It’s always good to start a season playing tough competition and winning. And the MICDS Rams have done just that.
The Rams won Pool B of the 22nd annual Gateway Classic at the SportPort Athletic Complex.
“It is always to get a good test early,” MICDS coach Lynn Mittler said. “The teams we have the opportunity to play at the Classic are ones that help us set a course for the season.”
This marked the 18th consecutive year the Rams have played in the event.
“We have won the last two years. Prior to that we had won three in a row,” Mittler said. “I wasn’t sure how we would compete. Even though we have a lot of returning players, each year is new. We have new leaders and players that haven’t seen as much good competition as we had in our pool.”
The bad weather last Friday forced the Rams play all three games on Saturday when it was hot and humid.
“That was a lot,” Mittler said about playing three games in a day.
However, the Rams were up the task. Three games in one day against top-flight competition was way to measure how well they had prepared for the season during training camp.
MICDS played highly regarded duPont Manual of Kentucky to a 1-1 tie in the opener. Senior forward Skyler Lesslie scored the Rams’ goal on assist from senior forward Caroline Carr. It tied the game.
“It was a beautiful goal as Caroline dished it to the left post for Skyler,” Mittler said. “duPont Manual was ranked eighth in the nation so we were excited for this result. After the day off for the rain and then an early game, I was happy to see them come out so ready to go.”
MICDS followed that tie with a 2-0 victory over Houston Kincaid. Carr and Molly Christopher scored the two goals for the Rams.
“The goals were really good. Both players are showing great poise with the ball,” Mittler said. “We have been generating good offensive opportunities. Defensively, Lily Baker did a great job getting our backfield organized. They were calm and communicated well with each other and I was pleased to see that.
“Our (senior) goalie Barbara Riberio had three outstanding games. She is playing her best field hockey yet.”
Coming off the tie and defeating another good team, Mittler liked what the Rams showed her.
“We were doing a much better job building sustained offensive opportunities,” Mittler said. “Previously on this surface, we relied heavily on fast breaks, but we were able to build our passing out of the backfield and our mids were working hard to create multiple-shot opportunities for ourselves.”
MICDS concluded its tournament with a match agianst Lake Forest, Ill. The Rams earned a 1-0 victory. The Carr-Lesslie combo provided the goal with Carr scoring.
“We scored with less than three minutes left in the game. Lake Forest put a lot of pressure on us throughout the game and we really had to stay composed,” Mittler said. “Skyler had the goalie down and then helped Caroline get the ball around the goalie and in. That is a tough goal because usually when the goalie is down, it is really hard to get the ball around here. I was happy to see them stick with it like that.”
The victory ended more than 12 hours of field hockey for the Rams. But the championship made it all worthwhile.
“They were excited. I think it was a fun way to end a long day,” Mittler said. “We warmed up at 8:30 a.m. and lifted the trophy at 10 p.m. I think it was good affirmation of their hard work, but they are also aware that their is an entire season ahead of them.”
Several Rams stood out to Mittler in the three games.
“Mia Duchars was a commanding presence,” Mittler said. “Caroline Carr and Skyler were great as well. Defensively, (it was) Barbara (Riberio) and Lily Baker.”
MICDS returned to play Wednesday. The Rams scored a 7-0 victory over Kirkwood.
It will be a tougher test for the Rams in their next contest.
MICDS plays at 4 p.m. Friday at St. Joseph’s Academy in a matchup between two of the area’s top programs. The Angels went 3-0 at the Gateway Classic to win their pool.
The fast 3-0-1 start is what the Rams want to do. However, Mittler noted there no time rest. There must be a lot of time and effort put in by the team going forward if they want to accomplish their mission this season.
In the past two years, the Rams have finished second in the Midwest Tournament, which serves as the state meet for field hockey. The girls don’t want to be second again.
“It is always fun to start with such success, but it is important to buckle down and realize the work has just started,” Mittler said. “We are thrilled to have sense of where we are and what we need to continue to work on to achieve our goals.”