Casey Umstead’s goal line to goal line heroics, outstanding goal keeping by Hannah Mack, and 60 minutes of determined team play boosted the Upper Perk field hockey team to a 1-0 win over Merion Mercy Academy in the District 1 AA title game on Saturday at Wissahickon.
Umstead scored the only goal early in the second half and made two defensive saves to preserve the win. Mack had to make six difficult saves, including a stop on a penalty stroke with 21:29 left.
With about six and a half minutes gone in the second half, Umstead started her scoring play with a free hit outside of the football hash marks about 12 feet in front of, and to the left of, the Golden Bears’ net.
The senior forward’s quick pivot lost defender Nellie Doyle, who shadowed her throughout the contest, giving Umstead some maneuvering room.
With Merion’s Meghan Sack cutting off her path to the goal, Umstead lofted the ball toward the net. It hit defender Ally Hecht’s stick about waist high and deflected past goalie Lauren Thomas into the short side of the goal.
“I was just like, ‘Heck with it, I’m just going to try.’ Good thing I did,” Umstead said of her 47th tally of the year.
With the goal in hand, Umstead switched her focus to the defensive end of the field and came up with two defensive saves behind Mack.
“I was trying to play more defensive than attacking, just because [it was] 1-0. I did not want to go into overtime,” Umstead related.
A couple of minutes after the Tribe’s score, Merion Mercy was awarded a penalty stroke resulting from a goal mouth scramble.
The Golden Bears’ Meg DuVernois took the stroke and shot the ball high to Mack’s right. The Upper Perk netminder got her blocker on it to preserve the lead.
“I was always taught to keep my eye on the ball, so I picked a spot on the ball; when she shot it, that’s where my eyes went, my hand followed, and I just kept my whole body behind it, so that it wouldn’t bounce in,” Mack explained.
That wasn’t the only scary moment for the Tribe. Sam Dingler had made an artful defensive save in the first half, and Umstead came up with one of her saves with 13 minutes left after a labeled shot had gotten beyond Mack.
“It tipped off my left foot,” Mack said. “Casey got a really nice defensive save. That was super crucial.”
Despite the close calls, the Tribe did a nice job of limiting opportunities despite being out-cornered 6-2 in the second half.
“Our corner defense came up strong,” Upper Perk coach Jamie Warren noted. “We weren’t letting them get their shots off on the corners, so that was big.”
The seventh-year head coach lauded her team’s approach to the game and the play of her best players.
“I think we passed well. You have to play as a team to win this, and you have to have those big time players out there. They have to be playing as a group, and it showed tonight.”
Warren also pointed to Umstead’s leadership. “She’s driven and that spills out into the team. It’s great to have athletes that are driven. Casey is definitely driven and definitely talented.”
The Tribe was clearly relaxed before the game, and both Warren and Umstead pointed to the victory over Owen J. Roberts in the PAC-10 title game as the reason.
“We were able to get the PAC-10 championship, and I really think that boosted our confidence and just our determination to win,” said Warren.
Added Umstead, “We wanted to keep the momentum going.”
The district title was the Tribe’s (19-4) first since 2007. Warren had taken her team to the district finals each of the last three seasons only to come away disappointed.
“It’s good to win it. Finally, after three years. We needed to win the district championship,” a relieved Warren said after the on-field celebration had died down.
She praised her predecessor, Kelly Brenninger, for building the program into an area power, and is happy that the 2013 team has added to the legacy.
“Upper Perk hockey has stayed strong, and it is going to continue to stay strong.”