EXETER — Windham High School field hockey coach Katie Blair said her team came into this Division I season feeling it had unfinished business following its runner-up campaign last fall.
The Jaguars earned another opportunity to capture their first D-I championship with their 2-0 semifinal victory over Bishop Guertin of Nashua Tuesday night at Bill Ball Stadium.
Second-seeded Windham (15-1) will play fifth-seeded Concord, which beat eighth-seeded Merrimack 2-1 in Tuesday’s late semifinal, in the championship game Sunday at 4 p.m. at Bedford High School. Sixth-seeded Bishop Guertin finished the season with an 11-6 record.
“Since we did lose last year, it’s kind of been all about working to this point — to know that we have a shot to play for it (the championship),” said Jaguars junior forward Maddi O’Hare, who logged a goal and an assist.
Windham pressured the Cardinals’ defense and had its chances to open the game’s scoring but the teams played to a scoreless draw in the first half. Blair simply told her players during the intermission to keep playing.
“Every minute, you’ve just got to keep going,” Blair said. “Whether the score is zero or we’re up by three, we’ve got to play as if it’s 0-0 so until they put that official (goal) on the board, you’ve got to keep going.”
The Jaguars followed Blair’s decree and continued to sustain long possessions in Bishop Guertin’s half of the field and finally broke the scoreless deadlock with 19:36 remaining. Cameron Livingstone found the back of the Cardinals’ cage off a feed from O’Hare in transition.
“It’s good to be the one who isn’t coming from behind and trying to get back into the play,” O’Hare said. “It’s definitely a feeling of, ‘OK, we can do this. Now how are we going to move forward from here and secure the game?’”
Windham answered that question with 2:13 left, when O’Hare put home a rebound goal in front of the Cardinals’ cage to cap the game’s scoring.
Jaguars senior goalkeeper Kayla Antonucci did not have to make a save to earn the shutout. Windham finished with a 9-0 shots-on-goal advantage and drew five penalty corners compared with Bishop Guertin’s three.
“We’ve got great athletes at BG,” Cardinals coach Steve Duprat said. “We’ve got some very good field hockey players but we don’t have a team of very good field hockey players like Windham does....We’ve got great athletes who can beat them speed for speed but some of the skill set, I think that’s where we lost on a little bit. In big games like this where it’s really good teams, that’s going to be the difference.”
The Cardinals struggled to keep possession in Windham’s half of the field. Bishop Guertin often had what looked to be promising transition opportunities snuffed out by a timely poke by a Jaguars defender.
Blair credited her team’s defensive success to leadership from junior Sabrina Lippold.
“Brina is one of the most underrated players in Division I field hockey,” Blair said. “She’s just incredible back there. She has a knack for defending the ball and getting quick pokes, bringing it out to the side and getting us moving up to offense.”
Cardinals goalies Monina Tosi and Makenna Reekie combined for seven saves.
“They worked really hard all year,” Blair said of her players. “This was our goal — to get back here from last year.”
Concord 2, Merrimack 1: The Crimson Tide (12-4) punched their first-ever ticket to the D-I title game with two goals that came as a result of penalty-corner opportunities.
Both Concord senior Erin Doherty’s game-winning goal and sophomore Kaitlyn McKinnon’s goal that opened the game’s scoring came shortly after the Crimson Tide drew a penalty corner.
Concord broke a 1-1 deadlock with Doherty’s goal in front that came following her team’s fifth of six penalty-corner opportunities with 13:29 remaining.
McKinnon scored with 5:59 left in the first half following Concord’s second penalty corner, giving the Crimson Tide a 1-0 halftime advantage.
Concord coach Andrew Briers credited his team’s penalty-corner success to the turf field at Bill Ball Stadium. The Crimson Tide play their home games on a grass field.
“It’s a lot easier on turf,” Briers said. “I know it was kind of nerve-wracking when both teams had corners, to be honest because it’s just so much easier to convert.”
Maria Armaganian assisted on both of Concord’s goals.
The eighth-seeded Tomahawks (10-7) knotted the score at 1-1 with 18:25 remaining. Merrimack junior midfielder Theresa Twardosky scored through traffic in front of the Concord cage off a feed from Ellie Boucher.
Concord sophomore goalie Felicity Wheldon made one save. Senior Heather Rohr made six saves for Merrimack.