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Surprise Party: 10th-Seeded Mascoma Reaches Final

  • Mascoma Regional High School’s Alyssa Hammond (4) hugs Kayla Hammond (14) as the rest of the team celebrates on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, after winning a NHIAA Division III field hockey semifinal game against Monadnock Regional High School at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H. Mascoma won, 3-1. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Monadnock Regional High School’s Jenn Rowan (23) chases Mascoma High School’s Alyssa Hammond (4) as she dribbles down the field on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, during a NHIAA Division II field hockey semifinal game between Monadnock and Mascoma at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H. Mascoma won, 3-1. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mascoma Regional High School’s Kaitlyn Pushee (8) takes a shot on goal on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, during a NHIAA Division II field hockey semifinal game between Monadnock Regional High School and Mascoma at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H. Mascoma won, 3-1. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Monadnock Regional High School’s Hannah Labarre (8) gets the ball taken away from her by Mascoma Regional High School’s Kaitlyn Pushee (8) on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, during a NHIAA Division II field hockey semifinal game between Monadnock and Mascoma at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H. Mascoma won, 3-1. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Monadnock Regional High School’s Jenn Rowan (23) fights for the ball against Mascoma Regional High School’s Amelia Wilson (7) on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, during a NHIAA Division III field hockey semifinal game between Monadnock and Mascoma at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H. Mascoma won, 3-1. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mascoma Regional High School’s Paige Jette (33) rushes onto the field with her team on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, after winning a NHIAA Division II field hockey semifinal game against Monadnock Regional High School at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H. Mascoma won, 3-1. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, October 26, 2017

Exeter, n.h. — Kayla Hammond, a senior defender on the Mascoma High field hockey team, never expected her team to make it this far. No one did. Not from a No. 10 seed.

Yet there the underdogs were, storming the field after an improbable 3-1 win over third-seeded Monadnock (14-3) in the NHIAA D-III semifinals on Thursday at Exeter High’s Bill Ball Stadium, where the Royals’ jubilant fans cheered loudly before they counted down the clock.

The win — its seventh straight dating back to Sept. 30 — sends Mascoma to its first championship game since 1998 and gives the Royals a chance to win their first state title since 1983. Mascoma (11-6) will play undefeated No. 1 Newfound (17-0) on Sunday at Bedford High. Newfound defeated No. 4 Gilford, last year’s champions, 5-1 in the other D-III semifinal match on Thursday night.

After the victory, Mascoma’s players described a season of ups and downs, and credited the team’s recent success to a moment late in the season that brought the team together.

“We had hit a low spot,” Hammond said, recalling a team meeting in the regular season’s final stretch. “Kaitlyn (Pushee), Elizabeth (Jones) and I really took it under our wing that we had to get the team back together, get our momentum going again, because we had really had hit rock bottom.”

Added Jones: “We realized that something wasn’t working, so we called a team meeting after school. We sat down and said, ‘We need to work together now. We need to work as a family because we know we are one.’ ”

Now the Royals, perhaps for the first time all year, are finally believers.

“This is huge. It’s just absolutely amazing,” fourth-year Mascoma coach Jenn Hammond said. “This is such a talented group of kids. We had a really tough schedule all year long. But I think that actually helped prepare us going into playoffs like this, because you’re going up against the best of the best teams in the division.”

Mascoma fell to Monadnock, 1-0 in overtime, on senior day on Sept. 23. It fell behind 1-0 just 3 minutes, 26 seconds into the first half on Exeter’s turf field, thanks a ball that trickled through the Royals’ defense to the Huskies’ Bri Broderick at the front of the net.

The goal was the first Mascoma had allowed since a 3-2 win over Winnisquam on Oct. 6.

“We had talked about that before: If they scored first on us, we would have to dig deeper and take something from inside of us,” Jones said. “We knew we hadn’t made it this far in a long time. We just brought it together.”

The Royals responded with five straight corners, a stretch of pressure that resulted in the game-tying goal from Alyssa Hammond. Hammond got her own rebound off of Huskies goaltender Carly Bernard and netted her 11th goal of the season.

“It was funny; they came out flat and then, once (Monadnock) got that goal, it was a totally different team,” Jenn Hammond said. “I think we needed that to say, ‘Yeah, we really deserve to be here.’ ”

Jones scored her first of two second-half goals 2:20 after halftime, a turnaround shot off of a corner scramble. She added an insurance goal nine minutes later, scoring in transition off of a Pushee pass.

Pushee has a point in each of her last three games. Royals goaltender Abby Duhaime made five saves.

Kayla Hammond said the underdog role fits Mascoma perfectly.

“I think it’s benefited us,” the senior defender said. “Mascoma as a school, and even in other sports, we’ve taken the role as our record doesn’t define us.

“We really bounced back,” she added. “I’m really proud of the team. I’m really proud to be a part of the team. This team really shows that we have a lot of heart.”

A championship, Hammond said, would mean more than just a banner in its recently renovated gymnasium.

“You can see it; you can see that everybody is into it,” she said.

“They don’t come because they like field hockey; they come to support us. It’s really crazy to think that we’ve gotten this far. When we came in on Aug. 18, nobody thought, ‘Yeah, we’re going to a championship.’ It’s crazy.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.