Polytech edges Padua in Huk’s coaching debut

Torrie Huk

WOODSIDE — Torrie Huk couldn’t have asked for a better performance in her coaching debut.

Polytech High opened its regular season Wednesday afternoon with a 2-1 field hockey victory over Padua Academy to pick up the first win of Huk’s coaching career.

“It’s a pretty big win for us,” explained senior Jennah Morris. “First game of the season, it just sets the tone for the rest of the year. We’re only moving up from here.”

The Panthers (1-0) outshot the defending Div. I state runner-up Pandas (0-1), 6-3, while the Pandas held the 9-8 edge in penalty corners.

Mairead McKibbin and Megan Popp scored the goals for the Panthers, with a pair of assists from Morris.

Riley Hickox scored the goal for Padua while Anna Getty provided the assist.

Goalkeeper Reagan Thomas made one save on just a trio of Padua shots, with a solid effort from the back line in front of her.

“This just really shows us what we’ve done in the last two and a half to three weeks,” said Huk. “The girls have been working tremendously hard, we’ve done a lot of fitness and a lot of skill work and have been kind of capitalizing on the things we needed to in our play days.”

Huk, the Sussex Tech High graduate and former field hockey standout at Division I UMASS Lowell, was officially hired to replace longtime coach Lynn Richardson over the summer.

She inherits a program that went 12-3 with a DIAA state semifinals appearance a season ago, but also lost a trio of talented seniors.

“Obviously, at first, I was really anxious just because it’s a change,” said McKibbin. “Change isn’t really good or bad, but just different and I wasn’t really expecting anything heading in I was just ready to get out here and start playing.

“Coach Huk really helped us, she finds our strengths and finds our weaknesses that we can build on and I really appreciate that. She’s been doing a great job.”

While it took a few minutes to get the offense going to open the game, once the Panthers found its rhythm, they were able to attack the circle and provide scoring opportunities just six minutes into the first half.

Finally, the early aggressiveness paid off when McKibbin scored the season’s first goal with an assist off Morris’ stick at the 19:32 mark. The goal was scored on one of the team’s three corner attempts of the half.

“You just have to watch the ball, make sure it doesn’t hit your feet, get it back in and try to get a touch on it,” Morris said.

The Panthers rolled with the momentum and extended the lead to 2-0 less than two minutes into the second half when the sophomore Popp put the ball in the back of the cage, off the stick of Morris once again.

“I was always told – when I played and it was kind of the theory throughout college and it stuck with me – that games are won in the first and last five minutes of each half, and I just kept reiterating that to them,” said Huk.

The Pandas cut the lead in half when Hickox, one of the 11 seniors on Padua’s roster, scored her goal at the 17:54 mark of the second half off the junior Getty’s assist.

Padua appeared to knot the game up with 3:17 remaining, but the goal was waved off due to a penalty prior to the Pandas’ shot.

Despite Padua earning multiple penalty corner attempts in the last two and a half minutes of the game, including one with just 40 ticks to spare, Thomas and Poly’s back line held strong and fended off the Pandas to cement the season-opening nonconference victory.

“It’s very hard to focus like that in the last three minutes, you have people cheering and yelling and there’s a lot going on, so for them to really dig deep and stay poised and focus in the backfield, it just shows that our girls have confidence,” said Huk.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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