Hornets Roll Past Nauset in Opening Tourney Game

Mansfield field hockey
Mansfield celebrates the opening goal for Amalia Todesco (19) that turned out to be the game-winner in a dominant performance against Nauset in the D1 South preliminary round. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – Wednesday night’s Div. 1 South preliminary round matchup started with a spell of pressure from the visiting team, as Nauset put Mansfield on its heels for the first minute or two and earned the game’s first penalty corner.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The remaining 58 minutes were completely dominated by the Hornets, last year’s D1 South finalists. Mansfield rolled to a 5-0 win at Alumni Field with five different players getting on the score sheet and the Hornets forcing Nauset goalie Lucy McNamara to make 19 saves (14 in the first half alone).

When asked if this was the most dominant performance of the season, Mansfield coach Theresa Nyhan said, “We’ve played a few games like this, but it’s nice to be able to score some goals too. We reached our goals today. We wanted quick passes through the midfield and we wanted to get the ball deep right and put the pressure on.”

McNamara was forced into action early and often by the Hornets. Emily Ierardo started the onslaught in the third minute with a point-blank chance that the goalie kicked aside. Three minutes later Caitlin Whitman had a shot off a corner that was saved and three minutes after that it was Olivia Horn who had not one but two shots kicked away.

Another penalty corner in the 12th minute saw McNamara make another stop on Ann Maher’s blast from the edge of the circle and, despite the goalie’s heroics, it felt like the breakthrough was imminent.

The opening goal came on a rebound as Ierardo had another chance from close range denied but the ball skidded out to Amalia Todesco and the senior hit a low shot through traffic to make it 1-0.

Nyhan explained, “We went with our speedy lineup and we have to give credit to Emily Ierardo…she is relentless all by herself putting tons of pressure on. Everyone turned it up.”

McNamara was forced to stand on her head to keep the Hornets at bay and she denied Horn again in the 18th minute with a diving save then dove back across goal to make a second stop. Mansfield kept pressing and a third shot hit a foot of a defender on the line to give the Hornet a penalty stroke that Whitman coolly put away to double the lead.

The scoring opportunities kept coming for Mansfield, which forced 10 penalty corners in the opening half (to just three for Nauset) and saw goalie Molly Norton spend almost the entire 60 minutes as a spectator with little to do.

Nauset defender Madison Morris cleared a pair of chances off the line with seven minutes to go until halftime and McNamara closed the first half with a flurry, making stops on shots by Mariana Palanza and Heather D’Ambra.

“They kind of put a girl right on the goal line,” said Nyhan of the Nauset set-up. “They didn’t come out and pressure us either; it kind of worked for us.”

Any hope for Nauset was extinguished early in the second half when Mansfield tacked on a third goal just two minutes after the break. Kristina O’Connell played a ball into the crease that was tipped by Ierardo but saved by McNamara. The ball broke kindly for Palanza, who stepped up and tipped it into the empty net.

“Our talk was just to draw a couple corners early,” said Nyhan of the team talk at halftime. “Defensively they had a high percentage of their team in that circle, so it gets a little crowded. What we did today really was shooting the ball early. We were just firing it on goal.”

That plan continued in the 40th minute when Todesco ripped a shot from the right side and O’Connell turned it in at the near post with a clever deflection. In the 57th minute, Mansfield sealed the big win by adding a fifth, Mairead Dunn stepping up from her defensive position and firing a low shot through legs in front and into the bottom corner.

With the win, 13th-seed Mansfield (13-4-2) will travel to face No. 4 seed Sandwich on Friday afternoon in the first round.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Field Hockey: 2016 Hockomock League Preview

Stoughton's Angela Connolly, the reigning Hockomock MVP, will be a key piece for Stoughton in a competitive Davenport division. (Photo: Jeffrey Pickette/SMAC)
Stoughton’s Angela Connolly, the reigning Hockomock MVP, will be a key piece for Stoughton in a competitive Davenport division. (Photo: Jeffrey Pickette/SMAC)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2016 Hockomock Field Hockey Preview

Attleboro

2015 Record: 10-8-2
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Lindsay Antunes

After a year off from the postseason, Attleboro made its way back to the postseason in 2015 and is looking to continue that trend in 2015. The Bombardiers are returning a handful of playoff experienced players and also have spots open for players to step into and make a name for themselves. Some of the experienced players will also shift positions to help voids left. Marissa Dias is back to anchor the defense again this year while three year varsity player Grace Mayer’s versatility has shined as she’s played all over the field. Sophomore Alexis Compton will get minutes at forward and could be a breakout player for the Bombardiers this year.

