GRANBY, Oct. 23 – They gave up a goal in the first six minutes of the game. And the Avon High field hockey team gave up a goal after time expired. But the Falcons didn’t wilt.
Avon took a big step toward winning a share of its fourth straight NCCC championship Thursday night with a 3-2 overtime decision over Granby. Avon’s Rachel Moore scored two goals, including the game-winner just 1:30 into overtime.
No. 6 Avon (11-1-1, 10-1 NCCC) can clinch a share of the league title with a win over winless Somers (0-13) on Tuesday at home at 4:15 p.m. No. 9 Granby (11-1-0-1, 10-0-0-1 NCCC) can clinch a share with a win over Canton (6-7) on Monday on the old grass field at CHS.
Avon was on the verge of winning the game in regulation. Avon took a one goal lead on Shelly George’s team-leading 13th goal of the season with just 2:44 gone in the second half. The Falcons controlled large portions of the second half but Granby continued to battle.
And their persistence paid off. Granby earned a penalty corner in the final 30 seconds. The Bears took their time setting up the play and the clock ran out. But rules allow a team to complete the play. Abigail Phillips hit the corner to Krista Iwanicki, who ripped a shot at Avon goalie Natalie Sawicki. She made the save and the ball bounced in front of her.
A few players swiped at the ball. Phillips moved toward the ball and ripped it past Sawicki to tie the game at 2-2 with no time left on the clock.
As the Granby players celebrated the chance to play in overtime, Avon remained stalwart. No heads dropped and the players got ready for overtime. “I told them to persevere,” Avon coach Terri Zimnicki said. “Believe that you can do it.”
Granby got off the first shot in overtime but Avon moved the ball back downfield and Moore took a pass from George and rifled a shot into the net with 1:30 gone into overtime to give Avon the 3-2 victory.
“I just took the ball and shot it,” Moore said. “You have to get (the shot) off fast.”
Avon, playing its final NCCC contest against Granby, knew that they had to win to have a chance to win the league championship. The Bears, who beat Avon, 2-1 in September, could have won the league title with a victory. Avon is leaving the NCCC in the spring and will begin play in the Central Connecticut Conference next fall.
“We were on a mission today,” Moore said. “We fought for this. We kept it together even when they scored that last point of the game.”
Avon didn’t handle adversity as well earlier in the season. “We freaked out,” Moore admitted. “But now we knew we had to keep it together, not get frustrated and use it to fuel us.”
“The word was perseverance,” Zimnicki said. “The girls just work hard. It was all or nothing for us. We knew that a tie wouldn’t work for us.”
Granby took a 1-0 lead when Olivia Johnson’s shot toward the net was deflected past Sawicki by Bridgitte Degage with 6:34 gone in the game. Avon tied the game about 10 minutes later when Moore scored off a pass from Hannah Deppe with 14:40 remaining in the first half.
Avon took a 2-1 lead on George’s goal in the second half.
“Avon is a good team,” Granby coach Sandy Wickman Mason said. “They stepped to the ball stronger than we did today. Their goalie made some terrific saves at the end.
Lauren Jeandell played well defensively and Stross had an outstanding afternoon on offense. Moore and Abbey Hagan played well up front. But Ziemnicki hesitated on singling out any Avon player. “I’m proud of all of them,” she said. “We played well as a team.” Avon was able to use the quicker turf to make sharper passes across the field.
“It’s great field hockey,” Ziemnicki said of the Avon and Granby rivalry. “You know when you come to a Avon vs. Granby field hockey game, it’s worth any amount of money to watch.”
NOTES: Avon and Granby have combined to capture 10 of the last 11 NCCC championships. … Avon is 8-0-1 in its last nine games. The Falcons had an impressive 1-0 win over defending Class S champion Stonington Saturday on a goal from Moore and an eight-save shutout from Sawicki – her fifth shutout in the last six games. Jeandell had the assist on the Moore goal that came just 7:08 into the game. … In the last 11 years, the series with Avon and Granby is tied 11-11-1 with five games going in overtime. … Avon hosts Hall on Friday afternoon at the high school at 3:45 p.m. The Falcons host Somers on Tuesday and then close out the regular season on Thursday, Oct. 30, when they host No. 1 Simsbury (14-0) at 3:30 p.m.
Avon 3, Granby 2, OT
Avon (11-1-1) 1 1 1 — 3
Granby (11-1-0-1) 1 1 0 – 2
Goals: Rachel Moore (A) 2, Shelly George (A), Bridgitte DeGagne (G), Abigail Phillips (G); Assists: Olivia Johnson (G), Hannah Deppe (A), Krista Iwanicki (G), George (A); Saves: Natalie Sawicki (A) 8, Hala VanNorstrand (G) 7; Shots: Avon, 10-9; Penalty corners: Avon, 8-4