Like the first meeting between longtime FAA neighborhood field hockey rivals Sacred Heart Greenwich and Greenwich Academy, GA made an early opening statement, scoring first in the much-anticipated late-season matchup.
And like the first game between the Tigers and Gators, it was Sacred Heart that had the final say.
Mackenzie Coleman’s goal with 7:08 remaining in the fourth quarter lifted host Sacred Heart Greenwich to a hard-fought 2-1 win over Greenwich Academy in a game for first place in the FAA.
With the come-from-behind victory, the Tigers raised their overall record to 10-1 and their FAA mark to 4-0. Greenwich Academy is 13-3 overall and has an FAA record of 6-1. The Gators are finished with their FAA regular schedule, but the Tigers have games remaining against Greens Farms Academy, St. Luke’s School and Greenwich Country Day School. Victories in two of those games will give Sacred Heart the FAA regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the league tournament.
Coleman’s goal came with SHG putting pressure on GA in the circle. Sophomore midfielder Charley Nemec initiated the action on Coleman’s game-winner, sending a pass into the circle. Getting her stick on the ball, Nemec tallied from close in, giving the Tigers a 2-1 advantage with 7:08 left in the fourth quarter.
“I got subbed into the game and ran straight near to the top the post and waited for my teammate to sweep it through,” Coleman said of her winning goal. “It came right to me and I just put my body out there and luckily it went in. Then, we went crazy, it was awesome.”
It’s usually a dramatic, exciting game when Greenwich Academy and Sacred Heart face each other. On Oct. 1 at GA, the Tigers entered the fourth quarter down 2-0, but scored three unanswered goals to pull out a 3-2 triumph.
“We definitely have a hustle mentality,” Coleman said. “Although it’s not the best to be down one, we put it all out there and we’re proud by the end of the day when we’re done with the game.”
The home victory extended Sacred Heart’s winning streak to seven games.
“We’re working together as one unit and we’re connecting up and down the field,” Coleman said.
Trailing 2-1, Greenwich Academy had a pair of solid possessions in the waning minutes of action and desperately tried to tally the equalizer. Senior forward Sienna Tejpaul and senior midfielder Laetitia Cartellieri directed shots on goal toward Tigers goalie Olivia Caponiti. A senior captain, Caponiti stood strong under pressure, registering a pair of key saves down the stretch.
“We played really hard and everything we could do,” Cartellieri said. “I thought we stepped up and played very well throughout the game.”
Greenwich Academy took a 1-0 lead on a well-executed goal by Tejpaul, one of the squad’s captains. She put a shot off a tough angle past Caponiti from the left side while on the move. Junior forward/midfielder Caroline Busler assisted on Tejpaul’s tally.
“Bustler stole the ball and we went down together and she crossed the ball to me,” Tejpaul said of her goal. “I was able to get one step ahead of my defender and take my shot. It was a great fastbreak play and that has been a big part of our season.”
The Tigers knotted the score with 9:43 remaining in the second quarter and the goal came in unconventional fashion. Leading 1-0, the Gators drew a penalty corner and were hoping to add to their advantage. Yet a turnover on the penalty corner saw Sacred Heart junior forward Payton Sfreddo gather the ball before midfield and carry the ball down the field with nothing in front of her but the artificial turf and GA goalie Persia Shipman ahead of her. The speedy Sfreddo aggressively charged toward the cage and scored off the 1-on-1 situation, evening the score at 1-1.
“You definitely don’t see it happen often,” Sfreddo said of the situation in which she scored. “It was an unlucky play by them on their corner. We had the opportunity to make it a fastbreak. Charley Nemec got it up to me and I had a ton of space in front of me, so I was about running as fast as I could, put as much effort into it as I could and focused on finishing. That’s what we practice every day and that’s what the goal is.”
In the third quarter, GA had three penalty corners, as Cartellieri, Busler and Tejpaul applied pressure in the circle, but Caponiti and the Tigers kept the score tied. Sacred Heart then forced four straight penalty corners early in the fourth quarter, behind the aggressive play of senior captain Delfina Gonzalez Lobo, senior Kate Nemec, Charley Nemec and senior Vivi Caruso, but the Gators’ penalty corner defense was effective.
“I think we did a good job of controlling what we can control,” Greenwich Academy coach Jamie Brower said. “Their penalty corners are dangerous and we gave up a couple, but it wasn’t until the second half and I thought our defense did an outstanding job of defending their corners – they’re very good. The confidence that our kids played with is something to be very proud of. We really look forward to playing them again.”
Said Ellie Johnson, one of GA’s senior captains, who helped lead her team’s defensive effort: “I’m so proud of everyone, it was a team effort. I’m so excited that we have the next two weeks to continue to get better and play as a team. I thought that our team does a great job of keeping composure and focusing on our play.”
Senior captain Ines Araujo, sophomore Ainsley Clough and senior Caterina Pye paced the Tigers’ defensive effort.
“Greenwich Academy came out strong and eliminated our opportunities,” Sacred Heart co-head coach Sarah Hill said. “We typically take more penalty corners and they were good at stopping us there defensively. They eliminated our opportunities in front of the net, but it was good that we capitalized in the fourth quarter.”
Sacred Heart and Greenwich Academy usually find their way into the FAA Tournament finals and they should face each other for the tournament title again soon.
“They’re a very strong team, but I think we held possession a lot and we had a lot of energy throughout,” Sfreddo said. “We come together with the desire to win, so at the end of the day it’s a testament to our team spirit.”
“They’re a strong team and the rivalry is really fun to be a part of and it’s an honor to play on this field,” Sfreddo continued. “I do hope we see them again.”
Said Tejpaul: “We’ll see them again for sure this season. I think we played with a lot of passion like we always do. We’re playing amazing and we have some good games ahead of us and we’ll focus on those and try to play great for the rest of the season.”
GA, which was riding a nine-game winning streak entering Saturday’s action, is in action again on Wednesday against Loomis Chaffee School.
Sacred Heart hosts FAA opponent Greens Farms Academy tomorrow.
“I want to congratulate the players,” Sacred Heart co-head coach Alex Gheorghe said. “I’m hoping this will give us energy going forward.”