“I have returners who have filled deficits on the field by transitioning into new roles,” Attleboro head coach Lindsay Antunes said. “The players who are sliding into new positions are facing these challenges with eagerness. Their willingness and immense capability are a large part of the reason behind the changes being made. I have a great deal of confidence in this newly built team, and are certain that they are going to work hard to compete with the high level of competitiveness within this league.”

Canton

2015 Record: 10-8-3
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Chrissy O’Connor

With a good amount of returning varsity players, Canton is hoping it can return to the top of the Hockomock League. It also helps that coach Chrissy O’Connor – who won a D2 State Championship with Canton in 2004 – is back at the helm. O’Connor coached for over a decade, capping her final year with an undefeated season. Senior Julia Ezepik is back to anchor the defense while Taylor Carrington returns in the cage with starting varsity experience. Juniors Maggie Wade and Andrea McNeil are also back and will be key pieces in Canton’s midfield this season. Senior Caroline Hagan will be an important piece of the attack as well.

“With a new coaching staff this season Canton is looking to continue its tradition of being a competitive force in the Hockomock League,” O’Connor said.

Foxboro

2015 Record: 10-6-3
2015 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Melissa Bordieri

Expectations are high once again in Foxboro this season. The Warriors have made the postseason for 14 straight years and are looking to extend it to 15 straight seasons this year. Foxboro has a large amount of returning starters and players that had varsity experience, which bodes well for another playoff berth. Things start with Foxboro’s offense as they bring back three forwards that can all score consistently. Sophomore Lily Daly, the team’s leading scorer and MVP last year, is back alongside seniors Meredith Cronin and Emma Daly. Foxboro’s midfield will also have some familiar faces, including Ally Curran and Caroline Wheatley. The Warriors will have a new goalie between the pipes this year as Kelly McCarthy takes over for Jill Delaney. After two years as the understudy, head coach Melissa Bordieri is confident in McCarthy to take over.

“I’m confident we can achieve a lot of things,” Bordieri said. “We’ve set our sights on winning the division. We always want to get back to the tournament. This is one of those years I strongly feel a lot of girls can contribute because of our depth.”

Franklin

2015 Record: 16-3-2
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Lisa Cropper

Franklin has six returning starters back and a total of 10 seniors, setting the Panthers up for another successful season. It’s a mix of all grades for the Panthers, with seniors and captains Caroline Lounsbury, Dana Lewandowski and Kayla Marshall leading the way. Lounsbury and Lewandowski will patrol the midfield along with sophomore Cassie Ronan. Marshall will be a key piece in the defense along with junior Kate Morse. Sophomore Annie Walsh, the 2015 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, will lead a potent attack along with freshmen Maeve Ledwith and Erin Walsh.

“We have a solid group of field players with some young scoring talent and some depth on the bench,” head coach Lisa Cropper said. “Losing two-time Hock All-Star Samantha Jones to graduation leaves a hole in goal to fill, but if our defense plays strong while our inexperienced goalies develop, we should be able to contend for the league title.”

King Philip

2015 Record: 10-8-2
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Liz Hathaway

King Philip has a bounce back year in 2015 and is hoping to continue that success this season. The Warriors are returning key players all over the field while new players are likely to help fill some voids. Senior captain Caitlin Donahue will be one of the main pieces of the attack while senior captain and junior captain Monica Harvey and Christina Hathaway will anchor the defense. Hathaway will also see time in the midfield while Abby Campbell returns to the cage after a standout sophomore year. Sophomore Alli Meehan is back in the attack after a breakout rookie campaign in 2015.

“We are a young team with some good athletes to build around,” head coach Liz Hathaway said. “Key players have really put in a lot of work in the offseason and summer and are looking fundamentally sound, fast and strong.”

