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Down on the corner


Eagles fall in penalty corners in playoff thriller


by Joshua Spaulding
Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

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ROBYN COFFIELD battles for the ball in action against St. Thomas on Oct. 27. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 28, 2013
NORTH CONWAY — It was far from the ending the Kennett field hockey team had in mind.

After finishing an 11-3 season with eight consecutive wins and earning the fourth seed in the Division II tournament, and thus a first-round bye, the Eagles hadn't played a game in 16 days when they took to their home field on Sunday, Oct. 27, for the quarterfinal round of the tournament against St. Thomas.

But by the time the game was over, the Eagles had essentially played the timed equivalent of two games, but they won't get to play another, as St. Thomas won a penalty corner battle on the eighth cycle of corners to take a 2-1 win over the Eagles, drawing their season to a close.

"It was a very good game, a well-fought game from both sides," Kennett coach CJ Lang said. "It was definitely a very physical game. I think we played well with what they brought."

After 60 minutes of field hockey and two 15-minute seven-vs.-seven overtime periods, the Saints and Eagles still hadn't determined a winner, with the score knotted at one.

So, the new playoff rules state that the game goes to penalty corner. Each team got an equal number of chances to put the ball in the net on a penalty corner situation.

The Saints appeared to have the advantage on the fifth cycle through, as the ball was tipped in over Kennett keeper Lara Murnik's shoulder, but the officials waved off the tally after conferring, saying after the game that the ball had entered the circle twice, which is affectively ends the corner.

However, on the eighth cycle, the Saints were able to push one past Murnik then held strong on defense on Kennett's eighth try, taking the 2-1 win.

"They never gave up, they kept pushing," Lang said of her squad. "We definitely had some moments in that game."

Out of the gate, the Eagles had some early chances, with Maggie LaRoche and Brooke Lemerise getting chances. The Eagles also had an early corner, but couldn't convert. St. Thomas came back down the field and had a couple of chances as well, with Amanda Nusbaum turning in strong defense for the Eagles. Kennett had another corner but couldn't convert and the Saints turned that into a scoring chance, but Kennett held tough. Lemerise and Robyn Coffield had good scoring chances for the Eagles and Emily Richard was strong on defense. Vonde Saunders also had a shot go wide of the net.

The Eagles had three corners in a row as the half was winding down. Saunders and Meghan Hayman had chances on those corners, but the Eagles could not get anything in the net. St. Thomas appeared to get the game's first goal with 2:45 to go, but the officials came together to agree that the shot wasn't tipped inside the circle, so it wasn't a goal. St. Thomas had a corner at the end of the half, but couldn't convert and the game went to the break with no score.

Saunders and LaRoche had good early chances for the Eagles in the second half and Kennett had a couple of penalty corners. Katie McPherson had a good look on the second of those corners, but the shot was stopped. Nusbaum had a cross through the crease and then turned in a good play on the sidelines as the Eagles continued to attack.

Leah Kelemen turned in strong defense for the Eagles, but the Saints were given a penalty corner with 18:55 to go and the visitors tipped the ball in on a cross to take the 1-0 lead.

The Saints continued to pressure, looking for insurance, getting a couple more corners, but Rachel Samia was solid on defense and Murnik made a nice save on one to keep it a 1-0 game.

Lemerise and Hayman teamed up on another chance and McPherson fired a shot that was stopped by the keeper.

The Eagles were finally able to get on the board with 8:04 to go, as Lemerise fired a ball into the circle from the right side. Hayman was in front of the net and she tipped the ball into the net for the tying goal.

Kennett had some big chances after the tying goal, with Saunders and Lemerise getting great looks. On defense, Kelemen and Samia turned in strong plays to help the Eagles close out regulation without another goal going in.

The teams went to the 7v7 overtime period for 15 mintues and Kennett had some good early chances from Saunders and LaRoche. St. Thomas bounced back and came up with some chances. Murnik was strong in the net, as she turned away a couple of chances on a Saint corner.

Both teams had multiple corners in the final portion of the first overtime, but neither team found the cage, as Murnik was strong and her St. Thomas counterpart held their ground and the teams went to a second overtime period.

Kennett had the best chances in the second overtime, with McPherson, Lemerise and Saunders all getting great early looks. LaRoche and Lemerise had good chances late in the OT session but they also couldn't convert and Samia and Kelemen turned in good defensive plays in front of Murnik.

With the game not decided, playoff corners were the name of the game. Kennett had some good chances on their early corners, with Saunders and Nusbaum getting good looks. However, it was the Saints that got the first and they held on to close out the game and seal their trip to the Final Four.

Lang noted that while the layoff might have hurt in some ways, in others it likely helped out.

"I don't think it assisted us," the Eagle coach said. "But it did give us time to work on conditioning and other things and we showed improvement in those areas today.

"But it's different playing in a game," she added. The Eagles did play a scrimmage with neighboring Fryeburg in that time off.

The Eagle coach praised her keeper and defense for its solid effort all day.

"Lara had an amazing game," Lang said. "She played fantastic, she made some saves that I thought we're going in.

"And our defense was strong too," she added.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or sportsgsn@salmonpress.com.

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