Cougars crush Kennett's playoff dreams



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STEPHANIE LOYND pushes the ball toward the net during action against Con-Val on Oct. 21. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 24, 2011
NORTH CONWAY — Last season, the Kennett field hockey team didn't lose in the playoffs, making a run to the school's first field hockey title.

This year, Con-Val played the role of spoiler and knocked off the Eagles in the opening round of the tournament on Oct. 21, ending any hope of back-to-back championships for the Kennett girls.

"I could tell from the beginning it was going to take just one goal and it was a matter of who could get that first," Kennett coach CJ Lang said. "We couldn't finish and that was due to their strong goalie and defense."

The Kennett girls dominated the majority of the game, keeping the ball in the offensive zone for good chunks of the afternoon, but the Con-Val goalie was stellar and the defense was strong, denying the Eagles on every chance.

The Kennett defense and also did its part at the other end, denying the Cougars any shooting chances and keeping the ball away from the net when the visitors did venture down into the zone.

However, with 2:10 on the clock in the first overtime period, a Cougar player broke down the right side of the field and crossed the ball toward the net. It eluded the one Kennett defender and found the stick of a charging Cougar, who tapped it up in the air and into the net for the game's lone goal, earning the Cougars a date with St. Thomas in the quarterfinals and sending the Eagles home with an early playoff exit.

"The girls gave an incredible effort," Lang said. "They have come a long way and I think they even surprised themselves."

The Eagles dominated the opening minutes of play, with Vonde Saunders, Elyse Clancy, Emily Watson, Amanda Nusbaum and Stephanie Loynd all getting great scoring bids as the Eagles pressured in the offensive zone.

Con-Val did manage to get the ball out of the zone, but the Kennett defense sent it right back in and Nusbaum, Watson and Clancy continued to pressure the net, but to no avail, as the Con-Val defense held strong.

Watson had a shot denied by the Con-Val keeper and Monica Andreani had a shot sail wide of the net. Watson also hit Loynd with a nice pass for a scoring chance but the Con-Val defense was more than up for the task.

The Kennett defense, led by solid play from Alex Massa, helped quell the final Con-Val chance of the half and the game went to the break with neither team on the board.

Con-Val opened the half with time in the offensive zone, but they couldn't get the ball on net and the Eagles eventually rode the ball down the field for more pressure in the offensive zone.

Watson and Clancy had the best chances and Kennett had three consecutive corners that were killed off by the Cougar defense.

Aimee-Kate Gutowksi had a shot stopped on another Kennett corner and then teamed with Saunders for a solid defensive play at the other end of the field.

The Eagles got even more scoring chances on a couple more corners that were turned away and the two teams finished regulation with the score still tied at zero.

The teams went to the seven-on-seven overtime and Kennett came out of the gate with good pressure from Saunders and Charlotte Walker. Clancy hit Walker with a great bid on Kennett's third corner of the overtime, but the Cougar goalie held her ground. Kennett had a couple shots go wide as well.

Then, the Cougars were able to turn a defensive stop into a breakout on the offensive end and tallied the only goal of the game.

Lang had nothing but praise for the defensive side of Con-Val's game.

"She deserves that," Lang said of the keeper. "She played an incredible game.

"And their defense is also very, very solid," she continued.

The second-year Kennett coach was quick to praise the hard work of Gutowski, Clancy and Nusbaum but also noted that the game was a complete team effort, with everyone doing something to help the cause.

"Today was a good example of everybody stepping up with a play at one point or another," Lang said.

The Eagles finished at 9-5 on the regular season and will graduate nine seniors in June of next year.

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

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