Mansfield

2015 Record: 20-2-0 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions)
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Theresa Nyhan

Mansfield took one of the most storied programs to the limit a year ago, forcing double overtime against Walpole in the D1 South Final. The Hornets are looking to continue that success in 2016. Mansfield will need to replace some key pieces if they hope to compete at the same level this year. Julia Todesco Caroline Maher graduated but the Hornets do have league all-stars Amalia Todesco and Caitlin Whitman are back this season. Todesco and fellow senior captain Jen McCabe will be key pieces of Mansfield’s defensive unit while Todesco will also see time in the midfield. Whitman will be a key cog in the Hornets’ midfield as well. Junior Emily Ierardo and senior Olivia Horn are two returners that should help bolster Manfield’s attack this year.

Milford

2015 Record: 3-11-3
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Kim Danish

The Scarlet Hawks are hoping senior leadership will help right the ship after just three wins a year ago. Milford has 13 seniors on the team, including some key experienced players in different parts of the field. Senior Emily Smith returns as the starting goalie again this year, which is already a good start for Milford. Senior captain Kaitlyn DeCapua will anchor the defense with her versatility, senior captain Tina Capone will bring speed to the midfield and senior captain Ali Atherton will relied upon to pace Milford’s offense. Shannon Cormier will also be a player to watch for the Scarlet Hawks this season.

“The 2016 Milford Hawks are persistent, determined, and resilient,” head coach Kim Danish said. “We have quickly come together as a team, and we are looking to battle through our Hock schedule.”

North Attleboro

2015 Record: 5-10-3
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Karen Folan

After missing out on the postseason a year ago, North Attleboro is looking to find its way back in 2016 and will try to do so by working from the back up. Senior captains Mary Kummer and Teresa Bagarella, who both have a lot of varsity experience, will anchor the back line. Senior Liz Morehouse takes over the starting job in the cage for North this season. Their defense will be the catalyst for the Rocketeers’ offense this season. seniors Kaleigh Cole and Jamie Cromidas, along with juniors Olivia Gedgaudas, Kaley Gorman, Emilie Pothier and Olivia Horricks will look to link up as the Rocketeers transition from defense to offense and go on the attack.

“We are a team that will get better with each game,” head coach Karen Folan said.

Oliver Ames

2015 Record: 13-5-1 (Davenport Division Champions)
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Abby Tepper

Oliver Ames has experienced a lot of success in recent seasons and the goal remains the same this year, despite a coaching change. Former Foxboro and Salve Regina standout Abby Tepper has taken over at the helm and Oliver Ames is now competing in the Kelley-Rex division. Senior captains Kendall Clifford and Katie Davenport will be the leaders for the Tigers this season. Clifford will anchor the midfield unit while Davenport will continue as a top defensive player in the Hockomock. Dimitra Efremidis will be a key part of Oliver Ames’ offense this season, with the ability to set up teammates and find the back of the net herself.

“I am very proud of the girls so far during preseason putting in extra work even outside of practice times,” Tepper said.

Sharon

2015 Record: 0-16-0
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Andrea Vandette

The Eagles are hoping some added depth will lead to a turnaround season and a step in the right direction for the future. Sharon has three senior captains, Georgia Salvatore, Shafali Reddy and Michelle Lu, all of which are returning varsity players with experience. All three are defenders so Sharon is relying on a solid defensive foundation to lead the way in 2016. Lindsey Moses will be the starting goalie this season after seeing some minutes a year ago. Erica Dougherty and Stephanie Wasserman will be new options at forward this season alongside returning varsity player, Emily Locke.

“We made a lot of progress last year and I feel like we are picking up right where we left off,” head coach Andrea Vandette said. “This years squad is a lot bigger than last year and that depth on the bench is much appreciated.”

Stoughton

2015 Record: 10-8-3
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Dan Mark

Stoughton has been on the rise over the last three seasons and after an appearance in the D1 South tournament, the Black Knights will look to continue the upward trajectory in 2016. Reigning Hockomock League MVP and Northeastern-commit Angela Connelly is back to control the midfield for the Black Knights. Olivia Schlehuber and Mia Russell are both returning starters at the forward position, which bodes well for Stoughton’s attack. Kayla Oliviera, Kelly Corrigan and Kelly Joyce all saw plenty of playing time last season and will be important pieces in the midfield this season. Senior Meghan McSweeney and sophomore Gianna Barbosa will battle for the starting job in the cage.

“We are looking forward to a good season with a mix of veteran and new players,” head coach Dan Mark said.

