Pan­thers blanked in quar­ter­fi­nal

The News-Times - - SPORTS - By Ryan Lacey rlacey@bc­n­new.com, twit­ter.com/ryan­lacey11

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.

QUOTABLE

“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.”

Ryan Lacey / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Pomperaug’s Mia Sul­li­van, left, and Hand’s Grace Hart­mann bat­tle for a loose ball Thurs­day.

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