Published: 10/3/2022 8:22:58 PM

Modified: 10/3/2022 8:18:40 PM

NORTHAMPTON – The first time that Turners Falls and Northampton clashed this season, it was a lopsided affair; the Blue Devils walked away with a 9-1 victory.

They met for a second time on Monday afternoon, and Turners Falls leveled the playing field significantly. Despite the chilly October weather, the both teams brought the heat.

“We definitely tried to play a stronger offense than we had before. We played more of a defensive game last time and it didn’t go well for us,” Turners Falls head coach Renee Tela said.

Northampton’s Rozlyn Kaufman scored early in the first quarter to gain a 1-0 lead that held as the only goal for most of the contest. Two late goals from Chloe Derby and Pearl Davis gave the Blue Devils the breathing room they needed in a 3-0 Valley League victory.

“(We wanted) to stay focused and stay calm, even under pressure,” Derby said on Northampton’s play. “We knew they were going to come back better, because we came back better, too.”

The Blue Devils had to be calm during Turners’ offensive rushes – though the Thunder couldn’t solve keepers Charlotte Johnson-Mersack or Katie James, they had several impressive opportunities that kept the Blue Devils defense on its toes. Turners’ back line was equally impressive, breaking up passes and holding down the fort during a marathon of seven consecutive penalty corner attempts for Northampton in the first half. Northampton couldn’t convert on any of those attempts.

Despite the work that needs to be done on corners, Northampton head coach Meshia Begin was thrilled with her team’s effort, calling her team’s play “beautiful hockey.”

“What I loved seeing today was that we had some really beautiful hockey. They made good passes, they went to space, they were connecting and creating combinations with each other, so it was really nice,” Begin said. “And that goal by Chloe Derby? Beautiful.”

Moving forward

Derby’s goal might have been the most important for Northampton, and the most impactful – the sound the ball made hitting the backboard in the net echoed across the field. It wouldn’t have happened without a gorgeous cross-field pass from Lan Detenber to set up the play.

Normally, Derby wouldn’t even be up playing as a forward – she’s typically on the team’s back line as a defender. But Begin has been impressed with the junior’s play in practice recently and decided to make a lineup change that paid off.

“She just has been playing really well at practice and showing off her skills and one of them was her shots lately. She usually plays defense because she’s patient. But putting her up in the front line today, I think was a good decision,” Begin said. “So I might do that again.”

Small but mighty

Tuners Falls’ close match against Northampton (and their performance all season) is made all the more impressive when looking some of the younger members of their team. About half of the team is middle schoolers, and some of those players have been thrust into key roles, like seventh-grade goalie Elejandra Bartolon, who made eight stops against Northampton.

“They have a lot of older kids and we don’t. We’re actually half middle-schoolers, half varsity,” Tela said. “So I think playing against a school that has majority of seniors and juniors on the team compared to our middle schoolers, I think we played pretty hard today.”

At the beginning of the year, Turners didn’t even have a full roster – the Thunder started with just eight players on the team. They’ve gradually added more to their roster and the newcomers have gelled quickly, helping the team earn two wins in their last three games.

“We’ve gotten all these (players) – every couple of weeks we’ve been pulling in more. Just being able to win games with this hodgepodge of people that have been coming in, it’s been good,” Tela said.

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