NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. -- Through the grueling pace of a tense 60-minute game and more than halfway through the second overtime period, legs were growing weary during Tuesday’s Division I state field hockey semifinal between South sectional champion Walpole and North champion Andover, played at North Andover High.
Enter sophomore Meagan Keefe.
She’d only played a couple of minutes, spelling the starters and providing a boost of energy to the front line of the Golden Warriors’ attack. Then, eight minutes and 47 seconds into the second overtime period, Keefe tipped home Laura Dimitruk’s blast from the top of the penalty area, giving Andover a 2-1 victory and a chance to play for the state title.
“You’re always trying to be ready, staying in the game,” Keefe said. “Then, when coach tells you to go in, you’d better be ready.”
Keefe took full advantage of her opportunity after both teams had seen stellar opportunities go by the wayside in the first overtime.
Walpole (22-1-0) out shot Andover, 4-3, in the first overtime, but Golden Warriors goaltender Dina Hagigeorges was up to task. No save was finer than the senior’s effort to stack the pads on a breakaway attempt by vaunted Porkers striker Caroline Malone.
“At the break we had just had previously, one of my coaches told me that if anyone comes on a breakaway, you have to be aggressive,” Hagigeorges said. “I was thinking back on that and what I’d been taught before. When you approach breakaways, you can’t wait for the ball to come to you, so that’s what I did.”
Stopping Malone and the talented Walpole offense had been a priority for Andover (23-0-0) heading into the game.
“I think what we tried after watching [Malone] last week and going over some of the films was just to take the pass away from her and try to avoid them getting the ball to her,” Golden Warriors head coach Maureen Noone said. “If she does get the ball down low and you make a nice block tackle, then most of the time it works. I think the kids played supportive. If it got by one, then somebody else was there to pick up.”
Andover got off to a quick start as Jaclyn Torres buried and nice set up from Anne Farnham a little more than five minutes into the contest.
The Porkers answered midway through the first half on Hannah Feeley’s goal, assisted by Meghan Murphy off of a penalty corner, but were unable to find the back of the net again.
Walpole has now bowed out in the state semifinal round in each of the last four seasons, after winning the Division I crown in 2006.
Andover will play Central champion Algonquin -- which beat South Hadley, 2-1, on Tuesday -- for the state title at Worcester State College, Saturday at 10 a.m.
WATERTOWN HOLDS OFF CANTON
Bitten twice shy, Canton had experienced the same fate just a year before.
For the second straight season the Bulldogs fell, 1-0, to Watertown in the Division II state semifinal, the early game on the slate at North Andover on Tuesday. In 2009, the Red Raiders slipped past Canton by the same score en route to their 10th state field hockey championship.
“I think to start the girls were maybe a little nervous, they were a little too excited,” Bulldogs head coach Fior Griggin said. “Once we settled in, we had a lot of breaks. We had more shots than they did. We had more corners than they did. I thought we had more possession time than they did.”
Canton (20-1-1) carried play early, but Red Raiders goaltender Kayla Costa kicked out chance after chance to keep her team in it during the first half.
“I thought our team should have been more intense, matching them,” Watertown head coach Eileen Donahue said. “I thought we were lucky to hold against them.”
The Red Raiders emerged from the break a different team and immediately went on the offensive. Erika Kelly found Lauren Giardano for the game’s lone marker 1:12 into the second half.
Kelly likened her chemistry with Giradano to the attraction of magnets — they simply know how to find each other.
“I saw her running down the right side, so I just smashed it across field and that was it.”
Watertown had an excellent chance to strike again when Kelly squared off with Bulldogs goaltender Sarah Healey on a penalty stroke midway through the second stanza. Healy robbed Kelly with a blocker save on the shot that was ticketed for the nearside post.
“That was sick,” Griggin said of Healey’s save.
Canton rode the momentum their keeper provided them, pushing the Red Raiders to the end. The Bulldogs had seven penalty corner chances in the final 12 minutes of play, but were unable to connect.
Watertown will face Central champion Auburn (who beat Mohawk Trail, 2-1 in overtime) at Worcester State College, Saturday at noon with the chance at state title No. 11 on the line.