AVON – Twice a year, they test each other. Avon and Granby renewed the most competitive field hockey rivalry today in the North Central Connecticut Conference on Tuesday afternoon. Both teams came into the game undefeated. Both were ranked in the top 10 of the most recent state coaches poll.
No. 6 ranked Avon made the mistake of scoring first. All that did was light a fire within No. 5 Granby. The Bears scored two goals in the final 12 minutes, including the game-winner from Olivia Johnson with 4:09 remaining in the game to earn a 2-1 decision.
“That lit a fire under us and we went out and did our job,” Johnson said. “The goal came from a team effort. They got the ball down there (in the scoring circle). I was fortunate to get the ball and get it through.”
Johnson was being a bit modest. With the scored tied at 1-1, Grace Ford passed the ball to Johnson, who blasted a hard shot past Avon goalie Natalie Sawicki into the far corner of the net.
Avon (4-1) took a 1-0 lead with 17:13 left in the game when Shelly George scored her team-leading sixth goal of the year. She took a pass from Emily Stross and went one-on-one with Granby goalie Hannah Crose. George used a nice move to force Crose to hesitate and popped the ball past her.
That inspired the Bears, who played in the Class S championship game a year ago. A majority of the final 16 minutes was played in the Avon end of the field. In less than a minute, Granby had a chance but Avon defender Abbey Hagan broke up the play.
“We kept our composure throughout the game,” said Johnson, who has nine goals on the year. “I was really proud of our team. We’re having a great season.”
Granby tied it up on a penalty corner. Krista Iwanicki redirected a pass to the top of the circle from Abigal Phillips. Iwanicki’s pass went across the front of the goal mouth to Rachel Domanico, who deflected the shot past Sawicki with 11:55 left in the game. It was the first goal that Avon allowed this season.
Avon had a few chances but nothing too substantial in the final 10 minutes.
“I was happy how we played,” Avon coach Terri Ziemnicki said. “We gave them too many opportunities, too many (penalty) corners. After we scored, it fired them up. But it was a great field hockey game.”
The first half was played at a quick pace by both sides. There were a few scoring opportunities but it was 0-0 at halftime.
“It’s been a great rivalry,” Granby coach Sandy Wickman said. “We always know we’ll have a good hockey game with them.”
In the last 11 years, Granby owns an 11-10-1 edge over the Falcons. Four games have gone to overtime. The two teams have won 10 of the last 11 NCCC championships. Avon has captured the last three NCCC titles.
Will the two teams play in the future? Avon is leaving for the Central Connecticut Conference next fall. While teams in the CCC do play some out of league games, nothing is set in stone. Avon is playing future CCC foes Glastonbury, Hall and Simsbury this fall in non-league competition.
Avon and Granby play their final NCCC game on Thursday, Oct. 23, on the synthetic turf in Granby at 5:30 p.m. Chances are that it will go a long way in determining the league champion.
Granby 2, Avon 1
Granby (6-0) 0 2 – 2
Avon (4-1) 0 1 –1
Goals: Shelly George (A); Rachel Domanico (G); Olivia Johnson (G); Assists: Emily Stross (A), Becca Bonini (A); Abigail Phillips (G), Krista Iwanicki (G), Grace Ford (G); Saves: Natalie Sawicki (A) 4, Hannah Crose (G) 2; Shots: Avon 7-6; Penalty corners: Granby, 8-2