CHESHIRE, Nov. 13 – The Sacred Heart Academy field hockey team didn’t flinch in Tuesday night’s Class M semifinal with No. 4 Avon. The Falcons were pressing in overtime with three consecutive penalty corners.
But the Sharks’ swarming defense did just enough to deflect shots away from goalie Kyleen Crowe, slow them down or take the ball and head into the opposite direction.
Avon had 15 penalty corner opportunities and put 20 shots on goal. But they couldn’t score.
The Sharks did. No. 8 Sacred Heart Academy earned a spot in their first-ever CIAC state championship final scoring with 1:32 left in the third overtime period to beat Avon, 1-0. The Sharks will face Southern Connecticut Conference rival Guilford for the third time in Saturday’s championship game at Wethersfield High.
“We play in the SCC which is very strong,” Sacred Heart Academy coach Jackie Defrancesco said. “We play against Hand, Guilford, Branford and Cheshire. We play these big dogs all the time.” Cheshire went undefeated this season and was ranked No. 2 in the latest state coaches poll with Guilford being ranked at No. 11.
The Falcons (14-4) were looking to get to the championship game for the first time since 1998. They have dropped their last eight semifinal contests.
In overtime, three players are taken off the field to open up play and the teams play 7 vs. 7. As time ticked away in the third overtime period, Sacred Heart’s Taylor Dostie raced down the left sideline and made a beautiful cross across the goal mouth to sophomore teammate Jianna Cohrs, who was positioned at the far side of the goal. Cohrs, an ice hockey player, left her stick on the turf and deflected the ball into the net for the game-winning goal.
“I barely saw the ball come coming and had my stick ready,” Cohrs said. “It bounced off my stick and went into the cage.”
The Falcons were so drained they simply walked off the field. It was an exhausting game played at a fast pace on a chilly night at Cheshire High School.
“We just didn’t capitalize. We had so many opportunities,” Avon High coach Terri Ziemnicki said. “We just didn’t finish when we had to.”
Yes, the Falcons had an abundance of penalty corner opportunities but the Sharks defense was quick and seldom gave up a good shot. Avon did get some shots on net but either Crowe made the save or it was deflected wide.
Avon did have some great opportunities. Megan Gibley’s shot with 4:59 left just went wide of the net. Late in the first overtime, Avon’s Sarah Thomas had a shot on Crowe but the goalie gobbled it up and pushed it forward. Thomas claimed that the goalie sat on ball which should have been a penalty shot but the referees didn’t see it.
With 6:50 left in the second overtime, Avon scored but the goal was waved off because of a whistle for a dangerous play. Deppe ripped a shot from 13 yards out and the shot deflected off Crowe’s pads right to Thomas, who put up her stick to knock the ball back to the turf. Thomas kept playing and scored.
But the referee waved it off. She said that she had blown the whistle for dangerous play. Avon kept the ball but there was no goal.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) November 14, 2018
Deppe and Thomas each had good scoring opportunities in the third OT session.
Avon goalie Kathryn Pringle had three big saves in overtime to keep her team in the game. With 4:32 gone in the first OT period, Sacred Heart’s Dostie faked out two Avon defenders and drove in alone on Pringle. But Pringle came out of her net to make a diving save to preserve the 0-0 tie.
With 8:37 left in the second overtime, Dostie had another 1-on-1 opportunity against Pringle but the Avon keeper kicked it away. Pringle made another nice save on a Dostie shot with 2:11 left in the second OT session.
In fact, both defenses played well throughout the game. Avon’s Stella Galli and Ava Calma played well in the backfield along with Hayley Yaros.
But in the end, Sacred Heart Academy made one more play than Avon did and the Sharks are going to the state finals. SHU will face Guilford, who beat them 4-0 in the SCC Tournament about 10 days ago. But the Sharks are confident. They beat No. 1 Suffield in the quarterfinals and now the No. 4 Falcons.
“Avon has some tough, tough players,” Defrancesco said. “(Deppe) and (Jamie Rubenstein) you could tell they carry the ball with confidence. You could tell they’ve been in this spot before. They played an excellent game. They were just as tough as Suffield if not tougher.”
Sacred Heart Academy 1, Avon 0, 3 OT
SH Academy (12-7-1) 0 0 0 0 1 – 1
Avon (14-4) 0 0 0 0 0 — 0
Goal: Jianna Cohrs (SHA); Assist: Taylor Dostie (SHA); Saves: Kathryn Pringle (A) 4, Kyleen Crowe (SHA) 11; Shots: Avon, 20-8; Penalty corners: Avon, 15-4