Shikellamy pulls away from Danville

·5 min read

Sep. 23—SUNBURY — Ali Bottiger and Mya Willard-Miller stressed the importance of positivity Thursday after they helped Shikellamy pull away from Danville for a 4-1 Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I field hockey win.

The first month of the season, however, has often forced the Braves to smile through gritted teeth.

In addition to working with a new coach, literally — Lewisburg graduate Hope Woolway was a Susquehanna University senior just two seasons ago — Shikellamy has been forced to play a stronger schedule with fewer girls. So few, in fact, that junior varsity games have been scrapped.

The results have been inconsistent, too, with one-goal games against the likes of Selinsgrove, Wyoming Valley West and Benton, and losses by three or more to Midd-West, Newport and Susquenita.

Thursday's win stopped a three-game slide and, the Braves believe, banked momentum for the final four games of their current string of six at home.

"I think we're really getting there. Today was a great effort from everybody, for sure," said Willard-Miller. "We've had a rougher schedule this year, so I think we were just adjusting to that, but I really feel as a team we're starting to get there. Hopefully, in the games coming up we'll come out hungry wanting to beat them the second time we play."

Bottiger had a natural hat trick Thursday, breaking through with 1:47 to play in the first half before adding goals just more than three minutes apart in the second half. Willard-Miller assisted on Bottiger's first goal, and junior Lauryn Michaels set up the next two before scoring her own for a 4-0 lead with 12:22 to play.

"When we score, I feel that we're positive and we're like, 'Yes! We gotta get another one! We gotta get up!'" said Bottiger. "But once the other team scores, we're like, 'Ugh. We didn't do as hot, so we gotta bring it.'"

The Braves (3-8 overall, 2-2 HAC-I) were in such a situation Tuesday, when they fell behind 3-0 to archrival Selinsgrove despite pitching a first-quarter shutout and holding the Seals to one goal until the final 11 seconds of the first half. Willard-Miller and Bottiger each scored in the fourth, but Shikellamy ran out of time to complete the comeback and fell 3-2.

"There's good and bad days, but sometimes we just come out a little slower and it catches up to us in the end," said Willard-Miller. "Once a team gets, like, three goals it's just harder to come back and be positive. It's all about positivity and keeping your head up."

On Thursday, the Braves did a good job of frustrating Danville's attack early with Ella Oakes and Isabella Hile consistently stepping strong to balls inside the 25-yard line. The Ironmen (3-6, 1-3) earned three first-quarter penalty corners, but Braves goalie Reagan Wiest and Willard-Miller made confident clears.

One of several in-game rain spurts coincided with Molly Earnest's slick run to the circle off a midfield takeway late in the first that created another Danville corner. Nothing came of the play, and Shikellamy soon attacked the other end of the field with Willard-Miller dribbling deep on the right flank. Her right foot slipped on the wet grass as she planted to cross the ball into the circle, but she got enough on the pass for Bottiger to collect and finish in the final two minutes.

"In the first half it was really close — down and back, down and back — and then we finally got it," Willard-Miller said. "I thought, This is our time. I saw Ali there and just needed to get it across."

The Braves made it 2-0 just 10 seconds shy of a full quarter later. Willard-Miller worked the ball up the right side and ahead to Michaels, who put a ball in the middle of the circle that allowed Bottiger to slip it past Ironmen goalie Kaitlyn Gabel, who had come out to challenge the play.

Early in the fourth, Michaels made a strong charge to the circle and earned the Braves' 10th of 12 total corners. Her insert to Willard-Miller on the right side was returned to her for a cross that Bottiger finished. Just 82 seconds later, on another corner opportunity, Michaels pounced on a rebound in front to make it 4-0.

"We think we can win," said Bottiger, "and we're just more positive when we know we can win."

Danville freshman Julie Johnson scored her first varsity goal with an assist from senior Maddie Rider at the 9:37 mark.

Woolway, who was unable to attend Thursday's game, inherited a team with five HAC-I coaches all-stars — first-team forward Willard-Miller and second-team selections Bottiger, Hile, Oakes and Wiest — all but one of whom are seniors who hope the rest of the season goes more smoothly than the first half.

"I think it was definitely an adjustment in preseason," said Willard-Miller. "We were trained a lot harder than we were previously, and some girls had a hard time adjusting to that, so we're down a lot in numbers this year. That has been hard. A lot of us have had to step up because we don't have as deep as a bench as most other teams do."

"It's been different," Bottiger added, "but we're all bonding more, talking more, and getting positive attitudes."

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SHIKELLAMY 4, DANVILLE 1

Second quarter

S-Ali Bottiger (Mya Willard-Miller), 1:47.

Third quarter

S-Bottiger (Lauryn Michaels), 1:57.

Fourth quarter

S-Bottiger (Michaels), 13:44; S-Michaels, 12:22; D-Julie Johnson (Maddie Rider), 9:37.

Shots: S 18-15. Corners: S 12-7. Cards: D, Rider (3rd, 0:05, green); Kaitlyn Gabel (4th, 12:22, green); Clare Charlton (4th, 11:08, green). Saves: Danville 14 (Gabel); Shikellamy 14 (Reagan Wiest).