Newfound stick girls earn semifinal bid
Undefeated Bears knock off Mascoma in quarterfinals
Amber Plummer fights for the ball during playoff action against Mascoma on Saturday, Oct. 22. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 24, 2011BRISTOL — It may have worked to the Newfound field hockey team's advantage that a number of games this season had to be postponed.
The postponements left the Bears with a few gaps in their schedule of close to a week, so when the playoffs rolled around, it was nothing new to coach Karri Peterson's squad.
The Bears earned the top seed in the Division III tournament with their 14-0 record and thus got a first-round bye. The girls hosted eighth-seeded Mascoma in the quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon at Nathan H. Morrison Memorial Field on the campus of Newfound Regional High School.
"We kind of dealt with it all year," Peterson said of the long layoff between games, noting that the players instead focused on other things.
"If you come in thinking you haven't played in a week, that can get in your head," she said. "But the girls' mindset was 'we want to go to the Final Four.'"
And thus, when the game ended in a 2-0 win for the Bears, there was no joyful celebration or pig pile in the middle of the field. The Bears simply walked off the field, congratulated Mascoma on a great game and looked forward.
"That was just step one," Peterson said.
The Bears didn't struggle out of the gate against Mascoma, though the Royals did make the first move deep into the offensive zone, only to see Lillie Worthen step up and push the ball away.
The Bears came back and had some good chances, including one on a penalty corner that Jordan Phinney sent wide of the net. Phinney also sent a nice bid in to Alex Jewell, but the pair just missed connections.
However, with less than five minutes gone in the game, the Bears got on the board, as Amber Plummer sent a ball in on net and Abbey Symonds was there to tap it in, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead.
Newfound then proceeded to dominate the possession, earning four corners in the span of just a few minutes. Jewell, Tori Markiewicz and Symonds had the best bids for the Bears, but Mascoma stepped up with solid defense as well.
The Royals were finally able to get back down the field, earning a couple of solid chances in the offensive zone. Allison Dorey, Worthen and the rest of the Newfound defense held tight in the zone and kept the Royals from threatening keeper Katelyn Welch.
The Bears reversed play and got the ball back down the field, where Plummer sent one in to Jewell, who was stoned by the Mascoma goalie. Phinney found Jewell for another bid and again the goalie stopped the ball.
However, on a penalty corner with 13 minutes to play, Emily McArthur sent the ball in on the net and Symonds was positioned perfectly at the post and tipped the ball in for a 2-0 lead.
Mascoma had a couple of solid bids that were turned away by Welch and the defense and Jewell, Sara Backoff and Symonds had chances in the offensive zone and were shut down. Plummer had a strong defensive play to help close out the half with the Bears holding the 2-0 lead.
Both teams had early chances in the second half, with Phinney standing tall on defense and Markiewicz, Symonds and Jewell getting some good looks on offense.
The Bears were able to keep the ball mostly in their offensive zone for the second part of the second half, earning four more corners in the closing minutes of the half, though they couldn't put the ball in net, thanks in part to a strong Mascoma defense.
However, Peterson noted that the Newfound plan on corners isn't always to get a shot right away, but rather to work the ball around.
"The whole idea for our corners is to keep the ball in play," the Bear coach stated. "We're looking for more of a stop and then push into the circle.
"We try to keep the ball in close and see what we can do on the right post or the left post or off the pads," Peterson continued.
The Bears were able to get plenty of pressure on the corners in the closing minutes, but a goal wasn't needed, as the Royals didn't threaten the rest of the way and the Bears walked off with the 2-0 win and a trip to the semifinals.
Peterson noted that early in the season, the Bears had struggled in the first half and had to play strong in the second half to pull out wins. However, the team seemed to reverse that in the later part of the season.
"At the beginning of the year, it took a while for us to score our first goal," Peterson stated. "But the last six or seven games, we've come out and gotten a goal in the first five minutes.
"We didn't get a lot of good shots on goal in the second half," she continued. "And we got called for feet at the wrong time."
The Bears advanced to the Division III semifinals, where they were in action after deadline on Wednesday evening against fifth-seeded Stevens of Claremont at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter. The Cardinals knocked off Gilford in the first round and upset fourth-seeded Hopkinton in the quarterfinals. The other semifinal game featured sixth-seeded Newport and second-seeded Derryfield.
The Division III championship will take place at Bedford High School on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 12 p.m.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126