Lapses in cohesion and hustle left the Riverbend field hockey team facing a literal uphill climb toward reclaiming its season.

On Monday afternoon, the Bears took to the steep stretch of grass leading from the baseball field to a cul-de-sac behind the school. Under orders from coach Nicholle Spagina, they proceeded to sprint up and down.

Sixteen times.

“It made me kind of want to die inside,” senior Maran Lee said.

But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The Bears have responded to their coach’s corrective measure with a pair of Commonwealth District victories, the latest taking the form of a 2–0 shutout against Colonial Forge on Thursday.

“Our play has totally reversed,” Spagina said. “We work better as a team, and they know that, and they’re starting to see that. It’s been our main focus.”

In particular, the Bears retooled their spacing on the field. Spagina stressed that each player needs to stay within 10 yards of the girl in front of and behind her. If one of them advances or retreats, so do you. No exceptions.

“It’s kind of like you’re stuck together,” Spagina said.

That adjustment paid dividends early in Thursday’s contest. Following a Colonial Forge corner, Rio Weber drove her clearance the length of the field. Lee and sophomore Gabrielle Delcoco tracked it in tandem before Delcoco instinctively broke for the circle.

“When Maran’s running down the end line with the ball, it’s kind of like second nature to get on the goalie’s pad and be there and ready for the ball,” Delcoco said.

So Delcoco was prepared when Lee’s feed arrived at her stick, and she coolly deposited it inside the left post to give Riverbend a 1–0 lead eight minutes into the contest.

Riverbend (6–3, 5–2 Commonwealth) accrued five corners to Colonial Forge’s four, and held an 11–7 advantage in shots on goal. Chasing a one-goal deficit for most of the contest, the Eagles (5–6) mounted consistent pressure but faltered on repeated trips inside the circle.

“We just need to be able to capitalize on the opportunities that we had,” Eagles coach Julie Spinelli said. “Because we had some good opportunities.”

Many of them were turned away by Riverbend goalkeeper Marilyn Biggar, who recorded a clean sheet with seven saves. Her counterpart, Colonial Forge’s Alex Boatwright, also had seven saves.

Lee added a late insurance goal, scoring off a surgical cross from Jayden Moon with 5:37 to play.

The Bears, who host Massaponax on Tuesday, are finally starting to learn what’s possible when they play together—in both senses of the word.

“We were too far apart,” Delcoco said. “It wasn’t fun.”

“Now, it’s a lot more fun,” Lee added with a smile.

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Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045

jlomonaco@freelancestar.com

@joeylomonaco

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