There is every reason for a sports program to be proud of the fact that it has reached its league’s championship game seven out of eight years. That’s a tremendous amount of work that led to a massive amount of success.
But when you add that the team went to seven state championship games in eight years and only claimed one championship, walking away from the field as the runner-up six times, anybody should be able to understand what kind of emotional state the Pinkerton Academy field hockey team was in on Sunday evening, Nov. 1.
The Lady Astros, who have played in the Division I title match every year but one since 2008 and walked away with a crown only in 2012, were beaten by the defending D-I champions from Winnacunnet High School in Hampton by a 1-0 score on a last-second goal on Sunday afternoon at Bedford High School.
Pinkerton and Winnacunnet have now played for the D-I title four of the last six years, with the seacoast squad taking top honors in 2010, 2014, and this year.
On Sunday, the two teams played an intense, tight match that was scoreless until the very last second of regulation time, when Winnacunnet senior forward Madeline Anastasia rapped home her own rebound and sent her team into celebration mode.
“They played a phenomenal game, and they really shouldn’t have any regrets,” said PA coach Jen Resmini of her players. “I hope they understand how special this was, especially with the way the season started, with us only having two starters back.”
There was only one shot on net and three penalty corners during the entire first half, with the third-seeded Lady Astros smacking the shot and top-ranked Winnacunnet enjoying all three corners. The game went to halftime scoreless.
Pinkerton finally got its first corner of the day on the Lady Warriors’ net six minutes into the second half, but play didn’t really kick into high gear until around the 20-minute mark when Winnacunnet appeared to begin to gain control by throttling three testing shots on PA goalie Abbey Doherty in quick succession. But Doherty stopped all three of them, and her teammates put their first shot on the Winnacunnet cage with 9:20 to go.
The Lady Astros subsequently had one shot from the right wing bounce just wide of the opposite post on the opposing net, and a speedy rush down the right wing of the Winnacunnet zone by PA veteran Sam Day produced a shot that went just wide of the right post.
And just when it looked like overtime was inevitable, Winnacunnet’s Anastasia got a great scoring chance at the right post of the Pinkerton net. PA keeper Doherty made the stop on the initial blast, but with the ball sitting on the goal line and Doherty down on the ground the Lady Warrior simply had to tap the ball into the open net as time expired to win the title match for her squad.
“The girls did everything we asked, everything we practiced; it just came down to one bounce,” said Resmini.
The academy crew made its return to the championship match, thanks to a 2-0 semifinal-round defeat of the seventh-seeded Londonderry High Lady Lancers at Exeter High School Thursday, Oct. 29.
During the scoreless first half of play in that match, Pinkerton tallied seven penalty corners and put six solid shots – all of them from close range – on LHS standout goalie Rachel Simkevich. The Lady Lancers’ keeper turned every one of them away, and her teammates put pressure on the PA net during the final three minutes of the half but couldn’t come up with a goal. They went to halftime with five shots on Pinkerton goalie Doherty along with four penalty corners, all of which came in the last 2:49.
The resounding question going into the second half was, “Which team wants this big win more?” And the answer ended up being Pinkerton.
The Lady Astros dominated play, smacking 13 shots on Simkevich while PA keeper Doherty could have used a rocking chair and a magazine at the other end of the field. She faced no shots during those 30 minutes, and the academy crew enjoyed an 8-1 advantage in penalty corners as well.
Pinkerton netted what proved to be the winning goal with 13:04 left in the match off a penalty corner, with Madison Lolicata being set up by Carly Young. And the Lady Astros added an insurance goal with 3:20 showing on the game clock when Abby Amato was set up by Day.