LADUE – As a forward on the MICDS field hockey team, junior Kate Oliver is a goal-scoring machine. Senior Lily Baker is among the top defenders in the area.
But after the graduation of three NCAA Division I-bound midfielders from last season’s Midwest Tournament championship team, the Rams needed to find replacements to control the play in the center of the field.
Oliver and Baker have accepted that challenge.
Oliver scored twice, both from corner opportunities quarterbacked by Baker, as the two stars excelled in their new roles leading MICDS to a 3-0 victory over Cor Jesu in a battle of field hockey powers at MICDS on Saturday.
“As you graduate a group, you get to set the new group up for (different roles), so it’s been in the long term plan and I’m excited that we can put them in places where their skills are shining,” MICDS coach Lynn Mittler said of the move to midfield for Oliver and Baker.
Oliver, who tied for the area lead with 29 goals as a freshman and scored 17 in just eight games as a sophomore, had been held without a goal during the first three games of the season. That changed three minutes and 30 seconds into the contest on the Rams’ second corner opportunity.
Oliver delivered the insert to Baker, who made a move, looked up, and spotted junior Greta Wolfsberger to direct a shot goalward. After an initial save by the right pad of Cor Jesu senior goalie Elise Adrian, Oliver corralled the rebound and sent a shot that was heading wide of the cage, but it took a fortuitous bounce off the foot of a Chargers’ defender and snuck inside the far post for an early one-goal lead.
“It’s been a little bit, but we’ve broken the drought,” Oliver said of her first tally of the season.
MICDS (2-2) earned six penalty corners in the first quarter, but strong defensive plays by seniors Ellie McArthur and Caroline Stutte and a defensive save by senior Caitlin Struckhoff prevented more damage.
In the second quarter, Cor Jesu (3-3) earned its first corner and appeared to be on the brink of tying the game as the ball was directed toward a vacant cage by junior Emery Schlueter. But MICDS senior defender Ella Durrill dove across the goal mouth to get her stick on the ball and prevent a goal.
“I saw the ball just about to pass the white line and I went as fast as I could to knock it out,” Durrill said.
Moments later, Cor Jesu appeared to score on a mad scramble in front of the goal, but an inadvertent whistle negated the tying tally and early in the third quarter Schlueter hit the left post with a shot that produced a juicy rebound unattainable by a host of Chargers’ sticks.
“We had lots of opportunities. The final score doesn’t really reflect how close the game felt,” Cor Jesu coach Audrey Ploesser said.
The Chargers, who have advanced to the Midwest Tournament semifinals in eight of the last nine seasons, kept MICDS from earning a second half corner opportunity until 12 minutes into the third quarter. But led by Baker as the field general, the prolific Rams’ unit struck again.
Baker received the insert and gently sent a pass to senior Jenna Bernstein, who fired a shot that hit the post and caromed in front of the goal. Senior Livi Warren received the rebound on her backhand and shoveled it past Adrian to give MICDS a 2-0 advantage.
Baker has received plenty of help from her teammates as she takes on her new duties.
“I’m surrounded by really strong players and we all work really well together,” Baker said. “It’s easy to do give-and-go’s or throw the ball because everyone is supporting me and I’m supporting them.”
In the fourth quarter, Oliver left no doubt of the outcome by taking the insert from junior Brecken Calcari on the Rams’ 10th corner opportunity and ripping a shot that thudded off the back board in the goal to set the final score.
“I’ve been itching to get a straight shot off all season and finally it all came together,” Oliver said.
And after losing two of its first three games, MICDS appears to be putting it all together as the postseason quickly approaches.
“Every game, they’ve been building and building. They know we can’t afford a dip, so I’m really pleased how they’re keeping up the intensity,” Mittler said.
And with players like Oliver and Baker becoming more comfortable in their new roles, the defending Midwest Tournament champions again appear to be peaking when it matters most.