Above: Coach Deb McMullen hugs Alex Mega surrounded by the whole team following Mega’s game-winning overtime goal in the state final Saturday against La Salle. Photos by Chuck Nadeau. Find all his photos at chuckn.com.
Word on the street early in 2020 was the EG Field Hockey team would be rebuilding this year. They’d won the state championship in 2019 but then graduated 10 seniors. The 2020 team, however, had other plans and on a warm Saturday afternoon in late November, they beat La Salle 1-0 in overtime for the program’s first back-to-back state championship since 1992.
The 7-on-7 sudden death overtime gave sophomore star player Alex Mega the opening she’d been denied during the regular play. When Bella Atalay passed her the ball at the 25 yard line, Mega started toward La Salle’s goal, methodically picking off one defender after another until it was just her and La Salle goalie Julia Bender.
“After each defender I eliminated, I was like, OK, two more .. one more. And I got to the goalie. I looked up. She was standing in the middle so I went to the left corner,” Mega said. It went in and that was the game.
“That was a surreal experience at the end, to get a goal in for my team,” she said. “We couldn’t have been able to win today without each and every player. Everyone had a huge part in the game. It’s just an amazing feeling.“
For Coach Deb McMullen, who has lead the EG field hockey program for a cumulative 30 years, this marked her 10th division title, 7th state championship and 2nd undefeated season. Still, this one was special.
“In this crazy year with COVID and all the rules and restrictions, it was such a joy to come to practice every day,” she said. “They wanted to be there. They worked hard. It was a championship game at every practice and with that philosophy they really built up their confidence. I told them today, it felt like we were in the ‘90s. It felt like losing wasn’t an option. And that’s the attitude they took on the field.”
Although EG had beaten La Salle twice (one league game, one non-league) earlier this fall, La Salle was coming to the championship off a 5-0 win over powerhouse North Kingstown.
“I want to give La Salle such credit,” McMullen said. “They have just gotten better and better each game. They were on such a high after their big semi-final win.”
She added, “It was an incredible game, back and forth. La Salle’s defense was amazing. They made every play they had to. In the overtime, we just had a little more space and a little less defense and Alex could be Alex. She just – that’s her game.”
“I think the nerves were definitely getting to us. We wanted to win so bad,” said Sofia Bianco about why this time against La Salle was different. “We put so much hard work and effort into this game. It was just a lot of nerves, I think. I think they were capitalizing on that. But our defense is so strong. I can trust them with anything, so we got through it the best we could,” said Bianco, a senior.
Mega, a sophomore, was already looking ahead.
”It feels amazing,” she said of the win. “I want to go four for four, so that’s my goal…. Yeah, I can’t wait to see what the next two years bring.”