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PORT BYRON — Port Byron struck twice and were able to hold on for the win.

The Panthers netted two second-half goals and were able to fend off a slew of offensive chances from the Warriors, as the Port Byron field hockey team beat rival Weedsport 2-0 Tuesday in Port Byron.

“This was a great game. My kids literally gave everything they had from start to finish for 60 minutes,” Panthers coach Mindy Gilbert said. “The motto that I tell them is ‘Never give up.’ They never gave up from the beginning to the end, and they left everything on the field.”

Senior Alison Grudzien recorded both goals for Port Byron in the final 26:06.

“The front line is pretty strong,” Gilbert said. “We get the ball in there and she scraps off the pads. But once again, it’s a total team effort.”

Maria Burns made eight saves in the shutout for the Panthers, while Mariah Quigley finished with five stops in net for the Warriors.

“Maria Burns played probably the best game of the season,” Gilbert said of her goalie. “I’ve been working with her, and she’s really been responding. She’s starting to mature as a goalie and I look for great things out of her. She stepped up and played excellent tonight.”

Both goalies came up with big stops early. Quigley made back-to-back lunging saves on one end, while Burns answered with a stop on a high shot at the other end minutes later.

The teams went into the break knotted at 0-0, but Port Byron broke through first less than four minutes into the second half when Grudzien swept the ball in from the doorstep on a penalty corner.

Burns continued to turn away tough shots in the second half. The freshman made a lunging stop to deny a Warriors chance off a penalty corner with 18 minutes remaining, and weathered a Weedsport surge on three straight penalty corners minutes later.

Weedsport finished with 14 penalty corners, nine of which came in the second half. For Gilbert, stopping the Warriors came down to the fundamentals.

“Everyone stepped up and kept their sticks down in the circle,” Gilbert said. “They supported each other and trusted one another. They did the things they needed to do to get the ball out, because (Weedsport) was pushing and pushing. We stepped up defensively.”

The Panthers got an insurance marker when Grudzien netted her second of the night with a little more than 11 minutes remaining, but the Warriors kept the pressure on until the final horn.

“We had 17 shots on goal. They only had nine. They scored twice and we didn’t score at all. It’s really that simple,” Weedsport coach Theresa Leonardi said. “I don’t know who their defender is in front of their goalie, but she had a couple incredible stick stops on what I think we’re sure goals.

“The bottom line is they converted on a couple of their opportunities and we didn’t. We’ve got to get better at that.”

Leonardi is hoping her team can put the loss behind them and focus on what’s ahead. The Warriors have three games left before sectional play.

“We obviously have work to do. … We’ve made some progress, but we haven’t made all the progress we need to make,” Leonardi said. “Field hockey is one of those games where it’s hard to score and sometimes some nights it’s just frustrating.

“Tonight was a really, really frustrating night because we couldn’t finish.”

Port Byron (7-6-1) travels to Cato-Meridian Thursday, while Weedsport (10-2-1) hosts Cortland on Friday. The Panthers are hoping to keep rolling for the final two games of the regular season and into the playoffs.

“This is a great group of kids. I’m proud of them,” Gilbert said. “I’m thankful I’m here to be with them. There’s a lot of positive energy right now.”

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Sports writer Jeremy Houghtaling can be reached at 315-282-2256 or at jeremy.houghtaling@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenHough.

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