KP’s Reign in D1 South Ends Against the Raiders

King Philip field hockey
King Philip freshman Meghan MacDonald chases down a ball on the sideline in front of Somerset-Berkley’s Alex Millar. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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TAUNTON, Mass. – It has been a remarkable two-year run for King Philip. The Warriors have won back-to-back Kelley-Rex division titles in dominating fashion, leading the league in goals scored and fewest goals allowed both years, and won a Div. 1 South crown in 2018.

The quest to repeat as sectional champions came to an abrupt end on Thursday night in the semifinal at Taunton’s Tiger Aleixo Stadium, as the Warriors gave up three straight goals, including two in two minutes, against Somerset-Berkley and lost 3-1 in a rematch of last year’s South final.

“I think the girls were nervous coming in,” said Kim Meehan, who, along with Erin MacDonald, was one of King Philip’s two coaches this season. “There was so much hype around this game that we’ve tried to keep them focused on their game.”

There was plenty of excitement surrounding this matchup of two of the top programs in the state, and a little bit of controversy as well. The Raiders have two boys, Alex Millar and Lucas Crooks, in the starting lineup and there has been a debate raging about whether or not that is fair to other programs.

The question was put to the KP coaches after Millar scored the game-winning goal on Thursday and Crooks added the insurance goal that sealed the victory, but both wanted to focus on the play of their team and not on something that can’t be changed.

“I’m more concerned about the game,” said Meehan. MacDonald added, “We’ll talk about our team and the strategy. We don’t want to talk about the rest.”

It was an end-to-end game, played at a pace that few teams in the state would be able to match for a full 60 minutes. KP had an early chance to try and break the deadlock with Nicole Connor finding Alli Meehan off a corner and she quickly swung it to Katie Lindmark for a shot that was just wide of the post.

Somerset had a good look minutes later when Crook got in behind the KP defense off a pass from Megan Salsinha, but he couldn’t put his shot on target. Meehan again got going with a winding run through the defense and her shot into the middle was redirected just wide by freshman Meghan MacDonald.

Camryn Crook had a good look at goal in the 17th minute but pressure from KP defender Emma Izydorczak put her off enough that the shot went wide. Millar also went close with a powerful backhand shot off a corner.

Meehan drew a save with six minutes left in the first half and the rebound came to Connor but her effort hit the side of the goal. A minute later and the Raiders missed a golden opportunity when Salsinha stole the ball on the restart and broke free only to rifle a shot wide when clean through.

Lucas Crook had another good chance just after halftime when he stole the ball in the attacking zone, but Grace May came up with a big kick save. MacDonald nearly fashioned a good chance for KP when she took it off Millar’s stick and tried to hit Abby Nixon right in front, but again it went wide.

The breakthrough finally came in the 39th minute. Meehan picked out Claire Lawler on the left side of the goal. Lawler played it back to Meehan in space and she was able to draw a save our of Madison Ferrara. The rebound went right back across goal to the far post, where Lawler was ready for the tap in.

Rather than give KP a momentum boost, the goal seemed to spark the Raiders into life and Somerset-Berkley quickly turned the game on its head.

“I was a little surprised by that,” MacDonald admitted. “I thought scoring the goal would take us to the next level intensity-wise and I don’t know that it did.”

In the 45th minute, Camryn Crook forced May into a save and Millar drew another good save off the resulting corner but finally on the third try Salsinha managed to knock in a rebound and tie the game.

When asked about the play of May in goal, Meehan said, “She made a couple of great saves,” while MacDonald added, “She was like a super hero out there today.”

All the energy was with the Raiders and they quickly went back to work in the attacking half of the field, earning another corner. The ball was played out to Millar and he fired a shot into the mass of players in front of the goal. It took a deflection off a KP stick and looped into the top corner of the net for what turned out to be the game-winner.

KP tried to push and get back into the game, but the Warriors were struggling to create clear chances against the Somerset-Berkley defense. In the end, it was the Raiders that would add another goal. Lucas Crook drove across the crease onto his backhand and he fired a shot into the far corner.

“I’m super proud,” said Meehan. We have 10 athletes on the field who have given 100 percent all season long, six seniors, and they’ve just put in so much work. It wasn’t that we didn’t play well. We held our own.”

King Philip finishes the season at 18-2-1.

Hornets Upset KP to Book Spot in State Tournament

Mansfield field hockey
The Hornets clinched a spot in the state tournament by sweeping the season series with league champion KP on solid goaltending by Kayla Hunter (39) and a goal from Maggie Danehy (36).