Taunton

2015 Record: 1-15-2
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Elizabeth Hathaway

After finding the win column just one year ago, Taunton is looking to make a big step forward in 2016. The Tigers, playing in the incredibly competitive Kelley-Rex division, will have some experience to rely on in some parts of the field but will be looking to youth in others. Senior’s Katie Van Zandt and Bre Conlon will be key pieces on defense for the Tigers this season. Junior’s Kya Enos and Liana Duarte are returners that will pace Taunton’s offense this season. Both proved to be key pieces of the attack a season ago. Taunton will rely on youth in the middle of the field as sophomores Jillian Pagliuca and Lauren Torres will both play important roles at midfield.

“We are a young team, hoping to use speed and space to our advantage in offensive play,” head coach Liz Hathaway said.

Players to Watch

Players are listed alphabetically

Abby Campbell, King Philip – The class of 2016 included a lot of the top goalies in the league. However, Campbell emerged as one of the top netminders during her sophomore year and could be the top goalie in league in 2016.

Kendall Clifford, Oliver Ames – The Tigers have had a strong run as of late and will need another strong season to compete in the Kelley-Rex. Clifford’s presence in the midfield will be key for the Tigers as she helps the team transition from defense to offense.

Angela Connolly, Stoughton – The reigning Hockomock League MVP is back after helping Stoughton to the playoffs last year. She scored 11 goals and added 15 assists and will be a true double threat for the Black Knights this year.

Lily Daly, Foxboro – It’s rare that a freshman leads a team and scoring but that’s exactly what Daly did a year ago, being named team MVP. With forwards Meredith Cronin and Emma Daly back as well, Foxboro should have a potent attack.

Mary Kummer/Teresa Bagarella, North Attleboro – The Rocketeers should have a strong defense this season with senior captains Mary Kummer and Teresa Bagarella. The duo has a lot of experience and that bodes well for North Attleboro this season.

Dana Lewandowski, Franklin – The senior captain midfielder has a large presence on the field for the Panthers. Lewandowski controls the midfield, has the ability to get forward and score and can set up teammates at the same time.

Grace Mayer, Attleboro – Attleboro made a trip to the postseason in 2015 and Mayer’s 11 goals and three assists were a big reason. The Bombardiers will have a lot of competition in the Kelley-Rex but Mayer will be a top offensive producer again this year.

Jen McCabe, Mansfield – The Hornets had a historic run to the sectional final and the offense got a lot of attention but the back line was rock solid throughout the year. McCabe was one of the center pieces to that defense and is back as a senior captain this year.

Annie Walsh, Franklin – The defending HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year is back after a breakout rookie season. Walsh will be looking to produce numbers (nine goals and seven assists) like she did a season ago.

The 2015 Hockomock Field Hockey All Stars & HMs

(Photo: Jeffrey Pickette/SMAC)
(Photo: Jeffrey Pickette/SMAC)

Below are the official Hockomock League Field Hockey All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.

Hockomock League MVP

Angela Connolly, Stoughton

Hockomock League All Stars

Quincy Harding, Attleboro
Grace Mayer, Attleboro
Lindsey Nolte, Canton
Mary Nee, Canton
Lily Daly, Foxboro
Meredith Cronin, Foxboro
Sydney Garrabrant, Foxboro
Samantha Jones, Franklin
Taylor Reutlinger, Franklin
Kenzie Pleshaw, Franklin
Annie Walsh, Franklin
Casie Curtin, King Philip
Courtney Foley, King Philip
Mary O’Connor, King Philip
Julia Todesco, Mansfield
Caroline Maher, Mansfield
Amalia Todesco, Mansfield
Caitlin Whitman, Mansfield
Jessica Palmer, Milford
Mycala Moody, North Attleboro
Hannah Friend, Oliver Ames
Cassie Gavin, Oliver Ames
Brigid Loftus, Sharon
Angela Connolly, Stoughton
Jessica Greer, Stoughton
Jordan Wade, Taunton

Honorable Mentions

Emily Houle, Attleboro
Abby Powers, Canton
Emma Daly, Foxboro
Abby Egan, Franklin
Christina Hathaway, King Philip
Jenn McCabe, Mansfield
Shannon Cormier, Milford
Amanda D’Amico, North Attleboro
Missy Krim, Oliver Ames
Morgan Usen, Sharon
Kara Ploss, Stoughton
Alexis Bissonnette, Taunton

The 2015 Hockomock Field Hockey All Stars & HMs

(Photo: Jeffrey Pickette/SMAC)
(Photo: Jeffrey Pickette/SMAC)

Below are the official Hockomock League Field Hockey All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.

