Nashoba Falls in Overtime of Field Hockey State Final
WORCESTER -- The dream of a state field hockey title came to an end for Nashoba Regional Saturday morning, as a goal by Lucas Crook with 2:35 remaining in overtime lifted Eastern Mass. champ Somerset Berkley Regional to a 2-1 victory over the Chieftains in the Division 1 field hockey state final at WPI’s Alumni Stadium.
Nashoba’s dream season ended with its lone loss of the campaign, finishing 20-1-2.
The Blue Raiders improved to 23-1-0 for their first state title in either division.
Nashoba head coach Jamie Mariani was obviously saddened by the loss, but not displeased with the team’s effort.
“It really was a great season, and I thought we played great today,” she said, “right to the very end. We came back, fought hard, to be down and we didn’t give up. It’s sad that we didn’t come out on top.
“The accomplishments these girls made throughout the season -- they were unbeaten, and it’s been a phenomenal year. These seniors have carried us; for them to make it to this point, it’s been fun.”
Trailing 1-0, Nashoba still had a say in this state final: Gigi Fay started a breakaway, getting it to UConn-bound Nat Brown. Brown passed it to Kira Spedden, who then swept it to Erica Spallone.
Spallone, the dual goal-scorer for the Chieftains in Tuesday’s state semifinal win over Longmeadow, spun and fired the equalizer with just under 12 minutes remaining in normal time.
“We made a couple of adjustments in moving Erica to the middle,” Mariani explained, “and just (tried) to get some speed up front. You see a little breakaway, and she just finished it inside.”
The Blue Raiders had two chances within 15 seconds of each other to try to put the game away, with Nashoba cage keeper Caylie McMahon making two brilliant saves -- the first off Megan Salshina’s wind-up from six yards away, before Corissa Amaral had a chance from even closer range to McMahon’s right that the junior stymied right quick.
The Nashoba defense, paced by Chloe Spedden and Erin Mehigan in the middle, withstood the Somerset Berkley pressure.
Brown would have a chance at a winner with just under three minutes left, her rocket from aft the top of the circle just wide of the far corner of the cage.
Nashoba had two gilt-edged chances early in the 7-on-7, as Fay took a pass from Brown and one-timed it, but Somerset goaltender Madison Ferrera had charged off her line to cut the angle down.
That resulted in a corner hit for Nashoba, and Brown, on the insertion by Jane Bonazzoli, ripped a rocket-fuel-infused shot that just missed the goal by mere inches.
McMahon would have two denials after that, but she couldn’t stop the last one as Salshina passed to Crook -- who had scored 25 goals leading into Saturday’s state final -- for the title-winning goal with 2:35 left.
The Chieftains found themselves under pressure right from the off, surrendering a pair of penalty corners in the first minute-plus of the match. But the field soon tilted as the Chieftains would carry the run of play for a majority of the first half.
Fay would apply the first shot on goal, albeit from outside the scoring circle, a shot that Ferrera kick saved aside.
The play of Spedden and Mehigan in that first half helped keep the scoreboard clear; Spedden particularly had five distinct plays, especially frustrating Crook.
“Absolutely, I’ve said this all along: our defense has been one of our strengths, and they kept us in the game,” Mariani praised.
But it was Somerset Berkley who opened the scoring 7:31 into the second half, as Crook reverse-swept the rebound of a Salshina saved shot into the cage to put the Eastern Mass. champs ahead.
Had Nashoba won, it would have been the first Division 1 state champion from Central Mass. since Worcester’s Notre Dame Academy lifted the trophy in 2006, and would have been the fourth state champion from Central Mass.