BARKER — Barker field hockey is now in the driver’s seat in the Niagara-Orleans league.
The Lady Raiders have strongly positioned themselves for the Class C sectionals with a huge win over Royalton-Hartland, taking a 2-0 win Tuesday. Barker (6-3, 6-0 N-O) is now up two games on the second-place teams in the league, with the Rams (7-2, 4-2 N-O) and Akron (4-2 N-O) trailing behind.
Points were tough to come by in this one, but Barker’s Katrina Clare was involved in all of the action. She assisted on Ciara Gregoire’s first half score and put the final nail in the coffin with a goal to put it away late in the second half.
The senior attack continues to lead the charge for the Lady Raiders and she’s more than aware of how much impact this game has on the momentum of the season.
“It’s a huge win. We’ve gone through half the season now and we’ve won every single game, so this puts us a great position to win (the) league,” Clare said. “Even through the second (half) ... if we lose one game, we’re still in a good position. So it’s huge.
“Roy-Hart’s a tough team. We knew it was gonna be a tough game. We came out here and we played great, so I know it just means a lot to all of us.”
The Lady Rams were in it throughout, but were unable to generate enough offense with limited opportunities in Barker’s zone. Roy-Hart was unable to take advantage of a 6-3 advantage on penalty corners even as it got strong outings from goalkeepers Lindze Michel (2 saves) and Mikenzie Hansen (1 save).
Barker also had a strong showing in goal, with Courtney Hillman (5 saves) bringing home the shutout victory. For Clare, she was able to reflect on the win and how her team was able to come up big in such a crucial moment.
“It was intense, they’re a tough team, we’re a tough team. So it was just a lot of running, a lot of big hits,” Clare said.
“I think we kind of worked through some stuff that we’ve been working on at practice, positioning-wise (and) cutting-wise. So I think us as a team really figured some stuff out this game and just always getting that momentum going. Getting two goals (and) a shutout, it’s a great feeling. I think it’s a great boost of confidence for the rest of the season, so we know what we’re capable of. It was a good game.”
Head coach Jeff Costello is also cognizant of the importance this win has, especially over a team as strong as Roy-Hart. His team was not perfect, but he’ll take the win however it may come.
“We’re happy to get that win against them. They hit the ball really, really hard and our struggles with that were very evident,” Costello said. “We had a tough time keeping the ball in front of us. And they’re fast too, they’re good. That’s a good win for us.”
Through Costello’s eyes, one specific factor to the game was the Lady Raiders’ inability to get into the goalie circle which made things difficult on his offense all game.
“I think us getting into the circle (changed the game). Like, we need to get in there more,” Costello said.
“They did a really good job of ... when we were trying to transition and we were getting our free hits and that, I mean we didn’t get a lot of our free hits through. They didn’t give us a lot of space and they’re very good at stopping balls. I mean if you see, there’s a lot of bounciness to our field, but Roy-Hart didn’t seem to have any problem stopping it.”
Even with things to clean up, Costello and his Lady Raiders should feel confident moving forward. Next up on their schedule is a N-O matchup with Medina on Thursday.
The Lady Rams still has a chance to be the No. 2 seed in the N-O and in the Class C sectionals. They will have the rest of the week off in terms of their game schedule, before they get back to work on Monday against Kenmore/City Honors.
For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @riri_demos.