Sports

NEPSAC CHAMPIONSHIPS

A perfect finish for Phillips Andover field hockey

DAVID FRICKE
The Phillips Andover field hockey celebrated its NEPSAC Class A title after defeating Hotchkiss, 2-1, on Sunday.

The Phillips Academy Andover had opened its season with 14 straight wins, having scored first in each of the victories. But in the 10th minute of a Halloween afternoon contest against Noble & Greenough, the Big Blue trailed for the first time.

“That was the defining moment in our season,” said Meg Ward, a senior captain from Southborough.

“Are we going to bounce back from this or is this going to be it? The tenacity that we had in that game and the resilience we had was kind of the changing point.”

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They refused to panic – junior Marisol Nugent (Boxford) netted the equalizer nine minutes into the second half and junior Carly Kreytak (Lexington) secured the 2-1 victory with an overtime goal.

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The Big Blue improved to 15-0, then 16-0, then 17-0, shutting out opponents in 12 games and allowing just five goals against. On Sunday, Phillips Andover won its third New England Class A Prep title in four seasons with a 2-1 victory over Hotchkiss at Choate Rosemary Hall.

“Winning begets winning,” said head coach Kate Dolan, whose entire roster is made up of Massachusetts residents, with the exception of one, from Windham, N.H.

“It’s really hard to win your last game. What these kids have done has been incredible. The kids always aspired to work hard and work together, which I think is the most important thing. It was a great thing to see when kids just believe in themselves.”

In Sunday’s final, the Big Blue took a quick 1-0 lead but went into the half tied. With four and a half minutes to play, they drew some inspiration from undefeated NCAA champion North Carolina, successfully following a corner play they had seen on SportsCenter and began practicing just last week. Sophomore Anna Bargman (Boxford) scored both goals.

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“Once we won, I broke into tears,” Ward said. “Part of it was because I was so happy, but the other part of it was tears of pure relief. Once we hit 10 wins, I feel like the pressure just slowly built up. It was kind of like, ‘Oh geez, are we going to go undefeated at this point or are we going to lose?’”

To reach the final, the Big Blue defeated Greenwich in the semifinal. It was a redemption victory for the Big Blue, who fell to the Gators in the 2017 final.

“We wanted to beat them so badly,” said Ward, who is verbally committed to play at the University of Pennsylvania next fall.

“Because of the loss the previous year, it really fueled us this entire season. We didn’t want to have to feel that way. It was obviously the best possible way to go out.”