harder, and taking those lessons that we had just learned and applying it on the field.”

Matoaca (7-3) will look to bounce back with Monday’s 4:30 p.m. home game versus Colonial Heights.

Prince George (9-2) this coming week will head to Thomas Dale on Tuesday before concluding the regular season on a home game - the Royals’ senior night - versus Maggie Walker Governor’s School.