Playoffs open with thriller

  • Kate Blaisdell, of Hanover, right, celebrates with goalie Olivia Evans, left, after scoring her game-winning, overtime goal against Lebanon ending the playoff game 2-1 in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — James M. Patterson

  • Lebanon goalie Autumn Crowell dives to save a shot by Hanover’s Natalie Chapman, left, during as Lebanon’s Amalia Hickey, second from right, and Hanover’s Celia Groves, right, stand ready to recover a deflection in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Hanover won the game 2-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Hanover’s Janina Li, foreground, Sadie Higgins, background, and Gail Morse, to right, watch as their teammates try to score on a corner during overtime against Lebanon in a playoff in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Hanover won 2-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Jill Anderson cheers Lebanon’s field hockey team during their playoff with Hanover while playing with the band on the sidelines in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Hanover won 2-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/22/2020 11:25:08 PM
Modified: 10/22/2020 11:28:21 PM

LEBANON — Kate Blaisdell dribbled along the right sideline, taking the ball off the restart into the circle with less than a minute to play in overtime.

She then went baseline, keeping a Lebanon High field hockey defender to her left and the ball on her right. There she watched Lebanon goalie Autumn Crowell move slightly to the left, seeing an opportunity to take a shot.

Blaisdell took it.

The senior’s coolly flipped shot with 25 seconds remaining in overtime on Thursday afternoon gave Hanover a 2-1 victory over archrival Lebanon in the NHIAA Division II Region 3 tournament preliminary round.

Blaisdell’s grown accustomed to the intensity that comes with playoffs. She transferred to Hanover just before the start of her junior year but played for two seasons at Windham High, where she went to back-to-back state title games before helping the Marauders win last season’s D-II championship.

Thursday just marked her latest postseason heroics.

“As I’ve developed as a player, I’ve gotten used to very tense situations where I’ve learned to play under pressure,” said Blaisdell, who started the game in midfield but was moved up to forward in a halftime adjustment. “I know I’m able to usually stickhandle around people, so I guess I use it to my advantage when someone is really close to me. It just sort of catches them off-guard.”

Added Hanover coach Jean Essex: “She’s just a great player and has a nose for the goal.”

While the win sends the Marauders to Monday’s quarterfinals — where they’ll will host Kennett — Lebanon dominated play and the shot chart.

The Raiders had their chances in overtime, too. Kaeley Skakalski’s shot with 4:26 to play in overtime was covered by Hanover goalie Olivia Evans and resulted in a penalty stroke.

Sydney Gonyea took the stroke for Lebanon (6-2-1), but her shot went wide right. The Raiders also had a penalty corner chance a minute into the extra period, but Gonyea’s shot went left of the goalpost.

Earlier in the third quarter, Gonyea gave Lebanon a 1-0 advantage when she scored off of Lena Nowell’s entry pass. The goal was the 55th of her career, tying the school record set by Samantha Davis in 2009.

The Raiders’ lead was short-lived, however, as Hanover (8-3-1) forged a tie with 1:10 to play in the third period on a Mia Edmonds penalty stroke to the top right of the net before Crowell could react.

“I hate that, this last game, senior goaltender Autumn (Crowell) has a stroke scored on her,” Lebanon coach Amanda Valliere said. “I hate that Sydney (Gonyea), a senior, has an opportunity to break the record with a stroke and completely misses the cage. That’s what breaks my heart the most about this game — these seniors have these incredible careers, they work their butts off, they create an amazing community within the team (and it doesn’t work out).”

Hanover was without its second-highest scorer, Olivia Trummel, who was out with a concussion. Essex also had to deal with some players missing practice earlier this week quarantine due to COVID-19, but she moved some pieces around at the break and her offense started to pick up some momentum.

Edmonds, the younger sister of former Hanover goalie Ella Edmonds, was moved from defense to midfield as part of Essex’s halftime moves. Sophomore wing Celia Groves played a crucial role in ball movement late in the game, too.

Hanover was on the defensive for most of the fourth quarter as the Raiders created five penalty corner opportunities.

“The forwards really stepped up,” said Essex, who has now won at least one playoff game the last four years. “They really did what they were supposed to do; they worked hard. We obviously missed Olivia, but that’s kind of been our standard. We wake up as we go longer.”

If there was any irony about Thursday’s contest, it was that the two teams met in the prelims and not the semifinals or championship.

Instead, because of regional brackets and randomized seeding, Hanover advances and Lebanon closes the door on this novel season.

“Whenever Leb and Hanover play, it adds like a championship-type feel to the game,” Valliere said.

Notes: Blaisdell has now tallied 15 goals this season. She’s committed to playing at Northeastern University next year. … Crowell made eight saves. … The Raiders will graduate five seniors: Crowell, Mary Gile, Gonyea, Nowell and Skakalski. … Valliere is now 3-2 all-time in the playoffs. … Kennett defeated Kingswood, 2-0, to advance to the quarterfinals.

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.




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