TISKILWA — Putting shots on net is never a bad play no matter where you are on the pitch as the Princeton Tigresses found out as they squeaked out a 1-0 victory over Hinckley-Big Rock Thursday night.
With 10 minutes remaining in the game a Princeton midfielder came up with the ball amidst a clustered group of players and launched a shot from distance.
The shot short hopped the Lady Royals goalkeeper, who had trouble corralling it, when it squirted out to her left and senior midfielder Michelle Kelly came streaking in and slammed home a sliding kick for the only goal of the game and the game-winner.
“The keeper dropped a few balls when we had shots on goal early so we were kind of waiting and hoping for something like that to happen,” Princeton coach Ed Young said. “She (Michelle Kelly) is hard nosed and determined, she’s always getting after it. When you have the Keyenna Altizers and Michelle Kellys, work ethic things are going to bounce your way. You don’t have to wait for it to happen because they kind of make it happen.”
The Tigresses are 11-8-1 this year with 11 shutout wins and a shutout tie.
Altizer, a junior forward/midfielder, was instrumental in opening up the Tigress’ offence, making crisp passes on the ball to spring her teammates free along the edges and through the heart of the Hinckley-Big Rock defense.
“Key is having a great year. We started her as a forward, made her a midfielder, moved her back up to forward and then we moved her back to mid tonight,” Young said. “She’s a work horse, she’s always getting after, she never quits and she never comes out of the game.
“In the midfield she made things happen because she’s working hard, and I think her experience up top and kind of understanding what they are looking for up top, she’s able to see it and provide for her teammates.”
For most of the game, the Lady Royals had the Tigresses back on their heals but only managed to get a few real chances on net because the defensive backs of Princeton were relentless in their pursuit of the opposition’s attackers.
“When we have success our defense is playing strong, and we aren’t allowing people to score goals,” Young said. “Sometimes we give up more shots than we desire but they usually don’t break and they’re all playing strong, trusting each other more and playing better and better as the year has gone on.”
Playing the long ball early lead to multiple counter attacks by Hinckley-Big Rock as it turned on the offensive pressure at the outset of the match.
“The first half we were forcing issues from the back and from the mid everywhere really, and we were just trying to push forward to much,” Young said. “I think instead of trying to posses the ball and make the nice easy pass we tried to force some issues, and we got into a rut trying to force the ball, and we missed some easy opportunities to play a simple ball and relieve the pressure.”
An early opportunity by the Lady Royals was shut down at the 10-minute mark of the first half by junior defensive back Ellie Bonucci, who stood firm in the goal box and defended point blank shots to preserve the 0-0 tie.
“Ellie has been stellar all year. She’s been a huge cog in that center back position to mark up people, win balls and she does that because she asserts herself, and you need that from the center back position,” Young said.
Although her defenders played solid in front of her, senior goalkeeper Kelly Schmidt made some excellent plays in the penalty area including a flurry of chances which came off of two corner set pieces by senior Royal midfielder Hannah Mueller with 36 minutes to play.
The second of the two found its way through the crowd to the foot of junior midfielder Jacqueline Madden, who slammed it towards the net but a diving Schmidt was there to end the threat.
The Lady Royals continued to play in the Princeton defensive zone but couldn’t mount much of a threat for the remainder of the match.
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