For Tabb field hockey coach Wendy Wilson, the Tigers’ annual showdown with perennial AAA powerhouse Frank K. Cox (Virginia Beach) serves as the ideal way to gauge her team’s early-season progress.
“The whole point of playing a challenging team like Cox is because it exposes the things you need to work on,” Wilson said after the Tigers beat Cox Thursday night at Poquoson Middle School.
There’s a good chance Wilson was looking even more forward to this year’s matchup with Cox.
The four-time defending state-champion Tigers lost seven starters from last year’s group that finished the season a perfect 24-0 while outscoring opponents 158-1 en route to a sweep of the Bay Rivers, Region I and Group AA state titles.
“For so many of the girls out there, this is all new to them,” Wilson added. “We’re still gelling. With so many girls filling into new roles, they’re still working on building that chemistry out there.”
If winning is the ultimate measure of progress, then so far so good for the youthful Tigers.
Tabb improved to 5-0 on the season Thursday night after holding on to beat Cox for the second-straight year, 2-1.
“Winning is always good, especially against a team like Cox,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely big for us and exciting, but we still have a long way to go.”
The Tigers took some of the pressure off themselves early by jumping out to a quick 1-0 lead in the opening minutes after speedy Alison Harmatz scored on an assist from Melissa Progar.
Cox (2-1) rarely threatened in the first half, putting just a single shot on goal. The Falcons found themselves in a 2-0 hole at the break after Taylor Omweg scored for Tabb with just seconds remaining in the half.
The Tigers’ defense was sharp all around as Cox’s struggles possessing the ball downfield continued into the second half.
Defenders Marissa O’Brien and Betsy Wusk, both key returners from last year, played especially well, and Wilson also liked what she saw from newcomer Lorissa Morton.
“We were pretty calm and composed and not real panicky, which is nice to have on defense,” Wilson said. “Lorissa especially because this is her first time playing varsity, and she’s doing a great job considering this is her first experience. Betsy and Marissa are two that have been around a while, and they do a lot of communicating for our team, which helps.”
Cox finally scored with 18 minutes left in the half off a penalty corner after Courtney Daniels swatted in a loose ball in front of goal.
The only other time the Falcons threatened was when they were awarded another penalty corner with 1:20 left in regulation. It was waived off, however, after a Cox player moved illegally before the ball was sent in play.
“In the second half we started faltering to their game plan a little bit,” Wilson said. “So trying to stick to our own game plan and our own agenda is the task we’re going to take away from this game.”