Fall Sports, Field Hockey, Sports

Back-to-Back Class-A Champions

With a 3-2 penalty shootout lead on the line, rookie keeper Liv Keefe ’17 dove left with an outstretched hand to deflect the final Hotchkiss shot narrowly outside the post. Keefe’s save cemented Andover’s 2016 Nepsac Class-A Championship victory as the team successfully defended its 2015 Championship title.

Speaking on Andover’s impressive back-to-back championship wins, Head Coach Kate Dolan said, “Honestly, I am not sure if winning last year has even sunk in yet, let alone winning this year – it’s pretty surreal. The final game meant a lot in terms of feeling like we won for the many, many girls who had been on such great teams and just come up short on the scoreboard. It was a win, a championship, for all the many PAFH players and families through the years.”

Andover entered the postseason tournament as the fifth seed, set to play fourth seed St. Paul’s in the quarterfinals. In the regular season, Andover had suffered a devastating 4-0 loss against St. Paul’s. Despite the setback, Andover put the past behind and defeated St. Paul’s in the tournament 3-2. This turnaround win proved to be crucial in setting the tone for the remainder of the playoffs.

“After our quarterfinal win against St. Paul’s, the team was ecstatic,” said Keefe. “It was huge for us to beat them after losing 4-0 the last time. I was nervous because I wanted to play my best, but I wasn’t scared because I knew I was better than my last game, and my team was better than our last game, and that St. Paul’s was not better than us.”

Captain Beth Krikorian ’17 said, “After the quarterfinal victory specifically, we really had the mentality that we could do it and win the championship again. It was so clear that everyone wanted to be there and was going to put their whole heart into it.”

In the semifinal match, Andover faced first seed Greenwich Academy for the second year in a row. Struggling to hold its own against Greenwich’s talented offense, Andover entered halftime with a 1-0 deficit. The team, however, rallied and piled on the offensive pressure, eventually securing a penalty stroke. Elizabeth Welch ’18 slotted the stroke home to send the game to overtime, tied at 1-1. Andover was able to maintain its offensive momentum and notched the winning goal in the first overtime period to top Greenwich Academy 2-1.

Jackie McCarthy ’19 said, “Because we beat [Greenwich] last year in the semifinals as well, we knew they were going to come out strong. Knowing we were capable of beating such a strong team with an even stronger desire to win gave us the extra confidence boost we needed going into the final game.”

Despite Hotchkiss holding the historical edge in the finals, having beat Andover the previous eight times in the playoffs, Andover was undaunted. The determination that the team exhibited was crucial in the eventual victory last year.

Charlotte Welch ’18 said, “Winning back-to-back was an unreal feeling. This time around was no less rewarding and amazing than the first. The mentality each player had this season – and last – of never giving up and working as hard as possible every single day led to this team’s success and will hopefully carry on to next season.”

Krikorian and her six fellow Seniors’ leadership was also crucial to the team’s victory.

Dolan said, “Our seven seniors were the tone setters for the way the team played, the way the team supported one another, and the way the team simply was together.”

First-time goalie Keefe also proved to be an integral part of Andover’s championship run. Last year, Post-Graduate goalie Olivia Golini ’16 had anchored Andover’s defensive efforts. After Golini graduated, Keefe was forced to transition from the field to goal to fill Golini’s role.

Keefe said, “This year I had a different role, one that required a lot more focus during the tournament, and even during the entire season. In some ways there was pressure from last season, especially [Golini]’s performance, but at the same time I knew our playoffs were going to be different than the year’s before.”

Keefe knew that she would have to trust herself and her instincts during the final games.

“I know I wouldn’t have asked for more loving and supportive teammates and coaches to be with me this last year,” Keefe added.

The team’s coaches, Dolan and Martha Fenton ’83, played an instrumental role in Andover’s second consecutive championship, providing constant support, inspiration, and leadership.

Charlotte Welch said, “The bars that Kate and Martha set for PAFH each season and the strength they provide us with to get there makes this program very special. Their extraordinary dedication to the program and intelligence of the game has ensured PAFH a successful season countless times, and we cannot thank them enough.”

Krikorian said, “[Winning] is such a testament to Kate and Martha. A large part of our team dynamic is due to them. We are a family and want to win for them and for each other.”

Although both Dolan and Fenton have had a deep love for field hockey throughout the years, they have found a special place in their hearts for this year’s team.

Dolan said, “It is hard to capture in words the depth of my love, respect, admiration, and pride in this team – I have never coached a team who wanted to win as much for each other. It was a feeling of just sheer teamwork, complete conviction and heart. Every girl had a confidence and trust in her teammates and that enabled them to give their best when only their best would do. I feel lucky that I just got to be there, and be a part of it.”

Dec 9, 2016