WATERTOWN – It was an ecstatic cheer from a jubilant huddle – “WHY NOT US.”
And why not the Thomaston High field hockey team? After a 1-0 take down of No. 6 Old Saybrook in the Class S quarterfinals Watertown High’s chilled John Mills complex Thursday night the Bears are believing’. You can’t blame them.
The No. 3 seeded Bears scratch clawed and willed their way into the semifinals for the first time since 2015 when they went on to win the school’s only state title and will take on No. 2 Stonington, a 2-1 winner over Lauralton Hall. The game will be played either Tuesday or Wednesday at a site to be announced.
The two teams have a couple of connections. First of all they are both the Bears so if you think the Bears will win you can’t lose. Also, this is not the first meeting between the two teams. On a frigid night in 2013 at Guilford High School, Stonington eliminated the Bears in the Class S semifinals, 4-0.
If the Bears (14-1-1) needed any validation of their prowess they got it on this night with a `want some, come get some’ performance, withstanding everything the Rams could throw it them. And that was plenty.
Old Saybrook outshot the Bears, 12-8, had more corner hits, 12-4, and hung around the net an awful lot in the second half. But, the only statistic that really mattered had to do with putting the ball in the cage. The Bears won that battle. Case closed.
“I think (people) look at us as another Berkshire League team, but we showed that a small-town team can beat a big program,” said Thomaston senior and leading scorer Aurelia Barker.
“This means everything,” added senior Kristen Foell. “All our hard work is paying off. We’ve known each other grew up playing and don’t want it to stop.”
Indeed. Old Saybrook (12-5-1) is a program with a pedigree that owns four state titles and has played in seven finals. No. 1 Valley Regional, no. 4 North Branford and No. 8 Granby were on the schedule this year. This was no small-time team and no small-time victory for the Bears.
Barker gave the Bears all they would need when took a pass from Emma Sanson in front of the goal and managed to flick a ball through a major mass of bodies and goalie Kate Molesky for a 1-0 lead 4:09 into the second quarter.
“I don’t know who gave me the pass (Sanson), but someone was on me, and I took it on the reverse over the defensive player’s stick into the left corner,” explained Barker.
Late in the quarter Old Saybrook looked like it had tied the game, but a potential goal was waved off because it was hit outside the scoring circle.
The Bears had the best chance in the third quarter when Barker got lose only to see her shot from the center kicked out at the last second. But the rest of the time was spent in Thomaston’s end. The Rams constantly put the ball in front of the Bears net and had four corner hits but couldn’t elude Thomaston’s sticks and goalie Hannah Bigos’ feet.
Time and time again big hits from MacKenna Cooke were either stopped by Thomaston sticks or the Rams could not convert from scoring range.
“It was tough,” said Foell. “It was clear both teams wanted it and we knew we had to lock down.”
“Our defense is our anchor,” said coach Jon Long. “It was a bit of chaos out there because Olivia Their got hurt and we had to shift players around. Luckily, we adjusted. The girls believe in themselves. They don’t want to go home. “
They don’t have to. Why not the Bears?