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Knights fall to Saints in playoff opener

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

ABBY DUBEL (10) and Emma Danais (5) put pressure on the St. Thomas goal in action on Oct. 24 in Dover. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 28, 2013
DOVER — The last time the Kingswood field hockey team played a tournament game at St. Thomas, the Knights and Saints went to double overtime before the Saints opened the 2011 playoffs with a 2-1 win.

In that game, the two teams went back and forth all afternoon before the Saints got the win.

This time around, when the Knights headed to Dover on Thursday, Oct. 24, it was mistakes that cost the Kingswood girls in a 4-2 loss.

"Today, it stings a little more because it wasn't the game I know they can play," coach Kaitlin Reilly stated. "But that's what happens in sports, hopefully we grow from that and hopefully that inspires our younger players."

The Knights struggled to control the flow of the game in the opening minutes after getting an early corner that the defense cleared out. Zoe Reed turned in strong defense to help the Knights out at the other end, but the Saints got on the board first.

With 23:24 to go in the first half, the Saints were able to slip the ball past Kingswood keeper Jess Distler to take the 1-0 lead.

St. Thomas continued to pressure, getting a couple of good offensive charges. One shot went wide and Delaney Hutchins turned in strong defense to help her team out.

The Knights were able to get a little pressure in the offensive zone, as Keely Rodgers, Emma Danais and Julia St. Germain getting a good look into the zone and Rachel Lapar had a shot go wide of the net.

The Saints turned the pressure right around and picked up a goal at the other end of the field, as they slipped another shot past Distler for a 2-0 lead with 17:33 to go in the first half.

Kingswood continued to get some offensive chances, with Lapar, Danais, St. Germain and Rodgers all getting into the zone, while the Saints kept pressuring at the other end, but the Knights came up with some strong defense.

The Knights had a couple of corners in the final few minutes of the first half, with Danais, Abby Dubel, St. Germain and Lapar getting nice looks in the zone.

However, the Knights weren't able to get the ball in the back of the net and the half drew to a close with the host Saints leading by a 2-0 show.

The Saints wasted little time adding to that lead in the second half, as they scored just more than two minutes into the half, with a shot slipping by keeper Sara Hughes, who took over in net to start the second half.

The Saints continued to pressure and turned a penalty corner into another goal just less than five minutes into the second half, firing the ball in from outside for a 4-0 lead.

The Knights finally solved the St. Thomas defense and got the ball in the net less than two minutes after the Saints scored their fourth goal, as Lapar rifled home a shot from the top of the circle on a penalty corner, cutting the lead to 4-1 with 23:37 to go in the game.

The Knights seemed to pick up a little momentum after the goal, as they came back down the field with a number of chances. Dubel and Hutchins had good looks as the Knights had a pair of corners but couldn't convert.

The Saints came back and put on pressure of their own, sending a couple of shots wide and forcing Hughes to make a couple of saves. Lapar also played strong defense in front of the net to keep the Saints from pushing the lead any wider.

The Knights had two more corner chances in the final few minutes of the second half and couldn't convert, but just as the horn sounded ending the game, Hutchins was able to push the ball into the net, making it a 4-2 final for the Saints and ending Kingswood's season.

"We just didn't play the game we wanted to play today," Reilly said. "We didn't play our defensive game.

"I thought, defensively, we would've stepped up a little stronger today," she continued.

She also noted that the late goal proved once again that the Knights never quit on a game.

"That last minute score shows that this is a group that won't give up," she said. "Although we didn't show ourselves defensively, we did show our spirit."

She expressed gratitude to the team's seniors, Lapar, St. Germain, Lily Greene, Reed and Hutchins, for their efforts in leading the team throughout the season.

The Knights finished at 4-9-1 in the regular season, winning three of their final four games to earn a spot in the Division II playoff field of 12.

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

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