Above: The EG Field Hockey team – 2023 State Champions! Photo by Chuck Nadeau
Thrilling win comes during 2nd overtime
By Tommy Sprague
The Comeback Kids did it! The East Greenwich Avengers defeated the Moses Brown Quakers, capturing the R.I. Field Hockey State Championship on Saturday evening at Cranston Stadium. The final score was a respectable 3-2 but that score does nothing to reveal the battle that ensued between these well-matched teams.
This was the third year in a row EG and MB met in the state final – EG beat MB in 2021 but lost in a heartbreaker last year ending their three-year championship title streak. After last year’s loss, the team and Captains Catherine and Margaret Neville were determined to redouble their efforts over the summer to get back to the championship. And that is what they did.
MB is an incredibly skilled and disciplined team with the best record in the league so an obvious and popular pick to win. But East Greenwich beat them this year at home in early October; and it was a good, solid win that felt different. The girls played from a position of confidence and poise. They worked as a team, didn’t get frustrated, and executed to the last second of the game. Turns out, that win was foreshadowing for Saturday’s championship game.
The stadium was buzzing before the teams were announced. EG’s student section brought the energy and so did the many supporters from town. It is a testament to the legacy of East Greenwich’s field hockey program and to the love so many people from town have for these players and their families that the stands were filled, the supportive voices were loud, and the cowbell ringing was deafening.
In the first half these two teams came out firing, however the defensive stronghold on both sides limited the teams offense to only a couple shots on net and a combined three corners. Junior Goalie Layla Cameron attempted to shut out MB going into the first half, but the Quakers managed to score with 2 minutes left on the clock.
The team remained composed and equally energized going onto the second half because they knew they were executing successfully on their defensive strategy. Now it was time to put some points on the board. It was the ever reliable Neville sisters in their final field hockey game as Avengers who took care of business. A Margaret stinger tied the match in the third quarter followed by a right hook from Catherine in the fourth to put the Avengers up 2-1. The Quakers were not going to go out that easy though and matched Cat’s goal to tie up the game. As the clock ran down in regulation, the game headed into overtime.
Both MB and EG had played all out for the entire game so overtime – with fewer field players – tested both teams’ endurance and conditioning. The first OT ended without a winner, but in the second OT you could see who the better conditioned team was. Two Moses Brown players went down – one with an injury and another with what appeared to be cramping. Play got messy and another Quaker committed a penalty, taking her out of the game for two minutes and leaving EG a player up. EG pressed this advantage, looking like the game had just started even though they had been playing for two hours. Maeve Kiernan took off down the field with the ball, sent it into the circle where Margaret Neville got a stick on it, sending it toward the goal where Junior Ellie Picard pushed the ball in and ended the game. The players and fans erupted with cheers and tears knowing how badly the Avengers wanted this state championship title for their outgoing seniors and to continue the team’s legacy.
For the Neville sisters, it was especially meaningful.
“It felt incredible to feel all our hard work pay off,” said Margaret Neville. “We’ve been preparing for this game since we stepped off the field after our loss last year, so we were more than ready. It was such an amazing team win, and it was a very bittersweet ending to our careers at EGFH. It was the perfect ending to all of our hard work throughout the years. While I’ll miss playing for Coach McMullen, I’m so grateful that I got to play with some of my best friends, and become a family on and off the field.”
“It didn’t really set in that this was the last game until it was over and I couldn’t be happier with the result,” said Catherine. “Losing in the championship last year motivated us as captains because we had something to prove. The bond that we share as a team is remarkable and unlike anything else I’ve ever been a part of. We stuck together through the loses and celebrated the wins and it all paid off. I’m so grateful for this program and everything it’s done for me, including the memories, the people and the experiences.”
Congratulations to this amazing team and coaching staff. It has been a pleasure capturing this team’s road to the championship.
Tommy Sprague is a team parent. Our thanks to him for covering Girls LAX. EG News is looking for similarly motivated sports enthusiasts to help us cover other EG sports. If you are interested, contact [email protected]. It’s fun and means a lot to the athletes!