By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – Kate Blaisdell is known for her powerful shot. The teenager’s field hockey stick rises up and cocks for a split second above her head before sweeping downward with enough force to fire the ball at high velocity and send opponents scattering.
Thursday, however, the Hanover High senior performed a sort of sneak attack, dribbling along the goal line towards the Lebanon net before beating Raiders goaltender Autumn Crowell with a wrist shot inside the near post. The tally gave the visiting Marauders a 2-1, overtime triumph in the arch-rivals’ NHIAA Division II first-round playoff game.
“I’m able to stickhandle around people when they’re really close to me,” said Blaisdell, who’s committed to play at Northeastern University. “It catches them off-guard sometimes.
“I knew there was (25) seconds left and I was going to look to pass across, but I saw the goalie move a little and turn away.”
Third-seeded Hanover advances to host fifth-seeded Kennett on Monday afternoon in what is both the Region 3 final and a state quarterfinal. The NHIAA “randomly generated” the seedings because of wide variance in scheduling linked to Covid-19 precautions. Lebanon was seeded third and Kennett beat top-seeded Kingswood.
Thursday’s contest was an almost perfectly equal battle and appeared on the verge of cessation when Raiders scoring standout Sydney Gonyea prepared for a penalty stroke with 4 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in overtime. A goal would have lifted the senior atop the program’s career scoring list at 56, but her high shot sailed wide right.
“It’s unfortunate Syd didn’t score but it shouldn’t come down to one player,” said Lebanon coach Amanda Valliere. “We created offensive opportunities outside of that.”
Lebanon (6-2-1) opened the scoring with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter when Gonyea worked free high on the right side. With Hanover goaltender Olivia Evans shifted towards the far post, Gonyea pounded a shot along the ground and past a defender standing at the near post. The tally tied her with 2009 Lebanon graduate Samantha Davis atop the career goals list.
Hanover (8-3-1) forged a tie three minutes later after a prolonged scramble in front of Crowell led to Mia Edmonds’ successful penalty stroke. Such calls are usually made when the goaltender is ruled to have purposely covered the ball or when a defender uses her limbs or body to block what would have otherwise been a scoring shot.
“We tend to wake up as the game goes longer,” said Hanover coach Jean Essex, whose team won last year’s Division II title. “With a young team and it being the playoffs, it took a little time for them to realize what’s on the line.”
Said Lebanon’s Lena Nowell: “It was super intense and intoxicating on the field. It’s stressful and you can feel it in the pit of your stomach, but you just have to trust that your goalie or your shooter is going to do their best.”
The final sequence saw Blaisdell dribble towards the Lebanon cage from far out on the goal line and to Crowell’s left. The situation didn’t initially appear dangerous, but Blaisdell used clever stickhandling and her body to shield the ball while suddenly accelerating past the Raiders’ Sally Tretter.
No other defender moved out or down to cut off Blaisdell’s drive and she threaded the needle with a shot along the ground and inside the post.
“I think we were maybe slow to realize that play was starting,” Valliere said. “You know (Blaisdell) has the big hit and you try to contain her passion options and frustrate her, but her biggest threat is a shot in tight space in the circle.”
Notes: Hanover won, 1-0, at Lebanon on Oct. 5 and the teams tied, 3-3, nine days later… Olivia Trummel, the Marauders’ second-leading scorer, missed the game because of a concussion… Hanover was 14-1-1 last year, its lone loss coming against Lebanon… The Marauders are 47-13-4 the past four seasons… Lebanon is slated to lose eight seniors to graduation in the spring… Blaisdell, the daughter of an engineer, moved to Hanover with her family before her junior season. She previously lived in Southern New Hampshire and played for Windham but said the relocation came about when her father took a new job in the Upper Valley.
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