Hockomock League MVP

Angela Connolly, Stoughton

Hockomock League All Stars

Quincy Harding, Attleboro
Grace Mayer, Attleboro
Lindsey Nolte, Canton
Mary Nee, Canton
Lily Daly, Foxboro
Meredith Cronin, Foxboro
Sydney Garrabrant, Foxboro
Samantha Jones, Franklin
Taylor Reutlinger, Franklin
Kenzie Pleshaw, Franklin
Annie Walsh, Franklin
Casie Curtin, King Philip
Courtney Foley, King Philip
Mary O’Connor, King Philip
Julia Todesco, Mansfield
Caroline Maher, Mansfield
Amalia Todesco, Mansfield
Caitlin Whitman, Mansfield
Jessica Palmer, Milford
Mycala Moody, North Attleboro
Hannah Friend, Oliver Ames
Cassie Gavin, Oliver Ames
Brigid Loftus, Sharon
Angela Connolly, Stoughton
Jessica Greer, Stoughton
Jordan Wade, Taunton

Honorable Mentions

Emily Houle, Attleboro
Abby Powers, Canton
Emma Daly, Foxboro
Abby Egan, Franklin
Christina Hathaway, King Philip
Jenn McCabe, Mansfield
Shannon Cormier, Milford
Amanda D’Amico, North Attleboro
Missy Krim, Oliver Ames
Morgan Usen, Sharon
Kara Ploss, Stoughton
Alexis Bissonnette, Taunton

Mansfield Comes Up Short In Overtime Against Walpole

Mansfield's Caitlin Whitman carries the ball up field in the second half at Muscato Stadium. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Mansfield’s Caitlin Whitman carries the ball up field in the second half at Muscato Stadium. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief

NORTH EASTON, Mass. – The numbers game finally caught up to Mansfield.

In a 1-1 game, the Hornets controlled the first five minutes of overtime in the D1 South Final, pushing the pace and getting into attacking positions but never found an opportunity to bury the game winner.

Walpole used the counter attack, first a breakaway from Emma Flynn that Mansfield goalie Brenna Prior denied point blank. Then a minute later, the Porkers got a two on none chance when Brooke Skulski net Abigail O’Sullivan in for a chance but once again Prior got the stop.

But just one minute later, the Porkers had a three on none breakaway chance with Mansfield trying to sub and off a counter attack and Prior had no chance when Mel Weber slipped a pass to her right to Celia Walsh for the tap in as Walpole got a 2-1 win in overtime.

“The whole secret to success in overtime is to bury the biscuit early and we had our chance and unfortunately we didn’t do it,” Mansfield head coach Theresa Nyhan said. “Then your legs get tired and then you saw what happened.”

Mansfield took the lead after weathering an early push from Walpole in the first 10 minutes. The Hornets were finally able to get some pressure going forward and after a restart, Amalia Todesco ripped a shot into the area and the rebound fell to senior Caroline Maher and she buried it while falling to give Mansfield a 1-0 lead just 13 minutes into the game.

The Hornets nearly doubled the lead when sophomore Emily Ierardo beat her mark down the right sideline and cut in. She fired a cross that Maher got a good piece of by Walpole goalie Audrey Lynch got her pad in the way to stop the shot. mansfield was able to kill off a green card penalty to end the first half.

After a back and forth start to the second half, the Porkers were able to break through with just over 18 minutes to play. Weber charged down the middle and a rebound fell right to Walsh and she buried it to tie the game.

“Our whole defense is really a cohesive unit and they’ve played great all season and today was no different,” Nyhan said. “Walpole was going to score a goal, you get to this point of the season and someone will score a goal. It’s how you respond to it and it took a little bit of wind out of our sail and by the time we got going we were fighting the clock.”

Walpole nearly had the winner with just over six minutes to play when Prior was beat but Maggie Dunn did well to cover the goal and stopped a shot right on the goal line.

In overtime, Mansfield controlled possession for almost all of the first five minutes but failed to register a decent scoring shot. Prior made two huge saves to extend the game before the Porkers finally scored with just over seven minutes to go in the second overtime.

