Frontier eyes difficult semifinal rematch
Frontiers #2 Sydney Judge chases down the ball as Mohawks #21 Morgan Dodge pursues during Saturdays WMass Div.II game in West Springfield.
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Mohawk’s #17 Jenny Dawson and Frontier’s #11 Taryn Marquis compete for control of the ball during Saturday’s Wmass Div II game in West Springfield.
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A rematch with many of the same characters.
Frontier Regional School’s return trip to the MIAA Division III State Field Hockey Tournament will again feature a semifinal matchup against Central Massachusetts powerhouse Oakmont Regional High School of Ashburnham.
Game time is set for 5 p.m. at West Springfield High School’s Clark Field.
The Spartans (17-0-3) return almost all of their key players from their 1-0 overtime victory over the Red Hawks in last year’s state semifinal. The main cog in their attack is senior center-midfielder Kathryn Nutting, who assisted on the game-winning goal 41 seconds into the extra session. But Nutting — one of six captains for head coach Leanne Roy — is just one of a handful of talented players Frontier (15-4-1) will need to keep an eye on and try to slow down. Fellow senior captain Sarah Morse plays alongside Nutting in the midfield, and the forward line of Rachel Testa, Arianna Robichaud, Darcy Brown and senior captain Kristen Aveni provide legitimate offensive weapons for the Spartans, who thrive on sustained possession in the offensive zone as well as using their speed in transition to create quality scoring chances.
Testa scored both goals and Robichaud assisted on the game-winner in Oakmont’s 2-1 CMass title victory over Littleton High School. It was the Spartans’ second straight sectional title and third in four seasons.
Testa and midfielder Michaela Macchia lead Oakmont in the postseason with three goals apiece, while Morse has two, including the overtime tally in a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Bromfield School.
“We have to realize that their counterattack is going to be very effective because they’re extremely fast, so our transition defense absolutely must be sound,” said Red Hawks head coach Missy Mahar. “We have to have crisp marking, especially from midfield to our 25 (-yard line).
“There’s going to be stress on Taryn (Marquis) in the midfield and also on our backs, Mindy (Esposito), Amy (Hanas) and Sarah (Majercak),” added Mahar. “They all need to help slow down Oakmont so it will allow the others to get back. (Goalie) Gwen (Thayer) knows she’s going to see some shots, and we have to be prepared for that pressure.”
Thayer stopped the only shot she faced in the two postseason game Frontier has won.
Oakmont’s defense, though sometimes overlooked, is plenty solid with senior Kayla Costa between the pipes. She’s allowed just two goals in four tournament games (a stingy 0.48 goals-against average). Her supporting cast in the backfield includes senior captains Morgan Caisse and Amy Grenier, as well as Madi Cole and Josie Dearborn.
The Spartans will attempt to make it just as tough on the Red Hawk attackers as they did past year, when Frontier managed just one shot.
Mahar said she doesn’t plan to make any adjustments against Oakmont’s defense.
“We need to play to our strength,” she said. “We’re not going to modify anything in terms of our attack, because that’s where we’ve been so successful.”
Mahar knows from last year’s game and from scouting reports this year that the Spartans are a formidable opponent. For now she’s focused on keeping her team in the right mindset.
“I told the girls, ‘You’re one of four teams still playing, and you’re here for a reason. Yes, Oakmont is strong and experienced, but don’t sell yourself short. Your hard work, your drive, your experience and your talent has gotten you here as well.’”