MANCHESTER — There are obvious advantages that come with a first-round bye in the state tournament.
But for the Manchester Essex field hockey team, the rust that developed during the Hornets’ eight-day break prior to Saturday’s Division 2 North quarterfinal matchup with Lynnfield initially outweighed the benefits of their lengthy time off.
After a sluggish first half, though, the No. 2 seed Hornets turned it on, scoring three goals in less than five minutes midway through the second half to pull away from the Pioneers and move on to the Division 2 North semifinals with a decisive 4-0 victory.
“Even though we were seeded higher, I think we had a disadvantage because we didn’t have a game under our belts coming into this second round,” Hornets coach Andrea Slaven said after the game. “We just had to get into the swing of the game speed. I think that’s what was tough for us in the first half, but in the second half we decided that it’s anyone’s game still. We just have to make sure that we understand that this is a totally separate season from the regular season and that we’re coming in at 0-0.”
Any staleness on the Hornets’ part took some time to shine through. The Hornets fed off the crowd at Hyland Field and came flying out of the gates, putting the Pioneers on their heels when senior captain Kelsi Field ended a lengthy possession with the Hornets’ first goal less than five minutes into the game.
But No. 7 seed Lynnfield — which had beaten No. 10 Pentucket, 4-1, in the first round — made it clear it wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
During the regular season, the Pioneers played the Hornets tight twice, dropping each meeting by one goal.
And throughout the first half, they weren’t far off. While the Hornets allowed Lynnfield just one shot on goal, the Pioneers pinned Manchester Essex in its defensive end for much of the first half.