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Newfound triumphs in title defense

November 05, 2009
BEDFORD — The Newfound Regional High School field hockey team set out with plenty to prove a year after picking up its second state title in three years.

By the final whistle Sunday, there was no room left for doubt.

The young Bears completed a successful campaign to defend their title Sunday afternoon, topping Winnisquam in a 2-0 Class M-S championship showdown at Bedford High School.

Boasting just one senior, Coach Karri Peterson's Newfound squad entered the year young and looking to fill some big shoes as reigning champs. Despite some rough outings in the regular season, the Bears came through when they needed to, scoring a come-from-behind win over Derryfield in the semifinals before enduring an early barrage of penalty corners to shut down Winnisquam as they hoisted their third championship trophy in four seasons.

Semifinal: Newfound v. Derryfield

If there's a Rite of Passage to the title, Newfound's is taking on Derryfield, whom they've faced in every postseason since Peterson took over as Head Coach in 2004. The playoff rivals faced each other in two quarterfinals, two championships and most recently back-to-back semifinals, but while the meetings have been split between the two, Newfound has gone on to win the title following all three of their wins over the Cougars.

Derryfield didn't make the latest matchup easy though. It was a scoreless deadlock until the final minutes of the first half, when the Cougars scored off a penalty corner to take a 1-0 lead. That deficit wouldn't last to the break though, as Haley Kuplin guided the ball to the corner of the cage and delivered to tie the game just two minutes before halftime.

Derryfield took control again early in the second half, scoring off a penalty corner just six minutes in to make it 2-1. The Cougars seemed to control play for most of the frame, but with their season on the brink, Newfound battled back and took command in the final 10 minutes. Their efforts paid off big when Erler took control of the ball and ran it all the way into Derryfield's circle, where Abbey Symonds finished off the attack to tie things up, 2-2. The Cougars attacked again nearly the end of the half, but Hallie Geldermann and Sam Payne both came up big to keep Derryfield from breaking the tie, sending the game to overtime.

The Cougars looked to put thinks away early in the extra session, getting a pair of penalty corners but sending shots wide on both. Newfound moved the ball to the other end late in the frame, with Symonds feeding Abby Erler for a blast on the net, only to have the shot turned away and keep the game going.

Half a minute later, Newfound earned a penalty corner of their own. The Bears called a timeout, then returned to the field to cash in on their opportunity. As play resumed, Katlyn Simula took the in-bound feed from Erler, then fired away on the Derryfield net, her blast deflecting off a Cougar defender and into the cage to give the Bears a dramatic 3-2 victory.

Championship: Newfound v. Winnisquam

Even with their playoff rival dispatched, the Bears still had a championship to defend, this time against a seasoned Winnisquam team. The Tilton-based Bears surged into the final on shutout wins over Hopkinton and previously-unbeaten Berlin, but entered the championship with plenty to prove, having lost their only meeting with Newfound in the season opener.

Newfound's defense got a workout early, as Winnisquam's offense came out firing on all cylinders. Winnisquam picked up its first of 11 first half penalty corners less than five minutes in, adding a frantic attack on the Newfound net two minutes later before Erler intercepted an in-bound pass on the long corner, moving play to the other end.

Winnisquam moved play back to the Newfound cage soon after though, putting up an intense seven-minute fight around the goal. Winnisquam amassed eight penalty corners in a row during that span, but while they'd line up plenty of shots, Newfound's defense clogged the middle to absorb most of the shots, with goalie Kelsey Dyer turning away whatever got through.

Newfound finally turned the tables deep in the half, getting just their second penalty corner of the game over 18 minutes in. Erler got a shot off on the opportunity, but it would be deflected and cleared. Winnisquam got the ball back down to the other end for two more penalty corners, but Erler would give them a taste of their own medicine, deflecting what would be their final threat of the half.

The final five minutes belonged to Newfound. Charissa Plummer brought the ball in front of the net, with Symonds picking up the ball for a shot that rolled just wide. A minute later, Newfound set up for a penalty corner; Simula's shot was deflected, but Plummer collected the rebound and passed it back in front of the cage, leading to a flurry of activity which Cailey Newton finished off as she snuck the ball past goalie Molly Wilcox to give Newfound the 1-0 lead.

Newfound kept up the momentum in the second half, getting a big chance to pull away when they drew a penalty shot just a minute in. Erler stepped up to take the shot, but Wilcox made a diving save to rob her of the goal, keeping Winnisquam in the game.

Even so, control had clearly turned to the champs as they drew several penalty corners early in the half, setting up six times in 11 minutes. Winnisquam held fast against all attacks though, eventually taking control for an attack on the Newfound cage.

Winnisquam got a golden opportunity to tie the game up with 13 minutes left. Descending on the Newfound cage, they'd get off a shot that Dyer managed to save, but the ball would stray out of her reach, leaving the goal open to attack. The ball proved faster than the Winnisquam offense though, rolling out of a possible shooting position before anyone could catch up to it.

With scoring scarce and time running out, Newfound delivered the backbreaker with just six minutes left. After their first shot was turned away, the Bears got a big rebound from Erler, who reeled in the ball and fired uncontested into the cage, sending the Newfound crowd into a frenzy as they took a 2-0 lead. Winnisquam could only managed a penalty corner in the final minutes, the game ending as Newfound cleared the ball and leapt into celebration as the wrapped up their title defense.

With three titles in four seasons, the Bears have been a testament to the strength of the Newfound program, bringing home titles in back-to-back years despite key losses to their roster and the parity of the division, with perennial contenders Berlin, Derryfield, Hopkinton and Winnisquam and others always in the chase. Since 2006, the Bears have gone 63-5 with four consecutive title game appearances, the second-longest streak in Class M-S behind only Winnisquam (1999-2004).

This year, Newfound parts way with just one senior, Katlyn Simula. The hard-hitting midfielder is the only Bear to play on all three championship teams, a four-year starter and major factor in the team's success with her leadership and stellar coverage of the field.

Senior-heavy and tournament-tested all across the field, the Bears will be as motivated as ever next year. With many players looking to close out their careers on another trip to the finals, the future looks exciting for Newfound field hockey.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Town of Alexandria
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