By Nick Curcuru Sports Editor
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — NORTH ANDOVER-- The Manchester Essex field hockey team entered training camp this August with the end result in mind. The Hornets knew they had a strong team heading into the season and a return trip to the Division 2 North Final was the long term goal.
With Saturday’s 2-0 victory over No. 3 Swampscott in the Division 2 North Semifinals at North Andover High School, No. 2 Manchester Essex has punched its fourth ticket to the sectional final over the last five years. The win was also the third straight state tournament win over Swampscott for the Hornets.
As it turns out the Hornets (18-1-1) got the matchup they were looking for as well, as they will square off against No. 1 Watertown (20-0) today at North Andover High (11:00 a.m.) in the Division 2 North Final. Manchester Essex and Watertown met in the North Final every year from 2008-2010, each game was a 2-1 Watertown win.
“We’ve been playing since August with the end in mind and this is exactly the matchup we’ve hoped for,” Hornets head coach Andrea Slaven said. “I mean everybody loves to see a number one vs. number two matchup. I think we have to ignore the history and realize that it’s anyone’s game at this point. I think we’re playing for every Manchester Essex team that didn’t get by them.”
Manchester Essex put things away early with a pair of goals in the first 14 minutes of play.
Junior Brittany Smith put the Hornets up 1-0 when she scored after some strong work in front of the Swampscott goal following a Hornets corner opportunity, one of 21 in the contest.
Six minutes later Smith struck again, this time she put home a nice long pass from Sr. captain Nicole Bradley to make it 2-0 Hornets, a lead they would hold onto for the remainder of the game.
“I think playing with that lead was the hardest part of the game,” Hornets senior captain Kelsi Field said. “We couldn’t get comfortable with the lead and we called timeouts to remind ourselves that we need to keep playing as if it was 0-0.”
Manchester Essex did just that. Instead of sitting on the two goal lead the Hornets kept up the pressure outshooting the Big Blue 27-3 in the contest and holding a 21-2 advantage in corners.
The Big Blue defense, led by Nora Walker, Tessa Beane, Lisa Vu and Angela Videtta hung strong sending away corner after corner and scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity for Manchester Essex.
“That’s the Hornets, they are always putting pressure on your defense,” Swampscott head coach Toby Channen said. “We played our game and I’m really proud. They had 21 corners and only scored twice, our defense has been outstanding all year long.”
Slaven was also quick to credit the Big Blue defense as she asked her team to mirror the demeanor of Swampscott, who played a full 60 minutes.
The Manchester Essex defense and midfield was just as impressive as Swampscott’s as the Big Blue rarely got the ball over midfield. Swampscott had two nice opportunities on corners but goalie Maddi Bistrong was there to turn them away. Other than that the action was played in front of the Swampscott goal.
“Our mentality today was nothing past the 50,” Slaven said. “We were able to adjust to what they were doing. The key today was our motion and speed. But it definitely wasn’t easy. We weren’t comfortable and I was up yelling and screaming until the very end.”
The Hornets now turn their attention to Watertown.
“Now it’s real,” Bistrong said. “We’re seniors, this is Watertown, our rival for years. It’s our chance to finally beat them and we’re ready for it.”