MANCHESTER— The Manchester Essex field hockey team finds itself in very familiar territory; the Division 2 North Semifnals.
The Hornets entered the state tournament with an undefeated 15-0-3 record, 33 points and the number two overall seed in the Division 2 North State Tournament and opened up as heavy favorites over No. 7 Newburyport, a team they beat 3-0 in the regular season. On Saturday at Hyland Field Manchester Essex proved why its one of the favorites in the North section turning in a dominant 4-0 win.
The win gets the Hornets back to the sectional semifinals for the tenth time in the last 11 seasons.
Led by Cape Ann League All Stars and senior captains in forwards Brittany Smith and Anna Heffernan, midfielder Taylor Meek and Sarah Beckman on defense, first year head coach Kara Beauregard is confident that the Hornets can make another deep tournament run. But Newburyport was not a team to be taken lightly, boasting a 10-5-3 record of its own with 23 points while coming off a big win over Marblehead in the first round.
Manchester Essex (16-0-3), however, showed why it is such a confident bunch playing like a team that did not want its season to end on Saturday. The Hornets dominated play on both ends of the field as the Clippers had trouble getting, and keeping, the ball out of their own zone.
Smith started things off quickly scoring Manchester Essex’s first goal in the opening minutes and it never looked back.
Senior Rachael Gallagher then followed suit by scoring a goal of her own just before the twenty minute mark. Meek followed five minutes later to give the Hornets a 3-0 lead in the middle of the first half, a lead they would take into halftime.
The Clippers looked a lot stronger to start the second half but it was the Manchester Essex defense that kicked it into another gear and showed why it finished the regular season unbeaten. Newburyport had a few corners and a couple offensive rushes but couldn’t convert on any of them as the Hornets defense was just too strong.
With 22:30 remaining in the second half senior Paige Zaval scored on a Brittany Smith set-up to add some insurance to the 4-0 win.
After the Hornets took the 4-0 lead it was just a matter of running out the clock and they did just that with ease. The victors denied every attack that Newburyport threw at them, to the point where the Clippers couldn’t even get the ball out of their zone.
“I think that we had a really great game and we played really hard.” Beauregard said after the game. “The girls definitely deserve this win and now we’ll just take it game by game.”
With the win the Hornets move on to the Division 2 North Semifinals to face a very good Ipswich team that is also a Cape Ann League Small rival. The Tigers have a 15-2-3 record following a 1-0 win over Weston in the first round.
Ipswich will look to show that the regular season finale was no fluke and pull off the upset. But the Hornets have yet to lose this year and don’t plan on starting now as they will be looking for their sixth appearance in the Division 2 North Finals in the last seven seasons.