Yea­ger’s two goals lead Tigers to FAA ti­tle

Greenwich Time - - SPORTS - By David Fierro

GREEN­WICH — Ryan Smith’s over­time goal lifted Sa­cred Heart Green­wich to a thrilling win over Green­wich Academy in the FAA Field Hockey Tour­na­ment fi­nal last sea­son and Fri­day, it was Beth Yea­ger’s turn to step into the spot­light.

Like last sea­son, over­time was needed to de­cide the ti­tle show­down be­tween the Tigers and Ga­tors and like last sea­son, it was Sa­cred Heart’s fans that stormed the field in cel­e­bra­tion at the game’s con­clu­sion.

Yea­ger, a sopho­more,

tal­lied with 8:24 re­main­ing in over­time, giv­ing sec­ond­seeded Sa­cred Heart an ex­cit­ing 2-1 win over top-seeded host Green­wich Academy in the cham­pi­onship game of the FAA

Tour­na­ment.

The vic­tory marked the sec­ond straight sea­son the 17-1-1 Tigers topped the Ga­tors for the FAA ti­tle. Green­wich Academy (15-2) posted a 3-2 reg­u­lar-sea­son win over Sa­cred Heart, just like last fall, the Tigers avenged the de­feat with a tri­umph in the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment fi­nal.

“When we play GA, it’s a ri­valry game, so it’s al­ways so ex­cit­ing,” said Yea­ger, a mid­fielder. “This is bet­ter than win­ning by a lot. It was a hard-fought game that took a lot of ef­fort for us to win it.”

On the game win­ning goal, which oc­curred 1:36 into the 7-vs.-7 over­time, Yea­ger con­trolled a pass, then car­ried the ball al­most the length of the field down the left side­line, while GA de­fend­ers were quickly ap­proach­ing her. She quickly set her­self close on the left side close to the cage and drove a short shot past Ga­tors’ fresh­man goalie Hamil­ton Doster, in­side the left post.

“I knew it had to be done, so I kept go­ing down the field once I had the ball,” Yea­ger said. “Our team is known for find­ing those pass­ing com­bi­na­tions on 7-vs.-7 sit­u­a­tions.”

Green­wich Academy, which re­ceived a goal from ju­nior Grace Schulze, out­shot Sa­cred Heart 9-2 and drew nine penalty cor­ners. But the Tigers, who have

yielded only five goals the en­tire sea­son, lim­ited the Ga­tors to one goal by ex­hibit­ing sound penalty cor­ner de­fense and strong de­fen­sive play over­all.

“We worked the whole week on that — de­fend­ing penalty cor­ners,” Sa­cred Heart coach Alex Ghe­o­rghe said. “We put cer­tain play­ers in cer­tain po­si­tions and they made it hap­pen. It’s an amaz­ing win for our team.”

The Tigers were close to win­ning the well-at­tended matchup in reg­u­la­tion, but the Ga­tors evened the score at 1-1 with 4:52 left in the sec­ond half.

Trail­ing 1-0, GA pressed hard to gen­er­ate scor­ing chances and a surge in front of the goal led to the equal­izer. Cut­ting to the goal, Schulze tal­lied from close in with plenty of traf­fic in front of the goal, mak­ing it 1-1. Sopho­more Eve­lyn Bar­ringer as­sisted on the ty­ing tally.

“Ev­ery­one was work­ing hard the whole game, un­for­tu­nately, the ball didn’t bounce our way,” said Schulze, a co-cap­tain. “It was a great over­time game — these are the games you re­mem­ber. It was a tough out­come, but ev­ery­one played well.”

With Schulze, Katharine Glass­meyer, Ju­lia Freedman and So­phie Freedman ap­ply­ing pres­sure in the cir­cle and Maya Walker an­chor­ing the back­line, GA forced an ar­ray of penalty cor­ners late in the sec­ond half, in­clud­ing three straight at one point. Yet goalie Olivia Caponiti, an eighth-grader, stood strong in goal, while re­ceiv­ing sup­port from her de­fend­ers in front of her.

“Be­cause we got so many cor­ners, I think we needed to cap­i­tal­ize on them,” Schulze said. “But other than that, I think we did a good job of get­ting the ball into the cir­cle.”

Mor­gan Smith (ju­nior), MaryGrace Far­rell (sopho­more) and se­nior co-cap­tain helped Hil­lary Hoover lead Sa­cred Heart’s de­fen­sive ef­fort.

“Just play­ing to­gether the en­tire time helped us, we knew this was go­ing to be an ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive game,” Hoover said. “Com­ing out with the proper mind­set, never giv­ing up, no mat­ter what hap­pened and work­ing hard un­til the last sec­ond was our fo­cus.”

Said Ryan Smith, who along with Yea­ger and se­nior El­lie Man­riquez, paced the vis­i­tors of­fen­sively: “Our de­fense is our rock, I don’t think we could have done any­thing with­out them. At the be­gin­ning, we had trou­ble putting the ball in the net, but our de­fense kept us in the game.”

Fol­low­ing a score­less first half, Yea­ger gave Sa­cred Heart a 1-0 ad­van­tage with 23:31 re­main­ing in the sec­ond half. Awarded a penalty cor­ner, the Tigers tal­lied, with Yea­ger re­ceiv­ing the insert pass and send­ing a hard drive near the top of the cir­cle that de­flected off Doster’s pads and found its way in­side the right post, mak­ing it 1-0.

“Win­ning last year was great, but this one feels even bet­ter,” Ryan Smith said. “We lost to them ear­lier in the sea­son, which mo­ti­vated us to come on their turf. When we came on to this field and took that first step, we knew we had to get it done.”

HAN­DLING THE PRES­SURE

GA had the pos­ses­sion edge the ma­jor­ity of the first half, but didn’t score, de­spite com­ing close.

“I don’t think we ever faced that amount of pres­sure,” Man­riquez said. “There were cer­tainly times when we were ner­vous, but we talked to each other and re­as­sured our­selves. We were con­nected on de­fense and mak­ing good passes.”

QUOTABLE

Green­wich Academy coach Jamie Brower: “That was a great field hockey game, both teams played so hard. It had re­ally great mo­ments for both teams and that’s how it goes some­times. This is a chance for us to step back and eval­u­ate what we are do­ing well and what we need to do bet­ter.”

SEA­SON NOT OVER YET

Fri­day’s FAA fi­nal didn’t mark the end of the sea­son for Sa­cred Heart and GA. Both suc­cess­ful squads earned berths into next week’s NEPSAC Class A Tour­na­ment. Green­wich Academy won the NEPSAC ti­tle in 2017.

“This is what hap­pened last year and dur­ing prac­tice and our other games, we kept think­ing how tough it was to lose and we used that to mo­ti­vate our­selves to keep go­ing,” Glass­meyer said. “We hope it works out the same way this year and we hope this will mo­ti­vate us.”

Scott Mullin / For Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Green­wich Academy’s Eve­lyn Bar­ringer and Sa­cred Heart Green­wich’s El­iz­a­beth Yea­ger bat­tle for the ball in the FAA fi­nal Fri­day at Green­wich Academy.

Scott Mullin / For Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Sa­cred Heart Green­wich player Syd­ney Gal­lop launches the ball in the FAA field hockey fi­nal against Green­wich Academy on Fri­day at Green­wich Academy.

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