PEMBROKE, Mass. – King Philip junior Grace Crocker has created plenty of chances for teammates throughout the season, but Warriors’ head coach Lisa Cropper has been waiting for Crocker to emerge as a goal scoring threat herself.
Crocker picked the perfect time to do so, scoring a pair of goals, including the game-winner in the second half, to lead the 17th-seeded Warriors to a 3-2 win over #16 Pembroke on the road.
After the visitors fell behind just over five minutes into the contest, Crocker latched onto a loose ball in the area to bring KP level. And she added a second midway through the second half that proved to be the game-winner for the Warriors.
“Grace Crocker was just on, I kept telling her she was on fire today,” Cropper said. “She anticipated really well, that’s what got her the first goal. And she was aggressive in the circle on the third goal. I’ve been trying to get her to do that all year. She’s a great passer, she’s a great teammate. But she has great individual skills herself so I’ve been trying to get her to score more. I think she only had one goal in the season.”
Warriors’ goalie Makenzie Manning (nine saves) was forced into a pair of early saves, including a sprawling one across the goal line to keep the ball out. But the Titans continued to press, and after KP was unable to make a clearance, Pembroke’s Kaleigh Murphy buried a shot from inside the circle to make it 1-0 just 5:14 into the game.
“We’ve had that happen before,” Cropper said. “It was so early so we had time to reset, and that’s exactly what we talked about.”
King Philip did indeed reset, and in turn, dominated the next 15 minutes of play. The ball almost never left KP’s attacking half with Sammy Robison patrolling the middle of the pitch to help keep the Warriors on offense. That pressure led to five penalty corners in a short span.
Sophomore Molly Piller smacked a hard shot off a corner that was deflected just wide by a Pembroke defender. Two minutes later, Robison tried a lift shot that went just over the bar. Seconds later, freshman Lauren Barriero put a shot on net that was kicked aside but Paige Berdos’ bid on the rebound was just wide.
The Warriors’ pressure finally paid off in the 15th minute. Robison took a pass and switched the field, connecting with Abby Nixon out wide. Nixon used her speed to race down the left sideline before firing a cross into the circle. The service was deflected into the middle of the circle and Crocker was the first to the loose ball, ripping a low shot into the back of the net to make it 1-1.
Pembroke started the second half in similar fashion to the first, applying a lot of pressure early. Manning came up with a big save on an original shot and Piller cleared a shot off the line from Pembroke’s Megan Dorsey.
But as the half went on, King Philip began to assert itself offensively. The Warriors were able to get the ball to the right wing to Berdos, who raced forward and fired in low hard crosses. After the first pair went unanswered, Cropper turned to her assistant Alli Burke to try and find a new option.
Burke suggested sophomore Margo Riley, and the substitute paid off almost immediately. Berdos’ hard cross was met by sophomore Isabella Crocker’s stick. Her deflection on goal was stopped by Riley was in the perfect position and buried the rebound chance for her first career goal, giving KP a 2-1 lead with 20:17 left in the game.
“Margo Riley, that’s her first varsity goal,” Cropper said. “Raegan [Simeone] is really steady and smart but she doesn’t always have the wheels to constantly get up and back. She couldn’t quite get to the circle for Paige’s cross. I asked my assistant Alli [Burke] and she said Margo. The second she gets in, she scores so it was a great call by Alli.”
The momentum stayed with the visitors as they continued to press in the offensive half. Five minutes after taking its first lead, King Philip extended its advantage with Grace Crocker grabbing her second goal.
Nixon was the catalyst again, this time carry possession to the circle before Pembroke’s defense intervened. A failed clearance ended up on the stick of Crocker and she deposited a close-range shot into the back.
Pembroke made it a one-goal game with just over five minutes in the game but the KP defense didn’t allow any chances in the final moments as the Titans pushed numbers forward.
“Charlotte Colella stepped up big time, Sammy Robison of course always plays great, Molly [Piller]’s hits were on point, Haley Izydorczak is always hustling,” Cropper said. “We made a couple little mistakes on their goals, they were quick and have good forwards. They do a lot of switching and we got a little confused but otherwise, I thought we played a good game.”
King Philip field hockey (10-6-3) advances to play top-seeded Somerset-Berkley (18-0-0) on Saturday at 3:00. It marks the fourth straight year the teams have met in the postseason, with KP taking wins in 2016 and 2017 and S-B in 2018. It’s also a matchup between the past two sectional winners.