Panthers blanked in quarterfinal
SOUTHBURY — One moment is often all it takes to decide a game in field hockey.
That moment fell at the stick of Daniel Hand senior Erickson Richard early in her team’s Class M quarterfinal. And in this case, one shot is all it took.
Richard made no mistake in finding the back of the cage, converting the only shot on goal Hand would have all evening. The No. 7 Tigers relied on a strong defensive effort to oust No. 2 Pomperaug 1-0 on Thursday night to book a place in the semifinals.
“Anna Beccia sent that ball across and as soon as it was, I knew I was going send it in on goal,” Richard said. “I felt it boiling up inside knowing that moment would be special; I couldn’t wait to put that ball in the back of the goal.”
Hand — which won Class M last year — will face SCC champion Guilford in the semifinals next week. The teams tied during the regular season before the Indians won 2-0 in the conference semifinals. The test against Pomperaug will likely prepare the Tigers for the stretch run.
“Our goalie (Karen Newtown) is strong so we know we can defend and allow her to take the direct shots,” Hand coach Sue Leckey said. “We have a lot of confidence in her; her teammates also have confidence in her and they like her.”
It was the Panthers who had more chances to get on the scoreboard, but Hand’s defense didn’t break. Erickson’s sister Kennedy Richard came up with a key deflection on a shot that appeared headed toward the cage.
“I was standing on the sideline and I thought it was in,” Erickson Richard said. “I went crazy when I saw her smack that, I was really proud of her.”
The No. 2 Panthers (162-2) had their tremendous season — which included winning the SWC title — falter in the state quarterfinals for a second straight year. Pomperaug had a 6-3 edge in penalty corners, most of which came during a flurry in the second half.
“We knew going into this game that it was going to be a hard game to get through,” Pomperaug coach Anne Strobel said. “I was happy with them in the second half; we haven’t played in a week and I think in the first half they had to pull it together.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Karen Newton, Hand: Made five saves to preserve the shutout.
“Our defense was amazing,” Richard said. “Our forward line did a really good job hustling back and making sure we were the first line of defense. That was one of our biggest things to work on tonight, to get back and being that first line so our middies didn’t have to work as hard.”
“We wanted to win states,” Strobel said. “Was SWCs a great win? Absolutely. But states is bigger and winning states is that much sweeter.”
Pomperaug’s Mia Sullivan, left, and Hand’s Grace Hartmann battle for a loose ball Thursday.