By Lance Reynolds, HockomockSports.com Contributor
NORTH EASTON, Mass. — Oliver Ames was doing almost everything it needed to offensively.
For close to the entirety of Wednesday’s field hockey match against North Attleboro, the Tigers dominated possession time, closing in on the Rocketeer goal again and again.
Yet, when the final horn sounded, Oliver Ames had no goals to show for.
The Tigers never solved how they could get the ball around the North Attleboro backfield. Defender Emily Daby, middie Riley O’Brien, and goalie Emma Strachan continuously pestered Oliver Ames, poking the ball away and never allowing it into the Rocketeer goal, as North Attleboro grabbed a 1-0 shutout in a key, early-season Hockomock crossover game.
“Oliver Ames’ cross-passes were very strong,” said Rocketeers head coach Karen Folan. “So it was great that we could cut them off and get a stick on the ball.”
With Oliver Ames finding themselves in scrum after scrum near the North Attleboro goal in the first half, Folan knew she had to move some of her forwards and middies closer to the defensive end of the field.
The move paid dividends, not only did it allow the Rocketeers to hold the Tigers off the board, but it also allowed North Attleboro to have an aggressive offensive attack, whenever the Rocketeers had an opportunity.
In the 27th minute, North Attleboro forward Julia Puccio found herself breaking away from the Oliver Ames defense after the Rocketeers’ defense broke up a Tiger scrum in front of their goal. Puccio bolted down the field, passed the ball over to Olivia Luistro, and forward Lauren Abusheery successfully finished the sequence, rifling the ball into the Oliver Ames goal, as North Attleboro took a 1-0 lead late in the first half.
“Offensively, I was telling them to push up because OA had a lot of possession and were dominating on offense,” Folan said. “But once we got it past them, there wasn’t a whole lot of defense back there. We definitely took advantage, passed the ball around a little bit, and got the nice angle on the shot for Lauren Abusheery.”
Oliver Ames relentlessly tried to find a way to figure out the Rocketeers defense, and it took all of the final 30 minutes of the match for North Attleboro to make sure they were going to hold onto their 1-0 lead.
In the 39th minute, Tiger forward Cassie Gennis mercifully ripped a shot after an Oliver Ames corner, but Daby was in the right place at the right time, stopping the ball from going past Strachan and into the Rocketeer net.
A few minutes later, the Tigers had several scoring chances when they battled in a scrum, once again, in front of the North Attleboro goal after a corner, but O’Brien got a piece of her stick on the ball to break it up, as Oliver Ames once again failed to generate a score.
In the final minute of play, Oliver Ames forward Lily Gaskill had the last opportunity for the Tigers to strike even with the Rocketeers, but her shot went wide of Strachan, who finished with 19 saves, and past the North Attleboro goal.
“We’ve been working on stopping the ball and carrying it out,” Folan said. “We did a really great job of doing that today instead of stopping it and not finishing it. We’ve been really working on it and it definitely showed today.”
It’s just one win and it’s still early in the season, but after the Rocketeers fell just four points short of advancing to the tournament last year, Folan admitted that the early season games are, perhaps, the most meaningful for North Attleboro’s postseason chances.
“We have the mindset thinking that this is the point we need to make tournament,” Folan said. “Because we’ve been getting to the end of the season where we need just that one point and we’re not getting it, so even though it’s September, we’re thinking that this is the point that we need to make it to the tournament. This is really going to make a difference.”
North Attleboro (2-1) looks to keep the winning spirits alive when they host Sharon next Monday while Oliver Ames (1-2) looks to get back into the win column Saturday when they travel to West Bridgewater.