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Warriors stun Falcons

HOLYOKE — Smith Academy had attempted so many corner opportunities during Thursday’s Western Massachusetts Division II Field Hockey Tournament semifinal that Mohawk Trail Regional High School had a good idea of what was coming on try No. 13 late in the first sudden-death overtime.

So when Falcons senior Emiko Barker collected the entry from the top of the circle and passed toward Danielle Duseau, Warriors Kesheal Henderson stepped in front of the ball and took it downfield.

Henderson then drew a foul and, after the restart, sent a ball to Jenny Dawson, who took a long run down the right side before crossing to far post. Katelyn Carmody was there to deflect it into the goal to give her team the 2-1 win with 4 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the first overtime.

“We are gaining confidence (with each defended corner) because we know they are just as stressed as we are,” Mohawk coach Lynn Hoeppner said. “We know we are putting pressure on them. We know they have a couple of moves and you figure them out. On that last corner, which we got the fast break from, it was Kesheal knowing the pass to the left was coming and being patient.”

The No. 2 Falcons (11-4-4) carried play for virtually the entire 65-plus minutes Thursday night but struggled to beat Mohawk freshman goaltender Cassie Kudlay (seven saves).

“I think the girls worked as hard we could,” Smith Academy coach Dena Polverari said. “We definitely wanted it. It was an evenly matched game but one team has to come out on top and it just wasn’t us today.”

No. 3 Mohawk (8-6-4) advances to play No. 1 Frontier (14-4-1) in the championship game Saturday at West Springfield at (either 11 a.m. or 1 p.m.).

“It is really nice” to get to the finals, Carmody said. “They are a really strong team and we’ve been working really hard together. They gave it their all against us. It was a really even battle.”

The loss marked the final game for Smith Academy seniors Hannah Ellis, Emiko Barker and Julia Muccino.

“This entire group is really special,” Polverari said. “They really grabbed my heart more than any other team I’ve had. This is a really special group of girls.”

Despite outshooting the Warriors 6-2 in the first 30 minutes, the Falcons trailed 1-0 at halftime. They evened the score with 19:02 left in regulation, when a ball on a Smith restart hit Henderson in the face but was deemed a “play on” by the referees. Some players stopped to assume there was a whistle coming. Not Kelly Ryan, who took possession on the left post and popped it into the net.

Smith carried the rest of regulation, with numerous crosses just missing sticks in front of the net. In the 7-on-7 overtime period, the Falcons took control from the start and earned five corners, yet put just one shot on goal.

“We didn’t execute our corners,” Polverari said. “We had plenty of opportunities. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”

The fifth and final one turned the tables, however, as Henderson’s steal started the wheels moving toward the game-winner.

“It gets more and more anxious (as the game goes on). It builds you up because you aren’t sure what’s going to happen,” said Carmody, whose team went 0-1-1 against Smith in the regular season. “They are such a good team. We really wanted this and it showed with all of our young girls that we can go to the next level and play.”

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