BEDFORD — The top-seeded Pinkerton Lady Astros took the Division I field hockey title Sunday in overtime.
As Pinkerton and Winnacunnet turned in their usual tournament war, battling to a standoff over 74 minutes, the Astros drew a penalty corner in the last minute of the first overtime period.
Sending all six players to the circle in the 7-on-7 session, junior Brianne Torre passed out to senior Rachael Charewicz on the left side and it was over. Charewicz ripped an absolute seed into the left side of the cage with 16.8 seconds left to earn Pinkerton an emotional, 2-1, victory.
The sudden victory broke a lot of negative streaks for the Astros. It snapped a two-year run of frustration against the Warriors, who bounced the Astros in the semifinals last year and in the finals in 2009. Pinkerton’s four-year streak of Final 4 appearances without a title has also ended as the Astros won their first championship since 2000.
“When you have a couple of seniors that have played in those games the past couple of years, they tell the rest of the squad how it felt,” Pinkerton head coach Jen Resmini said.
Charewicz, Nicole Yannalfo and junior Brianne Torre suffered the sorrow of losing that last big game and did their best to motivate the rest of the squad to bigger things this season.
“I think it helped us get through a really tough Exeter team (in overtime in the semis), and at this point it came down to will and determination,” Resmini said.
Both teams were driven, but when Pinkerton came through when it was tested.
Winnacunnet held a possession advantage most of the afternoon, but stellar defensive play from Chevy Collins, Maddy Driscoll and Val Martin negated that.
“Oh, my God, it’s all will,” said Collins, a true shutdown defender on her side of the field. “I base my play on who wants it the most, and I wanted to show from July and preseason to now that I did. Coach always tried to tell us it’s not always about the first try, it’s the second, third, fourth try. I’ll go to the 10th try if it means I’m going to get the ball.”
And even after the Warriors broke through to score 4 minutes into the second half on a beautiful crossover move by Taylor Blood, the Astros fought back quickly to even the count.
In an eerie precursor to the game-winner, Charewicz sent a hard shot from the left side of the circle that was deflected by Kaylie Decosmo into the net just 49 seconds after the Winnacunnet goal.
And after another half hour of exciting action, Pinkerton saw its opportunity and jumped on it with the discipline of a champion.
“That’s something we’ve talked about where the girls settle themselves down before the corner,” Resmini said as the team patiently set itself as the final seconds ticked away. “Know where you’re going with (the ball), use your time, and that was something we actually practiced.”
As for the play, Charewicz said, “We’ve done that corner before and it’s been pretty successful. I knew the ball was coming to me and it was a great insert (by Torre). It was just kind of muscle memory after that.”
Resmini added: “We have a couple of girls who can fire shots. We wanted the ball to go to Rachael and she executed it so well. She has that kind of shot, it’s scary at times.”
The victory, and the streaks that were broken, certainly was rewarding for Charewicz.
“We just brought everything we had. I think we stayed strong mentally throughout the game,” she said. “That’s what we were looking to do. We met our goal.”