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Joyce Endee

Eagles field hockey closes out long week with loss to Winnisquam

Gilford’s Mollie Dignan (left) tries to get by Winnisquam’s Mackenzie Byers during action Saturday in Gilford. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
September 26, 2011
GILFORD – It was a trying week for the Gilford High School field hockey team, as the young Golden Eagles dropped three games to two of the top teams in Division III in Newfound and Winnisquam.

"I looked at this week going into it and I thought it was going to be a good thing for the kids," said Gilford coach Dave Rogacki. "Newfound and Winnisquam are two teams that are basically in the top four for the last decade so the level of competition is high. Then of course we have a cancellation and end up playing Winnisquam twice in the week. It's tough to play that many tough games in a row but I think in the long haul, it'll be a good experience for us."

The Eagles ended the week with a Homecoming Day matchup against Winnisquam on Saturday, and the Bears left Gilford with a 5-0 win under overcast but muggy skies.

Winnisquam brought the pressure early, as the visitors earned two corners in the first 10 minutes of action. Taylor O'Connor had the game's first big scoring chance 12 minutes in, as she beat Gilford goalkeeper Ashlyn Miller but her shot went wide. Rachel Willcutt was on the backdoor for the rebound but the Winnisquam defender was unable to sweep it in and the ball went out of play, keeping the game scoreless.

The Bears stayed off the scoreboard despite several other solid chances, as Gilford's Catherine Buckley made a pair of great clearing plays in front of Miller midway through the frame to keep her team even.

That changed in the 14th minute however, as O'Connor got Winnisquam on the board first with a goal on the rebound to put the Bears up 1-0 off a penalty corner.

Just five minutes later, Winnisquam doubled its lead when O'Connor scored her second of the afternoon on another corner, putting the Bears up 2-0 with 10:30 left before halftime.

"They scored on their corners, we didn't execute ours and that was the difference in the game," said Rogacki. "We had some great opportunities in the first half but we just couldn't convert. If we had, it would've made a big difference in the second half."

The Eagles woke up after falling behind, and Cassie Coons took a nice pass from Kelsey Buckley to put a shot on net with 9:35 left, though Lonergan kicked it aside. The team got its first corner of the day less than a minute later, as Catherine Buckley's blast went just wide of the cage.

While Gilford upped its pressure on the Winnisquam net late in the frame, the Bears scored a huge goal just before halftime that deflated the sails heading into intermission. O'Connor connected with Kaylee Howard on a fast break in the final minute of the first half, and Howard beat Miller with 33 seconds remaining to put the visitors up 3-0.

"We just didn't have it today," said Rogacki. "The biggest issue we had was a couple of times we just stopped playing and expected whistles to blow. You can't do that in a game like this, you don't know what the referee might see or not see."

Gilford racked up the corners in the second half but couldn't break onto the scoreboard. Winnisquam, which led in corners on the day, 8-7, scored twice in the second half as O'Connor finished out the hat trick and the Bears went on for the 5-0 victory.

"It's tough to keep your legs there with very few subs when you've played three games in five days," Rogacki said. "But it's an experience the kids need to have to understand how to get to that next level."

Miller made nine saves on Saturday to pace the Eagles.

After falling to Newfound, 3-1, to start the week, Gilford fell to Winnisquam, 3-2, in a back-and-forth affair two days before the 5-0 loss.

"As the week went on, kids started to do their jobs in little ways," said Rogacki. "I know it didn't show up in the scores but that's what happened. Whether it's Kayla Orton as our sweeper yelling out to people or little Emily Hanf digging and digging for the ball, we're starting to pick up on those little things that we need to do."

Gilford led 1-0 at halftime in the first meeting against Winnisquam on a goal from Becky Zackorchemny, but the Bears responded with two straight to take the 2-1 lead. Marissa Kelleher tied the score in the second half but with less than 10 minutes left, Winnisquam buried the game-winner for the 3-2 win in Tilton.

"The kids are taking themselves to the next level and they want to take themselves there," said Rogacki. "We just have to do it for a full game now."

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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