KENNETT’S Leah Kelemen challenges Kingswood’s Nicole Matarozzo for the ball during action Sept. 5. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
September 10, 2012NORTH CONWAY — Intense battles have been the norm whenever the Kennett and Kingswood field hockey teams have gotten together over the last few years.
Last year, the two teams twice played to 2-1 Kennett wins, including an overtime game to open the season.
This year, the two teams met in the third game of the season for both squads, but the intensity was there from the start, with both teams pressuring on offense and both teams turning in stellar defensive efforts and good goalkeeping, as the game ended with a 1-1 tie after 45 minutes of field hockey in North Conway.
Out of the gate, the Eagles got the first pressure, as they got the ball in the offensive end but couldn't put it past Kingswood keeper Jess Colpoys. Marci Williams had a good look, but Kelly Wood stepped up for the Kingswood defense and pushed the ball away.
Kennett's Vonde Saunders had a shot deflected wide by the Kingswood defense.
Kingswood came back with a little pressure, as Rachel Lapar sent the ball in to Emma Danais for a good look, but the Eagle defense was on par to the Knight defense. Kennett bounced back with more pressure, with Elyse Clancy getting a couple of good looks, but Colpoys stepped up to make the save. Kennett had a pair of corners and Kingswood had one, but neither team could score, with defense leading the way.
Brooke Lemerise and Aimee-Kate Gutowski stepped up with solid defense for the Eagles, while keeper Lara Murnik also made a strong save in net to keep the game scoreless. At the other end, Colpoys turned away a Kennett shot with a kick save.
The two teams exchanged corners in the final minutes of the half, but neither team could score and the game remained scoreless after 30 minutes of play.
Out of the gate in the second half, Kingswood's Erinn Vittum turned in a great defensive stop and Colpoys made a save on a shot from Amanda Nusbaum. The Eagles did get a corner out of the play, with Emily Watson and Maggie LaRoche getting in close, but Colpoys held her ground, which led to the first goal of the game.
The Knights were able to bounce right back up the field and after some solid pressure from Nicole Matarozzo, Abby Dubel picked up the loose ball and stuffed it home for the 1-0 lead just more than five minutes into the second half.
The 1-0 deficit marked the first time this year that the Eagles had trailed in a game, but the deficit didn't last too long, as Kennett got some great pressure on Colpoys just more than two minutes later and LaRoche slipped a nice pass from one side of the cage to the other, where Caitlyn Mulligan was waiting and she tapped it home for the tying goal.
The intensity turned up from there, with both teams looking to break the tie. Kingswood came right back, forcing Murnik to make a save, while Lapar also turned in some good defense. Kennett got a corner and Watson and Clancy made a bid for a tally, but they were denied by Colpoys.
At the other end, Matarozzo came back with a couple of bids, but Rachel Samia and the Eagle defense stepped up. Kingswood got a corner and Matarozzo got a shot on net, but Murnik stepped it aside.
Delaney Hutchins also chipped in with solid defense for the Knights as the regulation time closed out and the teams headed to overtime.
In the seven-on-seven format in overtime, Kennett got in quick, with Clancy getting the best look. The Eagles got three early corners, but good defense from Vittum and Marisa Nardello kept the Eagles off the board.
Kingswood got the momentum going the other way, with Matarozzo being denied by strong defense from Leah Kelemen. Kelemen also denied Lapar on a chance. Lapar and Matarozzo teamed up on a scoring bid, but couldn't connect.
With just more than six minutes to go in the overtime, the Knights found themselves down a player for five minutes. However, that didn't seem to slow them down.
Dubel and Matarozzo had great shorthanded break-ins, but both times Kelemen was there to step up on defense. Matarozzo did get a shot through that Murnik managed to get a piece of and deflect wide.
The Eagles had a three-on-one breakaway late in the extra frame, but Clancy's shot went wide and the contest ended with the score knotted at one.
Kingswood coach Kaitlin Reilly pointed to her older players for leading the way in the seven-on-seven situation.
"The leadership of the upperclassmen and the dedication they've put into their fitness, this is why they do it," Reilly said. "It's a great motivator to keep pushing, to win a great game like that.
"We just needed to do a little more," she said. "But that was a great opportunity early in the season to get a sense of what we can do and how long we can play."
She pointed out that putting the ball in the net was the only thing missing from the overtime frame.
"It was a full team effort," Reilly continued. "And Jess (Colpoys) was unbelievable."
Reilly also noted that the defense was key in creating a lot of the offensive opportunities the Knights had on the day.
"I'm proud of my team," she said. "We've got some great things ahead."
"Our defense definitely stepped up," Kennett coach CJ Lang said. "Leah (Kelemen) had some big plays and Lara (Murnik) stepped it up a lot."
Lang noted the intensity of the game was fun to be a part of.
"It was definitely an intense game," she said. "And we had a lot of scoring opportunities in regulation. They're doing what they are supposed to be doing, we just need to find the back of the cage."
The Eagle coach was also pleased with how her team responded to being behind for the first time this season.
"That shows their strength and determination," she said. "We didn't worry about it. They scored and we just came right back and scored our own."
The Knights will be back in action on Friday, Sept. 14, when they host Portsmouth at 4 p.m. The girls are at St. Thomas on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 4 p.m.
The Eagles return to action with a contest today, Thursday, Sept. 13, at 4:30 p.m. against Plymouth. On Saturday, Sept. 15, the team travels to Berlin for an 11 a.m. game and on Tuesday, Sept. 18, the girls visit Laconia for a 4 p.m. contest.
On Friday, Sept. 7, both teams were in action. Kennett fell to Merrimack Valley 1-0 and Kingswood tied Oyster River 0-0.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126