State champions

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Hornets blank Hartford in title game

By TOM HERZIG
For The Essex Reporter

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The Essex High School girls' field hockey team holds up its trophy after winning the Division I state championship game against Hartford on Saturday at UVM. Photo by OLIVER PARINI

The Essex High School girls’ field hockey team holds up its trophy after winning the Division I state championship game against Hartford on Saturday at UVM. Photo by OLIVER PARINI

Essex scored three goals in the second half of Saturday’s Division I field hockey final to defeat Hartford 3-0 and walk off UVM’s Moulton Winder field as state champions.

Essex (13-1-3) and Hartford (12-5) entered the contest as the first and second seeds, respectively, and in the end the Hornets showed why they were ranked number one.

Junior Kathleen Young leaps on junior Tiffany Barnes after scoring a goal in the Division I state championship game against Hartford on Saturday at UVM. Photo by OLIVER PARINI

Junior Kathleen Young leaps on junior Tiffany Barnes after scoring a goal in the Division I state championship game against Hartford on Saturday at UVM. Photo by OLIVER PARINI

Each Essex scoring play started with a penalty corner. Junior Kathleen Young got the Hornets on the board with 14:25 remaining in regulation. Senior Briege Mahoney played the ball out to sophomore Abigail Evans, who was swarmed by the Hartford defense. The ball was tipped to Young, who controlled it long enough to fire it at the far post where it deflected in.

Three minutes earlier, Essex had nearly converted a penalty corner on a combination from Young to junior Siena Teare, but Hartford goalie Rachel Loseby made a stick save.

Energized by the first goal, Essex began to control play in Hartford’s end and its scoring chances increased. Evans and senior Paige Mittl had a strong bid with 10:32 on the clock. Senior Emily Dowman took a return pass from Mittl and almost scored a little over a minute later.

The constant pressure produced another penalty corner at 8:31. Mahoney found Young for a high lift into the top corner that gave Essex a 2-0 lead.

Senior Alex Celia completed the scoring with 5:38 remaining in the contest off an assist from Young. It was the senior captain’s second goal of the season and her second goal in two games.

“When Alex got that goal in the semis, I jumped up and down,” coach Heather Garrow said. “I think in the first half today, we played evenly. Both teams were moving the ball well.”

Garrow said the smothering Hornet defense adjusted its strategy slightly at halftime, which ultimately resulted in more scoring opportunities for the offense.

“Today the defense was phenomenal,” Garrow said. “They didn’t allow a shot on goal, which speaks volumes. Hartford really liked to play the ball to their right side. The difference I think was that in the second half, we came out and our strategy was to move the ball over to our right side to make them play laterally, take them out of their comfort zone. It opened up a lot more opportunities for us.

“Our six defenders – three seniors and three juniors – have been playing together for three years,” she continued. “Alex, Paula Noordewier and Sam Poratti made varsity as sophomores. Kathleen, Cristina (Tellez) and Tiffany (Barnes) began as freshman. The defense spurs the offense.”

“We knew what our level of play could be,” Noordewier said. “We weren’t quite there at first, but we knew we could pick it up.”

Garrow noted that the Hornets opened the season with two ties and a loss. “It took a while to find our momentum and to find out how to play well together,” she said. “It was 12 years ago that we beat Hartford in our last championship game. Today I just wanted to let them play and enjoy it.”

And enjoy it they did.

“Leaving here as champions is the best feeling,” Celia said.