Field hockey: Masuk’s Katie Jelliffe tallies game winner

Masuk High’s Lexi Kocis works to earn possession in the win over Somers High. — Andy Hutchison photo

Katie Jelliffe scored on a penalty stroke to propel the Masuk High field hockey team to a hard-earned 1-0 victory over visiting Somers High at Benedict Field on Saturday.

For 60 minutes of clock time, coach Jaclyn Flynn’s Panthers did everything they possibly could to score, but kept getting stonewalled by Somers’ goaltender Alex Gershowitz on Saturday.

The goal was set up when Gershowitz (20 saves) made a stop, but covered the ball, which is a violation. Flynn said she left it up to the players to decide who would take the stroke, and Jelliffe volunteered. “She stepped up and put it in for us,” Flynn said.

Sensing just how significant this opportunity was, given the play of the Somers goalie throughout the afternoon, Flynn told Jelliffe just before the penalty stroke to be smart about it.

Jelliffe did exactly that — putting a lot of thought and skill garnered in practice to get the job done. She stood with her back to the cage and quickly turned and elevated the ball past Gershowitz to spark a celebration and sense of relief among players.

Jelliffe learned the penalty stroke technique from junior varsity coach Hannah Stewart, who said the approach allows for more force on the stroke and deceives the goaltender.

“You don’t get those a lot,” said Jelliffe of her difference-making goal after the Panthers improved to 1-1 following a season-opening 3-0 setback to Immaculate of Danbury on Friday.

The gamer was set up when Masuk’s Alissa Dircurzio controlled the ball up the left wing and centered to Augusta Parsell, who was denied by a sliding Gershowitz, leading to the violation and subsequent penalty stroke.

Masuk goalie Julia Vincent made four saves.

Gretchen Bunovsky, Lexi Kocis and Gaby Hirsch were strong on defense to assist Vincent and keep Somers off the scoreboard.

“They played so hard. It’s a nice confidence booster to come away with a win especially after a hard loss,” Flynn said.

In the first half, Bunovsky was stopped off a penalty corner chance, Emily Lange stole a pass to set up an opportunity, and Lange took a shot redirected by Molly Carreiro just wide. Juli Farnham couldn’t get a stick on the bouncing ball despite being in good position near the post. Masuk held a 15-3 shots advantage at halftime.

In the second half, Parsell’s speed and ball control led to chances, and Sarah Shultz narrowly missed on an opportunity set up by Parsell and Bella Migliaro.

At the midpoint of the second half, after Masuk finally seized the lead and was looking for more, Migliaro was stopped on an excellent look at the cage.

With Somers making a last-ditch effort to even the score, Bunovsky and Hirsch both had key clears in the waning minutes.

Hirsch said the key to Masuk prevailing was cohesiveness.

“In the second half we really just started to have fun,” said Hirsch, adding that confidence and a sense of togetherness enabled the Panthers to apply more and more pressure on the Somers defense. “It just motivates us for the season.”

Masuk will visit Norwalk High tonight at 7.

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