GREENWICH — Time had expired in the second half and Greenwich Academy held a one-goal lead on Sacred Heart Greenwich, but this back-and-forth FAA Tournament field hockey final was far from over.
The Tigers drew a penalty corner and though time had run out, a game can’t end unless the corner is cleared from the circle. Sacred Heart’s penalty corner, hit a Greenwich Academy player’s foot, resulting in a second corner. Then came second, third and fourth penalty corners from Sacred Heart, which desperately tried to even the score.
Yet on Sacred Heart’s fifth penalty corner, Greenwich Academy accomplished its mission.
Senior centerback Maya Walker cleared the ball out of the circle on Sacred Heart’s fifth penalty corner with no time remaining and Greenwich Academy finally celebrated.
Grace Schulze scored a first-half goal for second-seeded Greenwich Academy, which used strong corner defense at the end to edge top-seeded neighborhood rival Sacred Heart, 1-0, in the FAA Tournament final.
The Gators’ victory ended the Tigers’ two-season reign as FAA Tournament champions and dealt Sacred Heart (16-1) its first loss of the season.
The host Tigers posted a 3-0 regular season win against the Gators and topped GA in the title game of the FAA tournament in 2017 and 2018.
“Sacred Heart has always been a tough opponent and we came into this game knowing we would have to leave it all on the field,” said Schulze, a senior co-captain. “Losing to them earlier in the season motivated us to come out 100 percent and just play our game.”
On Sacred Heart’s first penalty corner with no time remaining in the second half, senior MaryGrace Farrell sent her insert pass into the circle and after a scramble, the ball hit a GA player’s foot, drawing a second corner. The second penalty corner saw a shot off a pass from sophomore Caroline Nemec go wide of the cage. Gallop’s shot on the third corner found a foot, forcing a fourth corner and intensitying the drama.
Following another penalty corner, which hit a GA player, Walker ended Sacred Heart’s threat on the fifth corner with a clear and the Gators stormed the field in celebration of their first FAA Tournament title since 2016.
“The end of the game was quite eventful,” said Walker, a senior co-captain. “It wouldn’t be a championship game without having something like that to overcome. We dug so deep throughout the rest of the game, so we weren’t going to let it end that way. We didn’t want to let up a time expired goal off a corner.”
The home team held a 12-1 penalty corner advantage on GA and held the possession edge on the visitors the majority of the second half.
“We thought we were going to score, we were hoping for another corner at the end,” Sacred Heart coach Alex Gheorghe said. “The game was pretty even, unfortunately, this time, it didn’t go our way.”
Junior Kathryn Gregory, who is in her first season as a starting goalie, made five saves for Greenwich Academy in the drama-filled matchup.
“It’s amazing, there’s always pressure, especially against Sacred Heart, because they’re such a great team,” Gregory said. “I just feel so grateful that I have the team I do in front of me. Every corner taken, they are so supportive.”
As for the game’s final sequence, Gregory had one thought in mind.
“I was saying in my head, ‘no goal, no goal, just get it out of the circle,” Gregory said.
Olivia Caponiti, a freshman, made five saves for Sacred Heart, which defeated Greenwich Academy, 2-1, in overtime of the 2018 FAA final.
“It’s a learning experience for our team and hopefully, we’ll see each other in New Englands (NEPSAC Tournament),” said Gheorghe, whose squad captured the FAA regular season title. “Overall, it was a physical game, with a lot of cards on both sides. We’re disappointed, obviously, but we have to concentrate on our next game.”
Greenwich Academy coach Jamie Brower has seen her defensive corner group flourish all season.
“Our defensive corner unit is one of the strongest parts of our entire team,” Brower said. “Sacred Heart has good attack corners, so it was fun to watch it play out. I am very confident in our defensive corner team, they have done a great job all year.”
The game’s lone goal came with 1:29 left in the first half. GA forced its first and only corner of the game and capitalized. Senior Antonia Packard moved the ball from the middle of the circle to Schulze, who was open near the left post. Schulze gathered the ball and quickly knocked a shot past Caponiti, giving the Gators a 1-0 lead.
— Greenwich Time Spts (@GreenwichSports) November 8, 2019
Julia and Sophie Freedman and Walker were also in on the go-ahead goal.
“We were practicing that specific play in practice for a while, so we all knew what was happening,” Schulze said. “I think because of the repetitions we put in it helped us execute.”
Greenwich Academy held its own in the possession category the first portion of the opening half, with senior midfielder Katharine Glassmeyer and Sophie and Julia Freedman leading the way.
Sacred Heart built momentum as the half progressed, connecting crisp passes and moving the ball up the field. Junior forward Beth Yeager, senior Katie Keller, Kate Nemec paced the Tigers up front, while Hanka Govaert, Farrell, Morgan Smith and Sydney Gallop anchored the midfield/defensive effort for the Tigers.
“Their passing was great, they had some nice ball movement and did a good job of getting some of their main players open,” Brower said of Sacred Heart. “They were putting pressure on us, but we showed poise with the ball under such intense pressure.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Schulze has scored a lot of key goals for the Gators (17-2-1), but none was bigger than her tally on Friday.
“The atmosphere was incredible, we had the whole school behind us and we loved the support we got from our fans,” Farrell said. “This is one game in the season and we still have a long postseason to go at New Englands. I am so proud of our whole team and we were grateful to play at home today and receive all that support.”
Both squad will remember the five penalty corners at the game’s conclusion.
“I’ve never been in a situation like that with all the corners without time,” Glassmeyer said. “It was definitely nerve-wracking and we had to make sure the ball left the circle, which made it that much harder.”
Said Gregory: “When the ball was cleared from the circle, it was the happiest moment of my life so far. I always thought it would be when I got my license.”
— Greenwich Time Spts (@GreenwichSports) November 8, 2019
GREENWICH ACADEMY 1, SACRED HEART GREENWICH 0
GREENWICH ACADEMY 1 0 0- 1
SACRED HEART GREENWICH 0 0 – 0
Goals: GA – Grace Schulze; Assists: GA – Antonia Packard, Julia Freedman; Goalies: GA – Kathryn Gregory (5 saves); SH – Olivia Caponiti (5 saves).