CHESHIRE — With the exception of last year, either Cheshire or Hand has been one of the participants in the Southern Connecticut Conference field hockey championship game over the last decade.
And it’s been quite a rivalry between the two teams as well.
So it wasn’t unexpected Monday afternoon when they played another tight game with the host Rams holding on for a 2-1 Division A victory over the Tigers at the Maclary Complex.
“It was a great accomplishment,” Cheshire’s Sophie Vagts said. “Our entire team worked well today. We had some struggles, but we’ll work on that in practice. This was definitely a game changer for us.”
With the victory, Cheshire now holds a significant lead in the Division A standings. The Rams (6-0), have a one-game edge over Guilford (5-1) but hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a 3-1 victory back on Oct. 8. Hand is now two games back at 4-2 in the shortened 10-game season because of Covid-19.
“We survived that game,” Cheshire coach Eileen Wildermann said. “It showed they can fight when they are on their heels, so I think it was character building.”
All three goals in Monday’s contest came in the first half.
Just 3:27 into the game, Lauren Houle tipped a shot of the stick of Raegan Bailey that also hit a Hand player and it went into the top right corner of the cage past Tigers’ goalkeeper Megan Hart.
The Tigers controlled most of the play from there in the first quarter but couldn’t convert any chances into goals.
“We were too cautious,” Leckey said. “You can’t play against a good solid aggressive team like that. You can play with them, but you can’t beat them.”
Cheshire, however, turned the tide at the beginning of the second quarter and made it 2-0 when Avery DePodesto fed Vagts with a perfect pass down the left side. Vagts dribbled the ball to within 10 yards of the goal and put a shot in between the legs and pads of Hart.
“We ended up using the right side more than the left cause they were able to control the left side,” Vagts said. “Avery was able to get it to me.”
Hand cut its deficit in half with just 4:50 to play before intermission when Sydney Courtmanch poked a shot into the lower right of the cage off a rebound in front of Cheshire goalkeeper Hannah Jalowiec.
From there, the play was pretty even. Hart made three big saves on three consecutive corners by the Rams late in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Cheshire thwarted a Hand corner top end the third quarter.
Hand tried to put a lot of pressure on the Cheshire defense in the last few minutes of the game, but the Tigers were never able to get a shot off.
“They are good and the fact is we came away with a 2-1 game,” Leckey said. “They were working as hard as they could work. To be able to hold them to two goals when they have a lot of skilled players there.”
Hart had nine saves for Hand, while Jalowiec and Elise Hurlbert combined for seven saves for the Rams.