After losing to Phillips Andover Academy in overtime in the NEPSAC Class A Tournament semifinals the past two seasons, the Greewich Academy field hockey team was embroiled in another overtime duel against Andover Sunday with the stakes even higher.
And this time, the conclusion of the overtime session resulted in a celebration for the Gators.
Top-seeded Greenwich Academy won its first NEPSAC Class A title since 2012, edging second-seeded rival Phillips Andover Academy 3-2 in the championship game at Ethel Walker School in Simsbury.
Senior midfielder Manveer Sandhu’s goal off a penalty stroke 6 minutes, 7 seconds into overtime gave the championship trophy to Greenwich Academy, which entered halftime in a 2-2 tie.
“They ended our season in overtime before, so that made this win a little sweeter,” GA coach Jamie Brower said. “Phillips Andover is such a great team, they were gracious and it was such a great field hockey game. It was such a great experience for both teams, which have so many skilled players.”
Greenwich Academy, which advanced to the championship game by posting a 3-0 home win over fourth-seeded Hotchkiss School on Saturday, took a 1-0 lead on Andover when Sandhu tallied off a penalty corner with 19:37 remaining in the first half. Senior co-captain Karina Schulze assisted on the goal, sending her insert pass to Sandhu.
Andover junior Josephina Caico tied the score at 1-1 at the 13:52 mark of the half as the result of a scramble in front of the cage. Phillips Andover went ahead 2-1 by scoring with 10:25 remaining in the first half.
Following a timeout, GA knotted the score at 2-2 with 1:53 to go in the half. Sophomore forward Grace Schulze knocked in a shot from close in after being set up by her sister, Karina, evening the score.
“The first half, both teams worked through the nerves and played well,” Brower said. “We did a nice job of controlling the ball in the first half. Andover has some excellent players, but we did a really nice job of blocking up their free hits.”
Senior Maggie Reville made one save in the first half in goal for GA, but Andover possessed the ball a lot in the second half and generated numerous scoring opportunities. Junior Isabella Santucci played in goal during the second half and overtime for the Gators and made eight saves.
Karina Schulze, Grace Schulze and senior Sofia Viola helped lead Greenwich Academy’s offensive effort, while sophomore Antonia Packard, sophomore Maya Walker and freshman Sophie Freedman anchored the squad’s defensive play. Freshman Julia Friedman, Sandhu and sophomore Catherine Glassmeyer impressively patroled the midfield for GA.
“Everyone stepped up and played a key role,” Brower said. “Everyone contributed.”
The win capped a 19-1 season for Greenwich Academy. Andover finished its season at 17-2. Playing deep into the postseason in previous seasons helped this year’s squad, Brower noted.
“Last year’s experience, even though it ended in a loss to Andover, paid off today,” Brower said. “Our players were ready for today and they were excited for the opportunity.”
The game marked the final one for Karina Schulze and senior Caroline Hughes, both of whom served as captains.
“They led the team this year with such steadiness in how they spoke,” Brower said. “Their work ethic was steady and the rest of the senior class was also kind and supportive. We had an amazing group of seniors this year.”
Besides being awarded the championship trophy, Greenwich Academy received a platter and each player can engrave their name on it.
“There was a lot of singing, smiles and happy tears on the ride home,” Brower said. “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that we won the New England title.”