WORCESTER, Mass. –- With 14:58 left in regulation, and after 17 shots on the Longmeadow goal defended by Elizabeth Suschana, Andover sophomore forward Julia LeBlanc blazed the 18th ball past Suschana for the only score on the day. That drive the Golden Warriors to their second consecutive Div. 1 state field hockey championship past Longmeadow, 1-0.
“I was really in the moment,” LeBlanc asserted, donning her championship medal after the victory. “Because our defense is so strong, I was able to get it in. I was there at the right time and I just dove in and tipped it in…If we didn’t have our defense, I wouldn’t have been able to get up there.”
“It (the ball) came from Kate [Farnham]and she sent it across the circle to me and I just hit it over as far as I could to the net and Julia just happened to be there,” said junior left forward Meagan Keefe, who owns the game’s sole assist. “She just tipped it in which was amazing.”
The Golden Warriors (21-0-2) had 21 corners during the game but were not able to get a score on one of them. With about 20 minutes to go in the second half, Andover called a timeout and coach Maureen Noone and her staff advised the girls to change the game.
“Stop putting the ball maybe to one side or continuing to do what we’ve gotten away with in the other games that have worked for us,” said Noone recalling the timeout. “I think they were stuffing an extra defender in there and it was getting difficult so we tried to swing the ball as much as possible and just take chances; start swinging, start stepping up to the ball and playing a little bit harder.”
We Do This: Although Andover had sent a number of balls towards the goal and had not scored, they were not discouraged, they just became more determined.
“We’re used to this, this is how it is,” said LeBlanc. “We have low scoring games and we’re just trained to keep going at it and keep shooting and keep working hard. There’s always a way. It’s 0-0, even if we score 1-0, it doesn’t matter, we’re going back and our defense is just as ferocious. We don’t give up because they can score and tie it up.”
“After we knocked that one in I felt pretty confident,” added goalie Shannon Tully, giving a different perspective but with the same knuckle down message.”We brought the sweeper back so we could play more of a defensive game.”
Bring It Back: “Uhhhh! It's Amazing!” exclaimed the 2010 lacrosse All-American Anne Farnham, with much enthusiasm and a mile-wide smile.
“Literally, we never imagined this could happen,” added Farnham, a senior right forward, theoretically forgetting that she was already sporting the official “Andover 2011 State Champs Back to Back” grey t-shirt with navy blue print just moments after the game, directly refuting her claim.
Coach Noone added something that may give a clue as to why the Golden Warriors printed the shirts prior to the start of start of the match.
“This year, we knew what to expect and we had a little bit more confidence coming into the game,” added coach Noone. “Even though we only have five seniors, they’re all quality kids and they understand their leadership role. I think they did an outstanding job of taking the younger kids and telling them step-by-step what they needed to do, and they did it.”
Going Hard in the Cage: Even though she only had three saves on the day, those are three opportunities that were thwarted by senior goalie Shannon Tully. If she doesn’t, the Golden Warriors are singing a different tune.
“We have the most confidence in her,” said LeBlanc. “She’s such an athletic goalie and we really rely on her. She’s made a lot of great saves through the season and we’re happy to have her.”
Team Love: “We don’t look at who scores, it was a team effort,” said Kate Farnham, who along with her twin sister Anne are committed to playing lacrosse for UMass Amherst next year. Despite getting plenty of touches during the game, she said neither she nor her teammates thought about an individual getting a goal.
“The scores don’t matter because we just play as a team so I don’t think they were looking for me to score personally."
I Don’t Want To Go Home: Junior Meagan Keefe, despite winning the state championship, was not ready for the sun to set on the Golden Warriors’ 21-0-2 season after the game.
“I am just as psyched, it’s a great feeling, I just want to keep going," Keefe said. "It’s sad that it’s over.”