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Spartans, Crusaders fit to be tied in field hockey opener

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by Joshua Spaulding
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Sports Editor - Salmon Press Newspapers

Littleton keeper Emily Tholl tries to kick the ball away from Spartan Marjorie Young on Saturday. (Photo by Joshua Spaulding) (click for larger version)
September 24, 2020
WHITEFIELD — The Littleton and White Mountains field hockey teams should be pretty used to each other by the end of the season.

The two teams face off four teams during this unusual fall season and if Saturday's matchup is any indication of what's to come, fans will certainly be treated to a couple of evenly-matched teams doing battle up and down the field.

When all was said and done on Saturday, the Mountaineers and Crusaders finished in a scoreless tie through 70 minutes of field hockey.

"We knew it was going to be evenly matched, we just couldn't get the ball in the net," said Littleton coach Kerrey Allaire. "It was good to see where we are at."

"We're pretty quick, which is nice," said White Mountains coach Jeanine Labounty. "But they're still learning to play with each other."

Littleton came out of the gate quickly on the Spartans' home turf, with Sarah Lewis and McKayla Dermako charging into the zone quickly. Rebecca Colby also had an early run into the zone for the Crusaders, who also got the game's first corner, but they could not convert.

Dermako had a couple more solid chances for the Crusaders, but Kennedy Overhoff helped out with a strong defensive play for the Spartans. White Mountains got their first run into the zone with freshmen Ciera Challinor and Marjorie Young making a run in. Marlyn Valentin had a solid defensive stop for Littleton and Challinor and Young combined for another chance but couldn't convert and the first quarter ended with no score.

Abigayle McCusker made an early run into the zone for the Spartans to open the second quarter but Valentin was there to make a stop. Overhoff had a shot that Littleton keeper Emily Tholl turned away. Olivia Scalley and McCusker also had chances but Tholl held her ground again. The Spartans had a pair of corners, with McCusker, Isabella Cronin and Scalley all getting close but they couldn't put the ball in the net. Nicoria Johnson helped Tholl clear a ball in front of the net and Johnson had a solid defensive stop on a White Mountains corner.

Lewis and Colby added another chance for the Crusaders and Young had one for the Spartans but the half ended with no score.

The third quarter saw a lot of back and forth action, with neither team able to generate many scoring chances. Scalley, Overhoff and McCusker all got in close on a chance and the Crusaders came back with a chance but Christiana Veltri helped clear things out for the Spartans. The hosts had a late corner but couldn't convert and it remained 0-0 through three quarters.

Overhoff and Scalley combined on a chance on a corner for the Spartans early in the fourth quarter and the hosts were able to keep the ball in for another chance, with Colby getting a good defensive stop and run out of the zone. Dermako drove the ball in but Olivia Baker was there for the stop for White Mountains. The Crusaders got in close in the final minutes but keeper Jennifer Fowler held tight to send the game to the seven-on-seven overtime.

Veltri sent a nice ball into Scalley early on for White Mountains and then Challinor just missed connecting with Veltri. Dermako came back with a couple of chances, one stopped by Fowler and the other going through the crease untouched.

Fowler came out and made a nice kick on Colby closing in and then Young made a run at the other end with Mackenzie Allaire making the defensive stop and the final whistle sounded.

"I'm proud of them, it was a great match," Allaire stated. "We just couldn't execute getting the ball in the net.

"McKayla (Dermako) had some good chances," the Littleton coach continued. "We knew they had some threats and knew we had to mark them.

"Now we just have to work on our offensive game," Allaire said, adding that it was great to see the girls playing in a game after all they've been through the past months.

"Cierra Challinor stood out to me today," said Labounty. "She's just so strong, she hits well and sees the field well.

"We had to make some changes to our starting lineup, so we had a couple of kids step up," the Spartan coach said, noting she started three freshmen in the opening game. She also praised the work of Fowler in the net, controlling the White Mountains defense and Baker in her first game as sweeper, directing the freshmen in front of her.

"It was a nice start," Labounty said. "There are things we need to fix that we would've found in the preseason, but they're just so happy to play field hockey."

The Spartans will be in action on Friday, Sept. 25, at Berlin at 3:30 p.m. and will be hosting Littleton on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 4 p.m.

In addition to the rematch with the Spartans, the Crusaders will be hosting Berlin today, Sept. 23, at 4 p.m.

Sports Editor Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 279-4516, ext. 155 or josh@salmonpress.news.

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