After dropping the first eight games of the season, many people counted off the ORHS field hockey team as being playoff contenders, yet after an impressive win streak, they found themselves in the Division II semifinal game on Thursday, October 29th, against Souhegan.
Unfortunately, they were unable to find success in this one, falling short to a strong, undefeated Souhegan team, with a final score of 6-0. This was the first time any of the ORHS players made it to the playoffs, so they had certainly exceeded expectations. Souhegan went on to play Kennett in the Division II Finals on Sunday, November 1st, where they lost 2-0.
Going into the game, the Bobcats knew they were facing a much stronger opponent. “We knew that Souhegan was going to be a much more competitive team than the teams we’ve been playing. Leading up to the game we knew it was important that we beat their talented forward and midfield lines,” said captain Ashley Harvey (‘22). It was clear that playing good defense was going to be key during the game.
Following a first minute goal by Souhegan’s Nicole O’Rourke (‘21), the Bobcats did a fairly good job of shutting down Souhegan’s offense. Again in the second quarter, Souhegan netted one off of a penalty stroke by Catie Summers (‘21).
At halftime, Oyster River hadn’t lost hope, and knew they had nothing to lose. “[The message at halftime was] just to give it everything we have and no matter what the outcome is, be very proud in what we have accomplished this season,” said Harvey.
One thing is for sure, despite the score, the Bobcats never stopped fighting. In the third quarter, Souhegan added two more to their total, after another goal from Summers on a penalty stroke, and one from Ana Van Ballegooyen (‘21) just 50 seconds later. Towards the end of the quarter, Oyster River’s goaltender, Molly Haggard (‘21) came up with multiple huge saves that kept the Bobcats in the game.
In the final quarter of the game, Jenna Benoit (‘21) traded places with Haggard and also made multiple big saves that were momentum boosters. Souhegan was able to tack on two more, with one from Cali Bishop (‘22), and a hat trick goal from Summers. In the dying minutes, Oyster River showed no quit and put multiple shots on goal, and had a few very close chances, showing their relentlessness.
Despite the loss, the team was satisfied with how they played. “We worked hard as a team to make some good plays, and I’m proud of what we accomplished,” said Libby Cavanaugh (‘21). They were able to acknowledge that the competition was just better than anything they were used to. “They had skills and moves we haven’t yet seen this season. They were a very fast team with many great players. So are we, we just didn’t adjust fast enough,” said Harvey.
Coming into the game, the team was riding a 5 game win streak, after dropping each of their first 8 games of the season, 6 of which came to highly skilled Division 1 schools. However, the hard schedule may have been a huge help for the Bobcats come playing time. “At the time, it was discouraging, but it definitely lit a fire under us as a team. Playing better skilled teams pushed us to work harder everyday,” said Cavanaugh.
The turning point in the season was back to back wins against St. Thomas on October 14th and 15th, and then a big win against Sanborn on October 17th that provided a lot of momentum heading into the tournament. “I think the changing factor was focusing on footwork, trusting our teammates, and adding three more players to the varsity roster, which gave us a chance for more substitutions during the game,” said Cavanaugh.
The girls were then able to pull off big back to back wins against Portsmouth and Pelham in the first two rounds to advance to the semifinals, with a chance to go to the championship game for the first time since 2009. “We finally arrived at what we can truly accomplish. No one thought that we were going to make it this far. One of the things that pushed us the hardest was to prove everyone wrong and we did,” said Harvey.
The strong playoff performance certainly gives the program a ton of optimism moving forward. “As the years go on, we’ve continued to get better. On top of that, the number of middle school field hockey players has grown tremendously, which will give the high school team more numbers and different skills. I’m so excited to see what the girls bring to the table next season,” said Cavanaugh.
Photos by Kelly Lacoste
Written by Alden Swiesz