MANCHESTER — When Manchester Essex played Marblehead a year ago, the Magicians walked away with a blowout victory.
This time, Marblehead entered the contest in first place in the Northeastern Conference Small, sporting a 9-4 record while remaining unbeaten in NEC play. One would think the same result would unfold again this year.
But a much-improved Hornets squad gave the Magicians all they could handle in the back and forth affair. Marblehead's size and athleticism proved too much for Manchester Essex, as they walked away with a hard-earned 13-10 victory at Hyland Field.
With 13 minutes remaining in the second half and the Hornets trailing 12-7, Manchester Essex made a valiant push at a comeback.
Carolyn Heslop started the effort at 12:29 when she slashed through the middle of the Marblehead defense to cut the score to 12-8.
After a Magician goal 40 seconds later made it 13-8, Manchester Essex leading scorer Taylor Meek took control of the ball with six minutes remaining. She dangled around the 15-yard line, cradling her stick patiently while waiting for an opportunity to strike.
She eventually found day light, juked two defenders and fired a laser that buried the back of the net to bring the score to 13-9. Now down four with five minutes remaining, daylight was running out on the Hornets comeback attempt.
With two minutes remaining, Olivia Lantz had a free-position shot and excellent opportunity to score. Her shot was blocked in front of the net, but Heslop fought hard in traffic and scooped-up the ground ball. She immediately released a quick shot and netted her second goal of the contest to cut the score to 13-10.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, Marblehead won the following draw control and killed the remaining clock.
Despite the loss, Hornets' coach Sarah Holch was very pleased with how her team performed.
"I was really proud of the team because Marblehead beat us by a lot last year," she said. "My goal was to keep them low scoring and my team exceeded our expectations on our scoring." The first half was a back-and-forth battle, as neither team held an advantage of more than one goal.
Meek, one of the top players in the Cape Ann League, came storming out of the gates and accounted for her team's first's three goals. Olivia Mastendino chipped in with the other Manchester Essex goal in the first-half, as the Magicians held a slight 5-4 advantage at intermission. It wasn't until the beginning of the second-half when Marblehead started to put distance between them and the Hornets.
The Magicians took a 7-6 lead with 22:34 remaining in the game, and never looked back.
They went on a 6-1 run to give themselves a 12-7 cushion and push the game out of reach. Kiley Fischer scored three straight goals for the vistors en-route to giving the Hornets their second straight loss and dropping their record to 8-5.
Holch believes that Marblehead's determination is what propelled them on their run to start the second-half.
"They were pretty motivated" she said. "They had a great fast-break system going and that's how their goals were scored during that time. At that moment we were not getting the draw and that's the key."
Even though the Hornets have dropped two straight, Holch isn't discouraged at all.
"I'm not discouraged because we have three more games" she said. "Our record is a lot better than it was this time last year, so I feel that we have a strong team. Brittany Smith has been out this week so we just need everyone healthy and in one spot."