Correction: An earlier version of the article misspelled the first name of South County goalie Catherine Matuszko. This version has been corrected.
Senior goalie Catherine Matuszko is seldom called upon by her South County field hockey teammates. The Stallions’ defensive unit is among the area’s best, and opponents’ scoring chances are typically at a premium.
But when there’s only one person left between shot-takers and the resounding thud of a goal scored, Matuszko is ready.
“I’m there when they need me,” said Matuszko, who recorded five saves in No. 5 South County’s 2-1 win over Oakton (7-1) on Wednesday in Vienna. “I try to be big in communication, that’s why I talk to them. I tell them who’s open and who’s not open.”
The senior backstop thwarted the Cougars’ best opportunity of the first half — a designed pass-back off a corner. Matuszko laid out, turning away the shot with her stick.
“I saw them setting the cross, so I kinda dove out and just did it,” Matuszko said of the play. “It just happened. The best plays I get are the ones that just happen out of instinct.”
Isabel Josephs and Abby English picked up early goals for the Stallions (5-2), who jumped out to a 2-0 lead with 13 minutes 30 seconds left in the half. Senior midfielder Erica Smedberg assisted on Joseph’s tally.
After playing tournament games last weekend that the teams treated as quasi-scrimmages, English expected the pace to quicken Wednesday.
“Oakton came out fast, and we just weren’t playing as well as we should,” English said.
The Cougars did everything they could to surge back in the second half. They earned five corners, just one less than South County.
Transition opportunities were at the heart of Oakton’s comeback attempt. The opportunistic Stallions sold out in numbers on corners, hoping for second chances around the net.
“We try to get tips in the circle,” said English of the aggressive strategy. “So the more people we put in, hopefully the luckier we get.”
Oakton’s Jen Prosser scored in a scrum with 7:10 remaining in the game to cut South County’s lead in half.
Despite boasting an unblemished record heading into Wednesday’s game, the Cougars anticipated a different level of play from the Stallions.
“We knew that they [South County] were going to be our first test of the season,” Prosser said. “They were. They came out well, and they’re a good team, but there are a lot of positives we can take from this.”
English cited breakdowns on self-starts for letting Oakton creep within distance of an equalizer. But South County’s offensive effort was solid, if not spectacular.
“We had some nice give-and-go’s down the field and our runs were good,” said the junior forward.