HERKIMER — Mikayla Blumenstock is altering her game.
The former Poland Central star’s willingness to adapt is paying off for her and the Herkimer County Community College women’s soccer team early this season.
One solid example of how Blumenstock is changing her game happened Thursday in Herkimer’s contest against Onondaga County Community College at Wehrum Stadium. About 14 minutes into the first half, Blumenstock gathered a long pass from teammate Grace Johnson near the sideline, dribbled to near the top of the right side of the penalty box and fired. Blumenstock’s high, arcing shot hit the back of the net near the top of the goal on the left side. It proved to be the game-winner, pushing the Generals to their third consecutive win to open the season.
Blumenstock’s impressive effort was one she admits isn’t a goal she would have scored during a high school career that saw her finish as Section III’s all-time leading scorer and among the top three statewide. She said many of her 209 goals in high school came when she dribbled in and scored from close range.
“I’m noticing now in college that I’m not going to be able to do that,” said Blumenstock, who notched a hat trick Sunday and was named the Region III Female Athlete of the Week on Wednesday, despite playing through an upper leg injury. “I’m taking more outside shots.”
That’s good with Jason Palkovic, Herkimer’s acting head coach, who said Blumenstock has “made a great transition” from the high school level. Three of Blumenstock’s five goals are game-winners.
“It’s a lot more physical at the college level. You’ve got better players you’re playing against,” said Palkovic, who also called Blumenstock a team leader. “She’s still getting chances. She’s making them count. … If you mix it up, it makes it harder to defend.
“The way our offense runs, we want to get to the point where a lot of people are going to start concentrating on Mikayla. When they do that, it’ll open up somebody else.”
Herkimer, ranked No. 3 in the most recent National Junior College Athletic Association poll, hopes to make a return to the national tournament. The Generals finished fourth last season with help from departed Central Valley Academy grad Teigha Ward’s team-best 27 goals and 15 assists.
“We’re going after that national championship,” said Palkovic, whose team is off until Wednesday when it hosts SUNY Adirondack. “You have to win the region first. This is a very tough region and we’ve been fortunate to win it the last two years. … This group, they’re hungry and they want to get back there.”
Blumenstock said the team is headed in the right direction.
“Each game we seem to be blending more together and working better as a team,” she said.
Palkovic said Herkimer has a very good freshman class. It’s a group that includes Thomas R. Proctor grad Alexis Ramos, Camden’s Alyse Griffin, Frankfort-Schuyler’s Marsala Bono and Poland’s Alexis Darrow. Freshman goalkeeper Honesti Crochran started Thursday and made a big diving save on a penalty shot in the second half to keep OCC off the board. Sophomore Alexys Bolton (West Canada Valley), Grace Johnson and Jenna Bailey also are in the mix.
“I’m happy with the group we have,” Palkovic said.
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