“She had an awesome season,” Nyhan said of Prior. “What she did all season you saw here today so it wasn’t anything that we didn’t expect. It was three on zero at the end, we were subbing a kid so it was just too bad because she played terrific.”

Mansfield finishes the season 20-2 overall and won the Kelley-Rex division for the second year in a row. It’s the first time the Hornets have won consecutive league titles since 1997 and 1998 that the program has done so.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Mansfield Stings Franklin With Last Minute Goal

Caitlin Whitman
Mansfield celebrates Caitlin Whitman’s Last-minute penalty stroke goal that gave the Hornets a win in the Div. 1 South semifinal against Franklin. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

MANSFIELD, Mass. – The Panthers had dominated from the beginning of the game, forcing Mansfield to defend deep and putting consistent pressure on the Hornets’ back line. Then, with a minute remaining, Mansfield broke forward on a rare attack on the Franklin net.

Franklin goalie Sam Jones made two kick saves, but in the mass of white and blue jerseys in the crease she was forced to cover up the ball to prevent a goal. The result was a penalty stroke with just 40 seconds left to play.

Mansfield junior Caitlin Whitman stepped up to the spot. The Hornets had been practicing and Whitman put the effort to good use, dispatching a shot into the bottom corner and past the outstretched leg of Jones.

The goal gave Mansfield a 1-0 win on Wednesday afternoon at a rainy and cold Alumni Field, decided the season series between the rivals, and advanced the Hornets to the Div. 1 South final.

“We always have a plan when we step up to the line,” said Whitman, who admitted that she had put in a lot of time practicing penalty strokes in the lead up to the game.

“I was nervous but working through the nerves is part of what we practice every day. I was trying to put the nerves aside and try to sink it.”

The Panthers jumped onto the front foot right from the opening whistle. The midfield, led by Mackenzie Pleshaw, Diana Griffin, Dana Lewandowski and particularly senior Taylor Reutlinger, blocked off every Mansfield attack and kept the ball in the Hornets defensive third.

“They’re like an onion – you peel one layer and there’s another layer and another layer,” said Mansfield coach Theresa Nyhan. She joked, “Sometimes I feel like they’re playing with 13 or 14 on the field.”

Despite the pressure that Franklin was exerting, Hornets goalie Brenna Prior was largely untroubled in the opening half. The Mansfield defense kept Franklin at bay. Ann Maher, Amalia Todesco, and Jennifer McCabe forced everything to the outside and limited Franklin to only a couple of shots that got through to Prior.

“They dominated but didn’t have a ton of shots,” explained Nyhan. “It was a lot of midfield play and even three-quarter play; they had it in that section.”

“When we got the chance to open up the field, we had some chances.”

Pleshaw had the ball in the net for Franklin in the 17th minute but it was from outside the arc and did not count. Ruetlinger had a shot kicked aside by Prior and it started a break with Maher racing into the counterattack. A steal by Whitman forced Jones into a save with just two minutes before the break.

“Early in the first half, we had more chances but nobody was going to the ball and everyone was standing there watching,” said Franklin coach Lisa Cropper. “My best attackers are freshmen and…sometimes it’s brilliant and sometimes it’s where are you? When you don’t take care of your chances then you give the other team the chance.”

Whitman had an early chance in the second half for Mansfield that was kicked aside by Jones and then Franklin went back on the attack. The Panthers had a second goal disallowed for a violation in the crease in the 34th minute and in the 42nd minute freshman Annie Walsh had a shot saved by Prior.

“I had one timeout but I wish I had four. I wanted to borrow some from Coach Redding, but I know he uses his all up,” Nyhan joked. “I was happy they used their timeout because…clearly we were back on our heels.”

Walsh had another chance in the 48th minute off a corner but no one could redirect her pass through the crease and the chance was gone. Six minutes later, Walsh again saw a shot find the side of the net not the back of it.

“Everyone says defense wins championships, but you don’t win if you don’t score,” said Cropper.

The Franklin midfield had been mostly impenetrable but as the clock wound down under a minute and the Panthers bench started making plans for overtime, the Hornets broke quickly. Julia Todesco found Caroline Maher with open field to run into for the first time all game and Mansfield turned it into a chance.

Jones made several big stops but the play developed into a scrum in front of goal with both teams trying their best to get a stick on the ball. In the end, Jones was forced to cover up and the penalty stroke was awarded.

