WINTHROP — Winthrop coach Jessica Merrill wasn’t pleased with the way the first half played out against Spruce Mountain in a pivotal Mountain Valley Conference field hockey contest.

The Phoenix dictated play throughout the scoreless opening 30 minutes. But Merrill barely spoke during the 10 minute halftime, not out of frustration, but because the players knew they weren’t playing their game, and they wanted to make things right.

The Ramblers went out and just did that and defeated the Phoenix 3-0.

“A halftime, it was great, because I hardly said two words,” Merrill said. “It was them saying we need to do this and we need to do that differently. So it was great to have my seniors kind of step up like they did at halftime to dictate what we should be doing and what we should have been doing out in the field.”

At the other end of the field, Spruce coach Jane DiPompo was pleased with that opening half as the game was living up to the hype: the Phoenix (7-4) entered as the No. 1 team in the Class C South Heal points, and Winthrop (10-0) is the top team in C North.

“Going 0-0 into halftime, knowing we are playing with them, back and forth, we had opportunities,” DiPompo said. “I was pleased with them.”

“Both goaltenders are pretty seasoned and they’ve been around a while,” DiPompo added. “We’ve played each other enough that we know each others styles. Second half was a little different.”

Winthrop’s Moriah Hajduk , left and Spruce Mountain’s Auri Armandi battle for a loose ball during Wednesday’s field hockey game in Winthrop. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

Winthrop’s Aiva Agri made seven saves for the shutout, and Melissa Bamford stropped six shots for Spruce Mountain.

The Ramblers came out flying to start the second half. After both teams missed chances on penalty corners early in the half, senior Nora Conrad put home the opening goal for the Ramblers 5:19 into the half, with Katie Perkins recording an assist.

“We knew what we were doing wrong, we were doing great passing in the first half,” Conrad said “We were having issues finishing in the circle. Once we executed there, we did great. I think our second half was really good.”

The Ramblers had eight shots in the first half and put another eight shots on goal in the second half. Spruce Mountain had 12 shots on goal overall.

Just past the eight-minute mark of the second half, Gia Francis made it 2-0, scoring off an assist by Maddie Perkins.

Maddie Perkins capped off the scoring by redirecting a pass from Hannah Caprara off a penalty corner with 5:18 remaining in the contest.

“It wasn’t necessarily a play, it was more that the corner that got messed up and we improvised,” Maddie Perkins said. “Normally, I go to the stroke (position) anyways; I was already there for the cross.”

The loss might taste sour right now for the Phoenix, but DiPompo knows playing a team that went to last year’s Class C state championship game will only help them down the stretch and in the playoffs.

“That’s what I telling the kids, if you put the analogy that this is a war, this was a battle, not the war,” Dipompo said. “The war is still being fought. We have a lot of time left, we have time to improve. We are going to talk about things we are going to do differently. It will only help us get stronger for the rest of the year.”

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