CRANSTON – On paper it was though they were two teams that could not have been more evenly matched.
Just one point separated the East Greenwich High School field hockey team from Moses Brown in the standings, the only difference EG’s loss to Barrington to MB’s tie. The Avs had the best offense in Division I and the second ranked defense, the Quakers third and first, respectively. Both of their games during the regular season ended as 1-1 draws.
Last Wednesday night would be different, however. It was the playoffs, the RIIL Division I semifinals at Cranston Stadium, and one team was going to have to go home a winner.
Going in it was thought the question of which team was better would finally be answered. The Quakers came away with a 1-0 win, but for East it was a tightly contested, emotional and bitter defeat that left many in the Avengers camp still wondering.
“Sad times,” EG coach Deb McMullen stated simply after the loss.
“I don’t have many good words today.”
From the opening draw, the Avengers owned the first half. They took the draw, pressed forward, dicing through the Quaker defense as they controlled possession and the tempo. East had the better of the opportunities in the half, but Moses Brown had goalkeeper Claudia Marzec, who was stellar in net as she stymied the attack.
“Their goalie was awesome, she was the difference,” McMullen said. “Never thought one kid could make that big of a difference. She did a great job.”
As the first half wore on it became readily apparent the outcome of Wednesday’s contest was going to be determined by which team caught the first break.
With 5:50 remaining, for a moment it looked as though the Avengers were that team and that they had their first lead all season over the Quakers as Emily Karn rifled one from a distance that found its way through to the back of the net. The shot, however, came from mere feet outside the circle and the goal was waived off.
Rather, it was the Quakers. Nary a credible threat through to that point, they drew their first corner with just 25 seconds remaining in the half. The initial stop was made, but a scramble in front provided enough confusion for a ball to be left free on the goalmouth, which Margaret Chase put home as time expired for a 1-0 lead at the break.
As they had in their previous two contests, the Avengers would have to come from behind.
Having the lead caused a spark of confidence in the Quakers, who balanced out the play to start the second, while Marzec remained nearly unbreakable. In search of the equalizer, however, the Avengers persisted.
Karn had another shot off a corner 4:10 into the half that found its way through the defense, but no one could get the tip and the ball went wide.
Near the midpoint of the second half, Caroline Neupauer went on a run, playing the ball into the middle, but neither Samantha Licciardi nor Courtney McMullen could get a clean attempt on it.
With just under 12 minutes remaining, East had an opportunity similar to that in which the Quakers scored on as the ball rattled around loose in front of the net as a scrum ensued following a corner, but they were not as fortunate as their foe.
Fate was not on their side. For yet another brief moment it seemed as though the Avengers had broken through the Quakers goalkeeping wall. It was Kaley McMullen this time who fired the long distance shot that banged the back of the net, but once again it was a shot from the wrong side of the circle and deemed no goal with just eight minutes remaining.
Karn had her third beautiful opportunity of the game at the 26:16 mark of the half, but as she had been all game, Marzec was there for the backbreaking kick save, robbing East of a sure goal and preserving the slim 1-0 advantage.
The Avengers made one last desperate attempt with just 15 seconds remaining, playing the ball into the circle. Maggie Gallogly and Anna Gibson each had a hack at it, but the Quaker defense finished the job, clearing the ball away to safety. The horn sounded, the game ended and with it an otherwise brilliant season for the Avengers.
“My team played great,” McMullen said. “They did every single thing I asked them to do the whole season. They committed. They beat them to the ball when we had to, we had to do it a couple more times. It’s very frustrating that we didn’t score today.”