WORCESTER — It has been a long road for the Groton-Dunstable field hockey team. The program suffered through back-to-back winless seasons recently and began to move forward after Mary Ruggles became the head coach. That ascent earned the Lady Crusaders a post-season berth, a reward for the effort and hard work over the past couple of seasons.
The Lady Crusaders journeyed to Worcester to tackle St. Peter Marian and held its own. Katherine Chabot’s goal 30 seconds into the second half proved to be the difference as the Guardians posted a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
The game was evenly played, with each team getting five shots on goal. After a scoreless first half, the pace of play picked up after intermission with the teams combining for 16 corners as the ball continued to move up and down the field. The Guardians worked hard to pick up an insurance goal while the Lady Crusaders did its best to net the equalizer.
“I thought we played better offensively in the second half,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Mary Ruggles. “We did a good job of creating corners, but we had trouble finishing. Liv Penney played a great all-around game for us and it was huge for our program to get a post-season game. This is the first step of a long journey and we hope to build off this game.”
The first half was played mainly in the center of the field as neither team had a shot on goal in the first 20 minutes. There were two quality chances over that span.
At six minutes, Groton-Dunstable’s Kelly Corey stole the ball outside the right post and fired a shot that was deflected wide.
Four minutes later, St. Peter Marian’s Kaitlyn Moran sent a dangerous centering pass from the right corner that rolled in front of the goal and went untouched.
The Guardians’ Bridget Lemire showed the ability to change field position with strong hits, and the home team started to mount offensive pressure over the final 10 minutes of the first half. The Guardians gained the final four corners of the half and threatened in the offensive end with a pair of shots that were stopped by Groton-Dunstable goaltender Liz Gonzalez. Her best save came at 26 minutes when she stopped a hard shot from right wing by Chabot.
But the scoreless tie didn’t last long as St. Peter Marian struck quickly in the second half. Lemire sent a long ball in front of the net from left wing and Chabot deftly tipped it past Gonzalez.
That tally created a sense of urgency for Groton-Dunstable and the Lady Crusaders picked up six consecutive corners and fired its first two shots on goal in the game, but St. Peter Marian goaltender Noelle Lussier stopped both shots.
At the eight minute mark, Penney sent a diagonal pass in front that was deflected and stopped by Lussier.
At 11 minutes, Corey put a pass in front of the net and Lauren Kraemer got off a shot from close range that was saved.
Three minutes later, the Lady Crusaders survived a loose ball in front of its net as Moran ripped a shot that was stopped by Gonzalez.
Midway through the half, Groton-Dunstable called a timeout to regroup and make a final push. The Lady Crusaders had a pair of good chances to net the equalizer.
At 19 minutes, Penney fired a bullet just wide of the right post after a well set up corner.
At 24 minutes, Erika Eipp rolled a hard shot through traffic that was stopped by Lussier.
Just 30 seconds later, Gonzalez kept the Lady Crusaders within striking distance with a solid save of Chabot’s 10-yard shot.
“I’m very proud of our girls and they kept on fighting to the final whistle,” said Ruggles. “It was nice for the seniors to get to play in this game, and this experience will be great for the younger players. Liz Gonzalez made a couple of good saves to keep us within striking distance.”
St. Peter Marian improved to 11-4-2 with the win while Groton-Dunstable finishes at 7-7-5.