Upset-minded field hockey falls in D1 south quarters

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An exciting and impressive playoff run came to an end for the CHS field hockey team on Sunday as the Bulldogs fell to No. 2 Walpole 3-1 in the quarterfinal round of the Division 1 south sectional tournament.

Senior captain Lindsey Nolte (Mike Barucci photo)

Senior captain Lindsey Nolte (Mike Barucci photo)

Seeded 23rd out of 24 teams after an up-and-down regular season (8-7-3), the Canton girls got a chance to play spoiler this postseason and the role seemed to suit them well. They reeled off two straight road wins against higher-seeded opponents — No. 10 Bridgewater-Raynham last Wednesday and No. 7 Norwood on Saturday — before meeting their match against a very tough Rebels team.

“I thought they stayed mentally strong throughout the tournament, which was something that we struggled with at times during the season,” said head coach Fior Griffin. “Obviously we would have liked to have moved on, but I was happy with the way our girls played and with the way they fought back.”

In the end, Walpole was simply the better team on the day as they wore down the Bulldogs with their speed and generated a number of good scoring opportunities, aided by a whopping 20 penalty corners.

Still, the Bulldogs held up well defensively, and all three Rebel goals were well-earned. Canton goalie Taylor Carrington, who was outstanding in both the B-R and Norwood wins, had another stellar performance with several high-quality saves.

On the offensive end, Canton struggled early on but regained some momentum late in the opening half, culminating in a game-tying goal off a penalty corner by Colleen Phelan. The Bulldogs also had their chances in an evenly matched second half but struggled to find the back of the net. Walpole, meanwhile, managed to score twice more and put the game out of reach.

“I don’t think our passing was as crisp and as consistent as it was in the other tournament games,” acknowledged Griffin afterwards. “But we had it down in their end quite a few times, and they definitely fought hard and went to win. It just didn’t happen today.”

Despite the loss on Sunday, Griffin thought the girls played some of their best hockey of the season in the tournament, especially the defensive corps of Phelan, Julia Ezepik, Emily Rizzitano, and Kelly Martin. Senior captain and center midfielder Mary Nee also seemed to step up her play over the past few games and was “phenomenal defensively” in the team’s two tournament victories, Griffin said.

“They really came up huge on defense, with several beautiful stops in the circle and strong clears out,” she said. “And [Carrington] was fantastic — just about every game she came up with something. In the Bridgewater game she stopped a girl dead in her tracks on a breakaway, and she had several huge saves against Norwood.”

Griffin said the 2-1 win over Norwood was especially satisfying as they had lost their last few games against the Mustangs, including in the 2013 playoffs and in a regular season game earlier this year.

“It was a really good win for us,” she said. “They did exactly what they needed to do to win. Their passing was outstanding, and they stepped up big defensively.”

Junior Caroline Hagan scored both of the team’s goals, while sophomore Andrea McNeil had arguably her best performance of the season. Martin also had a great game, highlighted by her “textbook” stop on a two-on-one breakaway.

In last week’s tournament opener at B-R, the Bulldogs overcame a slow start and went on to win 1-0, outplaying the Trojans for the majority of the contest. Senior captain Lindsey Nolte had the lone goal for the victors, assisted by classmate and fellow captain Rizzitano.

Overall, Canton finished the season at 10-8-3, including an 8-4-1 mark over their final 13 games. Oliver Ames, this year’s Davenport Division champions, also bowed out in the D1 south quarters against Sandwich. Meanwhile, fellow Hockomock League schools Mansfield (#1) and Franklin (#4) both advanced to the semis and were scheduled to play each other on Wednesday, November 11.

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