Until the day they die, every member of both teams will remember having been part of this contest.
Junior Kelly Dolan netted a “golden” goal with 5:46 remaining in the second (and sudden-death) overtime period to lift the Barrington Field Hockey team to a scintillating 1-0 victory over East Greenwich in the championship match of the RIIL’s Division I state playoffs Tuesday night at Cranston Stadium.
Dolan’s game-ending score came after the Eagles (16-1-2) and defending state champion Avengers (13-4-3) battled through 74:14 of scoreless, yet exhilarating play in a contest which featured spectacular defense, energetic rushes, high drama, countless heroics and endless sensational efforts, all in front of a large and emotionally charged crowd which hung on edge right to the end. Indeed, as trite as it may sound, neither squad deserved to lose in this titanic struggle matching the past two Division I state championship programs.
It all came to an abrupt ending 4:14 into the second extra period, both of which were played with the teams restricted to seven players (down from 11 in regulation time). After firing wide on two penalty corners earlier in the session, Barrington finally capitalized at the end of a three-on-two rush.
Dolan passed to her sister, Libby Dolan, whose initial shot was kicked out by Avenger keeper Alexandra Leveillee (9 saves). Taylor Rideout followed with a rebound try, which Leveillee also rejected, before Kelly Dolan converted a third shot for the state title score.
“We had a breakaway on the right and Libby shot, the Taylor shot, and the ball bounced to me,” Kelly Dolan said. “I was able to push it in.”
Dolan’s goal ignited a raucous on-field celebration by the Eagles and elicited an equally joyous response from Barrington’s large contingent of supporters on hand, while the even-larger East Greenwich turnout graciously applauded the efforts of its players. Moments later, Barrington Coach Lee-Ann Markowski reflected on the Eagles’ seventh Division I state crown and their fourth in the past seven seasons.
“East Greenwich has a great team and we just had to hold our breath the whole way,” said Markowski. “We had opportunities and I think we played very well. In a game like this, it just comes down to who gets a lucky bounce and puts the ball in.”
East Greenwich Coach Debra McMullen was magnanimous in defeat.
“We just couldn’t make enough plays today,” she said. “Our defense played unbelievably well, but they were tested way too much during the entire game. We just didn’t have enough opportunities.”
Indeed, the Avengers were out-shot in the contest by a 10-3 margin and Barrington enjoyed an 11-3 advantage in penalty corners. However, EG nearly scored in the first half – an apparent goal was negated by a violation – and carried the action in the first overtime, a 10-minute session.
Early in the period, EG’s Jamie Fugere shot wide from 10 yards out and shortly thereafter, Caroline Neupauer’s try from 15 yards away was kicked out by Eagle keeper Sophie Faxon (who made 3 saves Tuesday night and posted three successive playoff shutouts). Moments later, Marielle Kraft blistered a tough-angle shot which rolled through the goal mouth and out of danger.
The teams battled through an entertaining first half highlighted by non-stop action, but few solid scoring chances. Faxon turned aside shots by Neupauer and Meghan Windle, while Levaillee thwarted two shots by Mary Coogan.
The Eagles asserted control through most of the second half, forcing Levaillee to kick out three shots by Kelly Dolan and two by Rideout.
At the conclusion of the match, East Greenwich and Barrington received individual medallions and playoff runner-up and championship trophies, respectively, from RIIL Field Hockey Director Jean Angell during an on-field ceremony. With disappointment etched on their faces, co-captains Katie Sloat and Taylor Christie proudly accepted the runner-up trophy for the Avengers before the victorious Eagles received their awards.
While specifically praising EG’s defense – especially Levaillee, Phoebe Hughes, Keri Pallister, Liz Colavita and Julia Elson – McMullen offered plaudits for her entire squad.
“A year ago, I thought we had a chance to get back (to the championship match),” McMullen said. “I’m proud of the way our players have persevered, came together, got better and had a lot of fun doing it.”