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield came into Monday night’s game at Alumni Field needing two more points to qualify for the state tournament. The Hornets were celebrating senior night, trying to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Franklin last time out and looking to sweep the season series against league champion King Philip.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

It was never going to be an easy task, even with the Warriors missing leading scorer Alli Meehan, but the Hornets rose to the task behind impressive goaltending from Kayla Hunter and a goal from Maggie Danehy to beat KP 1-0 and clinch a spot in the playoffs.

“It’s just how everything falls into place,” said Mansfield coach Theresa Nyhan. “We’re coming off an embarrassing loss where we did not play well. It was senior parent night, it was a night game, and we had to qualify for tournament, so all of those things kind of channeled into this.”

She added, “Without a doubt the two best games we played this year were the ones against King Philip. King Philip is an excellent team and tonight they brought out the best in us.”

KP had the first clear chance in the game when Liz Furfari fired a cross from the right side that skidded through the crease but neither Claire Lawler or Reagan Simeone could get the necessary touch to put it away.

The next 10 minutes were completely dominated by the Hornets, who kept the Warriors pinned back in their defensive half and racked up a 7-to-1 edge in corners in the opening half. In one stretch, Abby Campbell had to use the blocker to deny a shot off a corner and then seconds later Emma Izydorczak needed to clear a shot off the line to keep it scoreless.

The Warriors did have a couple of chances in the closing 11 minutes of the half when Katie Lindmark’s pass was tipped just wide by Furfari and then Hunter made a close range stop on Lawler. Danehy had a long-range effort turned aside by Campbell.

Hunter was called upon numerous times in the second half as the league champions pressed for the go-ahead goal. Christina Hathaway saw her blast kicked aside and then moments later Furfari had a shot that was cleared off the line by a defender.

The Mansfield defense was put under pressure but the combination of Julia Burnham, Brittany Larm, and Nicole Berluti kept the Warriors at bay with help from Danehy and Ann Maher in the midfield.

“When our goalie made the first save and then followed it up with a second one then I thought we’re in it,” said Nyhan. “We’ve played so many games where we applied pressure and the other team goes down and scores one and we get deflated but this was just…was the best game we’ve played.”

In the 48th minute, Danehy nabbed the opening goal as she raced the length of the field to get the slightest of touches to a long distance rip by Danny Radev. The ball eluded the leg of Campbell and just beat the stretch of Izydorczak to cross the line.

“She never gives up on the ball,” said Nyhan of Danehy, who seemingly covered every inch of the field. “She is relentless. She is without a doubt our most tenacious player.”

KP coach Liz Hathaway admitted that her team was trying to play away from Danehy, who was breaking up a number of attacks. Hathaway said, “She was outstanding, so we were trying to get the ball out to the right side and send in crosses from there and get players in front.”

The strategy was working for the Warriors with Furfari setting up Simeone only to have the tip go just wide and then having her own shot kicked away by Hunter. The Mansfield goalie was also forced into a solid save by Caroline Klim, teed up by Hathaway off a corner.

Nyhan said, “Huge saves. I’m so happy for her. She worked super hard in practice yesterday. We made some defensive adjustments to help her see the ball and it’s just a confidence builder for her.”

“I thought we played well,” said Liz Hathaway. “I thought we had more shots and more corners and had a lot of pressure at the end. Their goalie played great.”

As the clock wound down to zero, the Hornets all stormed the field and surrounded Hunter in goal, a clear sign of how important this game was to Mansfield.

“Not qualifying was becoming a real pressure,” Nyhan explained. “Kids were playing with their shoulders up around their ears, super tight and I think playing KP where you’re the underdog anyway, they were just like, whatever let’s go for it. Hopefully we can maintain this intensity and this level of play.”

It was only the second loss of the season for the Warriors and Hathaway said, “I guess they have our number this year.” When asked if this might be a reminder to the players of the type of intensity that is coming when the playoffs start next week, she replied, “I think it can be. We’ll have a tough practice tomorrow to get ready for Franklin.”

Hathway added, “When I have 80-90 minutes of intense practice, the girls really enjoy that and it gets them going. We’ll work to be ready for Franklin on Wednesday and try to get a win to build confidence heading into the tournament.”

Mansfield (7-5-4, 7-4-4) will travel to Oliver Ames on Wednesday before hosting Foxboro in a non-league game on Friday to close out the regular season. King Philip (14-2-1, 13-2-0) will travel to Franklin on Wednesday to close out its regular season.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.