Even if you just had the alternating chants of the respective fans of the Davis High and Chico field hockey teams to judge by, you’d know it was a heated affair on Friday at Brown Stadium.
And for the Blue Devils, losing 2-1 was difficult to accept, especially given that the Panthers are DHS’ primary competition for the Eastern Athletic League title, which Chico claimed in 2011. And if Friday was any indication, they’re gunning for it again.
But just as the Devils stole the EAL title back last year, the locals have another opportunity to best their rivals in the Panthers’ territory on Oct. 14.
It may end up in the locals’ favor if the Blue Devils that show up then are the same as those from early on in Friday’s battle. Davis surfaced with enough aggression to keep Chico pressed against its net for most of the first five minutes.
This allowed senior Sara Pinto to score for the Blue Devils at the 25:45 mark, following up on a pass from Rachel Foley. Before the crowd had even finished its cheers, DHS was put on the back foot by the retaliating Panthers.
Possession of the ball was much more of a back-and-forth affair after that point, with the Panthers only slightly putting more shots on the goal with five — to the Devils’ four — by the halftime break.
And before the first-half buzzer sounded, DHS found itself in a tricky situation when two penalty corners were awarded to Chico. The second resulted in a pileup in front of the net, with a subsequent Panther goal that tied it up, 1-1.
The Blue Devils appeared rejuvenated after intermission, with Foley launching a shot into the Chico goal. But the officials ruled that it arched too high to be legitimate, to the dismay of local fans.
Even as DHS defenders like Andi Jackson earnestly attempted to shut the Panthers down in the midfield, their opponents began breaking through and threatening the goal.
And then came a juncture in the match — in the form of five consecutive corner penalties for Chico. The two full minutes of penalty shooting wore on the Devils.
Despite a few praise-worthy saves by Davis goalie Ally Weir, the opposing attackers found an opening on the fifth corner to put the Panthers up 2-1.
The remaining 20 minutes of the match was a swinging pendulum of momentum that saw neither team making much headway. There was one more shot on goal for each squad, but no more goals were scored.
And thus, the Blue Devils dropped to 10-1-2 overall and 8-2 in EAL action. Still, DHS head coach Sandie Marotti-Huckins was proud of her girls after the match’s conclusion, “especially for a young team like we have, playing against a bunch of veterans.
“We scored in the first five minutes, we had them. But when you give up seven corners, eventually they’re going to score.”
A positive outcome of the contest was the number of fans who attended, which amounted to a record-setting 330. Friday night also served as a fundraiser, with proceeds going toward breast cancer research and awareness.
“I’m glad that so many people came out (Friday),” Marotti-Huckins added. “I’m hoping we raised a lot of money for our good cause. I know we showed them how good these girls can play, too.”
Blue Devil fans can look forward to another home game on Monday, when DHS faces the only other team it has lost to this season: Corning. The action gets under way at Brown Stadium at 4 p.m.
— Reach Brett Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett.