Above: The moment before the game winning goal. Photo by Chuck Nadeau
By Tommy Sprague
It’s finally here, championship week for Division I field hockey. This is what the Avenger field hockey team has been preparing for since late June. The Avengers faced off against the Barrington Eagles in the semi-finals on Wednesday night at Cranston Stadium on one of the coldest nights so far this fall. The last time these two teams met in the semis, EG won in a shootout after two overtime periods. These two teams are evenly matched again this year with similar records and this match up was set up to be another exciting one.
The first half proved to be a defensive battle for both teams. Most of the play was in the middle of the field with little action at the net and very few penalty corner opportunities for both teams. The players headed into the halftime huddle with no blood drawn (0-0).
In the second half, Barrington seemed to gain momentum pressing the EG defense and testing the Avenger safeguard. EG’s defense thwarted a couple of notable Eagle attempts in the third quarter. The Cameron sisters came up clutch with two minutes left in the third – goalie Layla saved a solid strike by the Eagles and Lia stopped what could have been a devastating Barrington fast break.
EG’s offense finally capitalized in the fourth quarter. Led by juniors Ellie Picard and Maeve Kiernan, along with senior Captain Margaret Neville, the Avengers created an impressive five penalty corners, which in turn led to a Margaret Neville goal. The Avengers and fans erupted with excitement; Barrington, however, did not get the memo that the game was over. About a minute after Margaret’s goal, the Eagles’ Emma Mueller threaded her way through the defense and launched a decisive backhand sweep to tie the game. As the clock ran out, this felt like deja vu for the EG players and fans as the overtime period began.
Overtime in field hockey is a 10-minute sudden victory period with seven players per team, including the goalie. With fewer players on the field, Coach Deb McMullen relied on her speedy veterans to field the overtime team – Olivia Prior, Maeve Kiernan, Elie Picard, Margaret and Catherine Neville, and Lia Cameron. As the minutes ticked away, the Avengers competed fiercely but could not score and it looked like the game was headed into a second overtime – just like last year. But with only seconds left in OT, Margaret Neville came up big once again, scoring her second goal of the night and ending the Eagles’ season. It was another thriller between Barrington and EG!
Coach Deb McMullen lauded her team’s play.
“Margaret and Cat Neville lead by example, are passionate, vocal and focused on building a solid team on and off the field,” she said. “Layla Cameron is a great goalie, working so hard, and staying fired up. We have a smart, fast midfield of juniors in Maeve Kiernan, Olivia Prior, Catherine Sprague and Ellie Picard. Lia Cameron and Sachi Chan are smart defenders and committed to keeping play out of our defensive end.”
The Avengers move on to the finals against the Moses Brown Quakers Saturday night at 7 p.m. – a repeat of last year’s final. Thanks to all the fans for coming out to support this incredible group of athletes. Let’s see if this small town can fill the seats and cheer on this remarkable squad!
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]. Let’s get EG sports covered!