SMITHFIELD – It took two extra periods of play, some nail-biting and a shootout, but the East Greenwich Avengers are headed back to the Division I field hockey state championship game.
The No. 1 Avengers were up 2-0 on No. 4 Barrington, but two goals in the final 12 minutes of play forced sudden death overtime, followed by a shootout.
Alex Mega, Julia Blessing and Anabel Stavrand all connected on their tries in the shootout, while goalie Jessie Imbriglio stopped three of four attempts she faced. The Avengers won on Stavrand’s attempt, beating Barrington 3-2 for a spot in the finals.
Stavrand missed out on her initial attempt, but a push by the Eagles goalie gave her a second attempt. She didn’t hesitate or miss the second time.
“We needed one more,” she said. “I was so freaked out. The goalie was pushing me, so they called a re-do.
“You have 10 seconds, it’s a long time. You have to keep trying to put it in, if you give up after the first block, you’re done.
“I was trying to pull her side-to-side, so she would dive one way or another. She wasn’t diving.”
Stavrand is not necessarily an EG player you would expect to have to score in a big moment for her team. The senior typically plays defense, but was given a shot at redemption by her coach when the shootout came down to the wire.
“Well, I was disappointed in myself,” Stavrand said. “The second goal, it was a miscommunication between me and another defender. The whole time, I was really angry.
“I’m not on offense, I play defensive mid, so when coach said I was taking one of the hits, I was very scared.”
Well before it came down to a shootout, the Avengers built up a 2-0 lead in the first half. Bella Schambers and Isabella Atalay both scored goals in the first 30 minutes.
Schambers was assisted by Mega and Atalay scored off a corner attempt. EG had four corner tries in the first half, before play shifted to favor the Eagles.
The No. 4 seeded team looked to had made it 2-1 in the early portion of the second half, but the shot went in from outside the circle without hitting another stick and was disallowed.
The Eagles continued to pile up the chances, but were turned away with regularity by Imbriglio. She made 11 saves in the playoff win.
“We couldn’t have done it without Jessie, who is so amazing,” Stavrand said. “Blocked up so many goals in the beginning. Of course, Alex and Julia, who also made the [penalty shots].
“Just could because I went third, I don’t think I deserve [the attention].”
The offensive pressure eventually led to two Eagles goals in the span of the final 12 minutes. Two 10 minute periods of 7-on-7 offered no further scoring, and the teams line up for the shootout.
The big win sets up a state championship game this Sunday afternoon against rival North Kingstown. The No. 2 Skippers beat out Moses Brown 1-0 in the nightcap on Tuesday.
“It’s really great,” Stavrand said of playing for a title. “Our freshmen year, varsity went to finals but I was on jayvee. I haven’t had the experience of a state championship. This is such a strong team, we really deserve it. We all love each other and we’ve worked so hard to get to this point. It feels so rewarding.
“One thing is that great is we have a ton of seniors. We’re all super close with each other. We can incorporate the younger kids. We have two awesome freshmen who are also on varsity. It’s easy to get to know them; everyone is friendly and personable.”