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Johnstown field hockey aiming high

Johnstown field hockey aiming high

Unbeaten Lady Bills bolstered by strong sophomore group
Johnstown field hockey aiming high
Johnstown sophomore Emily Fleming dribbles the ball in Tuesday's game against Queensbury at Knox Field.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown field hockey team fell behind, gathered some momentum, and then soared to a higher level.

That was Tuesday in a game with Queensbury. It also describes the status in recent years of a Johnston program that has a past littered with championships.

"I've been waiting for this," Lady Bills coach Christine Krempa said after her team prevailed 4-2 in a matchup of unbeaten teams on the Knox Field turf. "We have a rich field hockey tradition here in Johnstown, and we're looking to reclaim that. We want the Foothills, but our ultimate goal is the white patch."

That patch goes to those who win Section II championships, and though Johnstown players have accumulated them 14 times, none have come their way since 2011. Johnstown's last title-game appearance came in 2012.

"Seven years ago we started our youth program. We started to build it back up," Krempa said. "I'm done being patient."

Johnstown improved to 6-0 Tuesday, showing in the second half the form of a championship team it believes it can be.

"We know what we want to achieve," sophomore Anna Lee said. "It's about who wants it more, and we definitely want it."

Johnstown displayed that want with a four-goal run after a Queensbury goal by Brittany Barton midway through the first half put the Lady Bills in a hole for the first time this season.

"They were undefeated and so were we," sophomore Taryn Ringer said. "Someone was going home with a loss, and we didn't want it to be us. We were moving the ball. We were definitely talking. We stopped trying to force it through their defenders."

Ringer and Lee are among nine sophomores on the team, and among three who accounted for the Johnstown goals in the comeback victory. Lee was the scoring star with a pair of goals, while Ringer and Emily Fleming, a pair of of 2017 all-state selections, started and finished the four-goal spree.

"The sophomore group is the first group that went through our youth program," Krempa said. "They're young, but they don't look young. They're athletic and skilled. They give 100 percent and they lead. They're aggressive and they want the ball."

Nine others form the Johnstown team which reached the Section II Class C semifinals last season. One of the six seniors, Maddie Etherton, picked up two assists Tuesday.

"Everybody has a job," Krempa said. "Whether it's 60 minutes or 10 minutes, everybody embraces their role and does it well."

"It's a team effort with us," Lee asserted. "If you come at us, we're going to come back at you as a team."

That was the case against Queensbury (4-1).

"Queensbury is fast, aggressive and skilled, and in the first half, they outplayed us," Krempa said of the Class B-level Spartans, who have title aspirations of its own. "At the half I told our girls they were being too lazy and waiting for the ball to come to them on the turn. I told them, 'Let's cut to the ball and make things happen.'"

"We weren't playing our game, then we started to play our game," Ringer said. "We need to play our game and play as we hard as we can if we want to go far this year."

Ringer scored her team-leading 16th goal 3:49 into the second half, finishing off one of the Lady Bills' 19 penalty corners (Queensbury had two penalty corners) with a lift shot that deflected off a defender. Lee converted a cross from Etherton to push Johnstown ahead soon after. Her goal off a rebound and Fleming's goal on a give-and-go with Etherton boosted Johnstown's advantage to 4-1 with 8:41 left.

Alyssa Fitzgerald scored Queensbury's second goal with 71 seconds remaining.

"We're using league play as a tune up for sectionals," Krempa said after her team went to 4-0 in the Foothills Council. "We've got 10 more games in the regular season. We want to build off the things we do wrong and what we do right."

Johnstown knocked off rival Gloversville Saturday 11-0 when Ringer scored a school-record seven goals. Johnstown also owns league wins over Scotia-Glenville (3-2) and Schuylerville (8-0), the 2017 Section II Class C champ.

"We're all friends," Lee said. "We're all comfortable with each other and that builds our strength."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schltz at 518-395-3143, jims@dailygazette.com or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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