Birthday girl Mastracco unwraps big RFA victory

Published Sep 12, 2017 at 4:10pm

What’s better than getting a win on your birthday? How about having two goals, including a game-winner, in the victory to help your field hockey team remain undefeated?

Rome Free Academy junior Kaitlyn Mastracco tallied two of the Black Knights’ three unanswered goals as they defeated Tri-Valley League foe Camden 3-2 at the Stadium on Monday night on her 16th birthday.

The win helped lift the Black Knights to a 3-0 start this season, while Camden suffered its first loss, putting them at 2-1.

“I was very nervous, more nervous than most games,” admitted Mastracco after the game, celebrating with a piece of cake in her hand.

“We know Camden’s good. They’re always a strong team, we just had to come into the game knowing that, otherwise we would just not be good.”

RFA head coach Mackenzie Williams knew going in that it was going to be a “chess match” with Camden head coach Shannon McPheron.

“Every year we go in knowing that Camden’s a good team and it’s going to be a battle,” Williams said. “She makes her adjustments and then it forces us to make those changes as the game goes on.”

Things didn’t look promising for the Black Knights early on, as the Blue Devils tacked on two early goals roughly two minutes apart and snuffed any opportunity for RFA to advance past midfield for much of the first half.

Junior attack Delaney Alberico pulled RFA senior goalie Madison Cudhea out of position on the short side to feed junior attack Lily Sullivan with a pass to a wide open net, tallying the game’s first goal.

Moments later, on a penalty corner, senior attack Marlee Christmas buried a snapper after commotion in front blocked Cudhea’s sight on the ball.

Junior midfielder Abby Walker assisted and RFA called a time out with 16:48 remaining in the first half.

The Black Knights adjusted and cut Camden’s lead by one with an unassisted goal by senior attack Madisynn Reilley. On a penalty corner, sophomore attack/midfielder Nicolina Castronovo moved the ball to the scoring circle before Reilley ripped the shot.

After the half, the Black Knights continued to apply pressure, but struggled early on. With several breakaway chances, support was left behind, adjusting to the sudden offensive surges.

RFA converted on a penalty corner with the second half just minutes old. Castronovo fed the pass to senior midfielder Victoria Sestito, who nudged it to Mastracco to get the shot off, beating the goaltender.

Roughly three minutes later, Mastracco scored again, this time cutting up the middle of the field with support and scoring.

“We knew that we could easily come back,” said Mastracco. “We just had to work and be confident.”

“She’s been a great player, great kid to have,” said Williams about Mastracco.

“When you have combinations of players like her, Madisynn Reilley, Anna Nardslico and Jace Hunzinger, and those players in the front line, not only do we have speed, but we have skill. That’s just a hard threat to stop.”

All cylinders started to click for the Black Knights with the defense shutting down any late Camden threats. Players like junior midfielder/defender Brianna Kelley, sophomore midfielder/defender Isabelle Matt and Sestito helped with active sticks in the lanes to keep Camden clogged in the midfield.

“Tonight it really showed,” said Williams about the recent techniques of marking the circle and stepping to the ball developed in practice. “Cudhea made some awesome saves tonight.”

Cudhea turned in 15 saves in the win and Williams added that “her defensive communication back in the circle, I mean, you can hear her on the other side of the field. She’s confident in her circle and she’s aggressive.”

RFA graduate and longtime Camden coach McPheron noted that one of the things her Blue Devils know for the next contest is to cut down the long ball and some of the angles the Black Knights scored from. “It was a chase game and we couldn’t catch Kaitlyn Mastracco,” she said.

“We definitely needed this,” said McPheron about the first ‘real’ test of the season. “We needed to play a challenging team to see where we’re at. We’ve got a tough week coming up, but we’ll be ready to go.”

Both teams return to action Wednesday. RFA heads to Oneida for a 4:30 contest, while Camden travels to Whitesboro in a Section III Class B championship rematch at 6 p.m.