Cropper had no complaints about the decisive call. She said, “The stroke was the correct call. We kind of broke down in the last minute and Sam had no choice but to cover it and the kid made a nice stroke.”

She added, “Their two best players really didn’t do a whole lot until right down there…we tried to have someone on them and we did it for the most part but you have to do it for 60 minutes not 59:30.”

Nyhan added “It’s unfortunate that it needs to be the game decider, but also you can’t bury the ball.”

The victory sends Mansfield to the Div. 1 South final at the expense of their rivals.

Whitman gushed, “They’re our biggest competitors in the regular season, so playing them in the tournament is a huge deal and we were all nervous, but luckily we could let that go and play our game.”

“We haven’t been here in so long. It just means so much.”

Mansfield will face perennial power Walpole on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Oliver Ames.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Horn is the Hornets Hero in D1 Quarterfinal

Olivia Horn
Olivia Horn (8) scored the game-winning goal with 19 minutes remaining to send Mansfield into the Div. 1 South semifinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

MANSFIELD, Mass. – With 19:37 left in the a scoreless game, Wellesley coach Erin Stickle called a timeout. Up until that point, the Raiders had dominated play, albeit without finding the back of the net. Twenty-six seconds after the timeout, Mansfield scored.

Olivia Horn, playing her final game before going on a mission trip to Africa, swept home a centering pass by Caitlin Whitman on one of the few clear chances the Hornets had up to that point.

Mansfield controlled play for the final 19 minutes and, with help from a last-minute save by goalie Brenna Prior, pulled out a 1-0 win over the Raiders at Alumni Field and advanced to the Div. 1 South semifinal to face rival Franklin.

The Raiders had started the second half strongly and Prior was forced into several clutch saves to stop Ling Groccia and Danielle Hickman from opening the scoring. Groccia also whiffed on a good look from close-range.

The Hornets had escaped, but head coach Theresa Nyhan was hesitant to call a timeout. She smiled when asked about Wellesley taking a timeout and allowing her to settle down her team.

“I’m glad she called the timeout,” said Nyhan. “The clock doesn’t stop so you want to keep those in your pocket.”

Out of the timeout, Mansfield started to push forward and Whitman got room on the left side of the attack. She played a ball across the middle of the crease where Horn was stationed and the  junior attacker redirected the pass inside the post for the goal.

“We have a player in her last game because she’s going on a mission trip,” said Nyhan, indicating that it was Horn that would miss the remaining tournament games. “She played out of her mind today.”

For the first 41 minutes of the game, it was the Raiders that had the territorial edge. Wellesley was bottling up the Hornets attack, particularly limiting the touches of senior Caroline Maher, who was moved from the middle out to the wing to try and find space.

“When you score four goals in a game (against Duxbury in the first round) you’re going to get attention,” said Nyhan of the Wellesley defense keying on Maher. “It’s great to see other players step up and make plays.”

The Raiders thought that they had taken the lead in the ninth minute when a long shot from nearly midfield took a deflection and snuck past Prior. The referee waved it off because the deflection was by a Mansfield defender not a Wellesley player and thus did not count.

Horn had the two best chances for the Hornets in the opening half, but both were saved at the near post. Following the Mansfield goal, Julia Todesco had a shot from the middle of the crease kicked aside and Horn had a shot from a Todesco pass that was saved.

Amalia Todesco had a chance off a corner that was saved and then Brianna Puccia had the follow up blocked off the line by a Wellesley defender.

With five minutes remaining, Mairead Dunn was given a card for blocking a restart, which left the Hornets down a player. Amalia Todesco and Jennifer McCabe were immense down the stretch intercepting Wellesley passes towards goal.

The Raiders continued to press until the final whistle and created one last chance with only 59 seconds remaining, but Prior once again kicked out a leg to stop the shot and the rebound was cleared over half.

“Everyone needs to make plays and she stepped up with her leg and her arm and came through with a big stop at the end,” said Nyhan.

The final whistle blew and the Hornets mobbed the goalie and celebrated another big win to advance to the sectional semifinal. Standing in their way will be Franklin, their rival and the team that they edged for the league title this season.

The semifinal will also provide the chance to determine the winner of the season series with the two teams splitting their regular season games.

“They’re a strong team, well-coached and…I love the Hockomock,” said Nyhan, “and I’m glad they weren’t knocked out.”

The semifinal will be played on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Alumni Field.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.