Cats score controversial goal, end Lakers’ upset bid in double overtime

KELSEY APOVIAN, a senior (right), battles a York player for the ball during last Friday's Class B South semi-final. (Photo by Dena Dunn)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

YORK — A win or a loss can come down to a matter of inches, as the Lake Region field hockey team found out against defending state champ, York.

In a hard-fought match between the top-ranked Wildcats and fifth-seeded Lakers, which was finally settled in a second overtime to decide the Class B South semis, the question remains — was it a goal or no goal?

Lake Region varsity coach Pauline Webb felt a tip shot by York’s Barbara Conratd (a Belgian exchange student who hadn’t scored all season) had failed to cross the goal line, as freshman LR defender Allie Vogel stopped it and sophomore Victoria Ross cleared the ball away from the net just before the first half came to a close.

Initially, there was plenty of confusion on the field as the Lakers looked to play on while York’s Sydney Bouchard celebrated. Then, the officials declared a goal had been scored with just 40 seconds left.

“Not a goal,” Coach Webb told a reporter after the game. “The whole ball must go over the line. That ball was not over the line. It’s very unfortunate to lose a game like that.”

The Lakers shook off the call and tied the game two minutes into the second half as senior Dessi Berry knocked in a rebound off a shot by senior Olivia Deschenes.

The score stayed that way through regulation and an overtime session. York dashed the Lakers’ hope of a Cinderella-like season, going winless a year ago to the doorstep of a conference final, when Bouchard dodged a couple of Laker defenders and unloaded a drive that found its way through goalie Maddie Nelson’s pad for the winner. Nelson had 10 saves for the Lakers.

UPDATE WEDNESDAY In the regional final Tuesday, York and third-ranked Poland.

They came a long way

Coming off a overtime loss to the Wildcats in the regular season finale, Coach Webb felt the biggest obstacle the Laker girls needed to conquer in the semi-final rematch was the belief that they could beat York; “believing in their individual abilities and in the team. That’s the mindset they had for that game,” the coach said.

“They were ready physically, mentally and emotionally. We knew it was going to be intense. I didn’t sense any nerves on game day, just pure confidence and determination,” Coach Webb said. “We always play very well against York and this year was no exception. Having played them to OT in our last meeting at home, the girls knew what they needed to do to beat them the third time around — they actually wanted another opportunity at them.”

The Lakers hoped to put the Wildcats on their heels early with plenty of intensity in their play.

“We gave up too many corners early in the game, but our defense was solid and strong and was able to deny them,” Coach Webb said. “Except for a few corners York got in a row the first half (the Cats held a 13-2 advantage in corners), the play was pretty even on the field; it was a very fast-paced game.”

LR mounted a few great runs up the field in the first half with Delaney Meserve cutting back for the ball to win possession and working with Paige Davis to the ball into the offensive end.

When Berry scored the equalizer early in the second half, from there, it was pretty even once again from one end of the field to the other.

“Every player who stepped on the field made a difference and played well!” Coach Webb said. “This is what playoff games should be like. It was anybody’s game!”

Overtime is eight minutes with 7-on-7.

“That’s a lot of territory for six field players to cover. It was a test of well-conditioned athletes, neither team subbed, and the teams went scoreless in the first OT,” the coach said.

York, who reached the South finals for the 10th straight year, scored early in the second OT to win.

“We fell short once again, but we went out with a big fight. I am so proud of what these girls have accomplished this season!” Coach Webb said.

Not an easy road

Reaching the South semi-finals after failing to win a game the previous season was no small or easy feat.

When the season started, Coach Webb had no junior varsity coach. So, she reached out to Hall of Fame field hockey coach Linda Whitney.

“I thought she might have some contacts who might be available and interested in coaching. She made a few calls in search for a JV coach, and in the meantime, former player Spencer True had offered to come help and play with the girls. Spencer ended up staying with the team as JV coach and did a fantastic job!” Coach Webb said. “Coach Whitney offered to come help when her scheduled allowed it and I was quick to invite her in. I’m a true believer in surrounding myself with successful people and learning from them.”

Coach Whitney brought along former player and assistant coach, Sarah Plummer.

“Early in the season, we realized our weakness was lack of scoring opportunities. Coach Whitney suggested we try a different formation, which had worked for her. After losing 4-0 to Poland in our third game, we sat with the girls and I shared Coach Whitney’s suggestion of changing our formation. I said to the girls, ‘We can keep playing the way we are now, and keep getting the same results, or try something new and see if it makes a difference.’ The rest is history. It was a lot of hard work in a very short period of time, but because of their desire to win and willingness to do whatever it takes, we were able to turn things around and compete in the semi-finals.”

Another key to the turnaround was having Olivia Deschenes back on the field, after losing the club’s leading scorer last season when she suffered a severe knee injury.

“All of the seniors stepped up and played the way they did and brought the younger players along, elevating their game, is what got us to the next level this year. It was a team effort!” she said. “From 0-13-1 last year to a semi-final game this year (8-8) is success in my eyes. I am so proud of this team!”

Seniors included Kelsey Apovian, Hailey Parsons, Olivia Deschenes, Dessi Berry, Hannah Record and goalie Maddie Nelson.

The future looks promising for the Laker field hockey, Coach Webb added. The varsity roster has two juniors, nine sophomores and two freshmen.

“It’s a long time to wait to get started again, but I’ll be ready when fall 2018 comes around. Thank you to families, friends and fans who supported us throughout the season!”

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