One win away from capturing its second NEPSAC Class A field hockey championship, Sacred Heart Greenwich made a long trip to Winsor School in Boston, Massachusetts Sunday to play Phillips Academy Andover for the title.
The Tigers held a significant advantage on penalty corners, drawing 10 more than Phillips Academy for the game, but couldn’t capitalize on their scoring opportunities.
Instead, second-seeded Phillips Academy Andover scored three early goals and held on to register a 4-1 win over top-seeded Sacred Heart in the title game of the NEPSAC Class A Championships in Boston.
Sacred Heart won the NEPSAC Class A championship in 2019, its first in program history. They posted a 2-1 win over Tabor Academy in the 2019 title game at the Rivers School.
This season saw the Tigers produce an impressive 20-4 record. The Tigers rode a 16-game winning streak into Sunday’s title matchup against Phillips Academy. Prior to the championship game, Sacred Heart was undefeated against NEPSAC opponents this fall.
“We are proud of the success of this young team,” Sacred Heart coach Alex Gheorghe said. “We would like to congratulate them on an outstanding season.”
Said Sacred Heart associate head coach Sarah Hill: “It was a memorable season for this team that has shown through hard work, discipline and teamwork they can achieve anything. The bonds they have formed with each other will never be forgotten and our incredible senior captain leaders.”
Phillips Academy jumped out to a 3-0 first-quarter lead on SHG. Georgia Adams opened the scoring with a goal at the 13:02 mark of the first quarter. Meghan Dunne gave Phillips Academy a 2-0 lead, tallying with 8:50 remaining in the opening quarter. Gwyneth Lapp converted a penalty stroke for Phillips Academy, giving her team a 3-0 first-quarter advantage.
“They caught us off guard a little bit,” Gheorghe said. “They scored on a penalty stroke and they had breakaways and they scored on them. Congratulations to them. They worked really hard and they had 16 seniors, which I think, was a big factor.”
Sacred Heart settled down after quickly falling into a 3-0 hole and began controlling possession of the ball and creating scoring opportunities.
For the game, Sacred Heart drew 13 penalty corners and held a 13-3 advantage on Phillips Academy on corners.
“It was a good game, which we dominated after the first quarter, but we couldn’t score on the penalty corners,” Gheorghe said. “I would like to congratulate our team for making it to the final game. We were the only team from Connecticut left in the tournament.”
Senior co-captain/midfielder Erin Griffin scored Sacred Heart’s goal with 13:04 left in the third quarter, cutting Phillips’ lead to 3-1. Just over three minutes later, Phillips Academy went ahead, 4-1, on Elizabeth Harrison’s goal off a penalty stroke.
Freshman Teresa Harkins made five saves in goal for Sacred Heart. The matchup was the final game for the squad’s senior captains – Caroline Nemec and Griffin.
“Caroline joined our varsity team as an eighth-grader, so she spent five years with us,” Gheorghe said. “That’s a major loss for us, she’s played a big role on our team and has brought our team to the next level. She is a great hockey player.”
Nemec will continue her field hockey career at the University of Virginia. Her sisters, Kate, a junior and Charley, a freshman, will be back to help spark the Tigers next season. Griffin was a consistent performer, who made her mark throughout her varsity career, making key plays.
“Erin played her role very well for us,” Gheorghe said. “She helped us a lot during the season. Between our two captains – they formed a good combination, so a big thank you goes out to them.”
Looking ahead to next season, the 2022 season, Sacred Heart will return the majority of its roster.
“Right now, we need to regroup and keep working really hard,” Gheorghe said. “We hoping to maintain and once again, deliver good results.”
Caroline Nemec and Griffin embraced their role as captains and leave the program with fond memories.
“This team will have our hearts forever,” Nemec and Griffin said. “We are a family on and off the field. We left it all out there today and want to thank everyone who has been a part of this unforgettable journey. Go heart forever and always.”