Field hockey saves best for last

Written by Administrator  | Created: Monday, 03 November 2008 05:00  |  Category: ROOT
Last Updated: Monday, 03 November 2008 05:00  | Monday, 03 November 2008 05:00

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Blustery winds, brilliant sunshine, and a tilted field would come back to haunt the Lady Dragons, who had expended a ton of energy during regulation that ended in a 1-1 tie.

Field hockey has always been the strong point for Cape Cod high schools, so the Lady Dragons knew they were in for a battle with the #5-seeded Knights.

Duxbury wasted little time in showing they had no fear of their hosts, as they dominated play in the first five minutes while going down hill with the wind on the tilted Sandwich surface.

The Blue Knights finally broke the Duxbury pressure and rushed up field, testing goalie Julia Hannon and earning three consecutive corners as momentum shifted instantly. A free hit shortly thereafter just went wide of the net, keeping the game scoreless.

The #12-seeded visitors finally relieved the pressure on Hannon, mounting an attack of their own that resulted in a Grace Nissi goal with 15:39 remaining in the half after constant pressure on goalie Kristen Manchester.

The Lady Dragon defense withstood every Sandwich surge in the first half, as captain Anie Grunwald, Siobhan McCarthy, and Paige Locke were immense, while the offense took advantage in the Sandwich end to fire nine shots on net and register seven corners.

There was a slight concern on the sidelines that the Blue Knight offense would pick it up in the second half with the wind to their backs and the downhill slope, but the Duxbury defense remained in control as Sandwich applied the pressure.

Coach Pam Manley called a timeout with 15:05 to go to give her troops a breather, as Mother Nature was working against her team and making an offensive surge difficult.

Coming out of the break junior Lila Haffey had a serious scoring bid go wide, and Sandwich responded with a chance of its own later in the half when Emma Riedel sent one flying past Hannon with 8:45 remaining and Duxbury nursing a 1-0 lead.

The Sandwich pressure intensified, finally putting one past Hannon with 6:23 to go when Riedel collected a pass in close and wrapped her shot around the Duxbury netminder to tie the game at 1-1.

Momentum was clearly on the Sandwich side, forcing Manley to give her team a breather with 3:10 left in the game in hopes of one last offensive push before going into overtime.

The push never came for the Lady Dragons, who had visions of another heart-breaking ending when they were whistled for obstruction with 38.9 seconds remaining as a result of falling on the ball in front of Hannon.

Having lost a share of the Patriot League title to Hanover at the buzzer on a similar call, it would have been a gut-wrenching way to end the season.

This time Hannon gave her team a second life, as she swatted away the penalty stroke and forced overtime.

It was an uphill battle for the Lady Dragons, both literally and figuratively in the first overtime, as Sandwich won the toss and chose to go downhill with the wind and sun in the face of the Duxbury defense.

Hoping to score quickly in the seven-on-seven format before the Blue Knight offense could get in gear, Nissi and Haffey had brilliant chances in the first few minutes of OT before Sandwich turned the tide for much of the period.

With 5:40 to go, Nissi broke from the Duxbury end of the field and had a chance to win it, but the defense caught up with the freshman as she tried to get her shot off before barreling into the goalie.

The first OT period came to a close, as Sandwich recorded seven corners to the Lady Dragons’ one.

Unlike most games, the captains were called out for another coin toss to start the second OT period, much to the surprise of the Lady Dragons. Sandwich won the toss again, and a drained Duxbury team was forced to go against the elements one more time.

“It was a tiring 15 minutes of overtime and I couldn’t believe they didn’t flip-flop like they do at halftime. It was ridiculous,” said Manley.

Summoning every ounce of energy it had left, Duxbury mounted one serious scoring bid when Nissi and senior Tracy Clough had shots on net. But once again play reverted to the Lady Dragons’ end, as the defense was practically out of gas.

“They were tired and took a couple of falls and you could see they didn’t have a lot left in them,” said Manley.

With their clears falling short, and exhaustion having already set in, Duxbury got caught flat-footed with 4:18 to play, as Emily Scichilone got behind the Duxbury defense and tipped a shot past Hannon for the game-winner.

“It was a tough way to end the season, but that’s the way tournament games are,” said Manley. “Both teams fought hard and it was a real dog fight out there the whole time.”

With the loss, Duxbury ends its season at 10-5-4, but promises to be right back in the battle for the Patriot League title in 2009, as Manley returns a number of underclassmen that played prominent rolls in this year’s team.