The odds were stacked against third-seeded Andover Girls Water Polo as the team entered the New England Championships last weekend. In the semi-finals, Andover would square off against the second-seeded Hopkins, a team that beat Andover in an overtime thriller the previous weekend. Then if Andover advanced to the finals, it would need to beat either Choate, with the league’s best goalie, or Phillips Exeter Academy, the team that delivered Andover’s first loss.
Despite these obstacles, last Saturday, Andover redeemed itself after falling to Deerfield 8-2 in the finals last year, reclaiming the championship trophy.
Particularly intimidating after its 8-7 victory over Andover, Hopkins pulled out to an early 2-0 lead in the semifinals. Andover fought back, however, and tied the game 2-2.
Co-Captain Lauren Conte ’14 said, “Instead of getting frustrated, we played the best and smartest we have all season, coming back at them with full force.”
Hopkins failed to respond to Andover’s double teaming and Andover began to shut down their strongest players. As Andover gained momentum, a 10-5 lead gave Andover the opportunity to rest the starters for the Championship game. Andover held on for the 12-10 win, once again demonstrating its extreme depth.
The win was a not only significant improvement from last week, but also from last year’s semifinal match in which Andover barely eked out a 7-6 victory over Hopkins.
In the Championship game, An dover faced fourth-ranked Choate, which had just beaten Exeter, the first-seeded host, 5-4.
Choate had a much different playing style from that of the choppy, aggressive Hopkins team. Playing fairly and calmly, Choate quickly set up a high-intensity match.
“Being in the game, you could really feel how much we wanted this, and I really wanted it personally for every Senior on the team,” said Morgan Rooney ’17.
The game was a fight till the bitter end, with Choate’s goalie showing no signs of breaking down in net. Although Andover came out with a 6-4 win over Choate two weeks earlier, Coach Dan O’Shea described the Choate goalie as “the most talented goalie I’ve seen in a long time.”
Unperturbed, the Andover squad kept firing, pounding the Choate goalie with a myriad of shots. The game came down to the final minute in the fourth quarter, tied at 7-7.
With 20 seconds left on the clock, Sasha Newton ’16 fired a lob shot past the goalie and into the net, clinching the game for Andover and giving it the perfect ending for the challenges it had faced.
It was bliss once the buzzer sounded and the Andover team and crowd erupted into cheers.
“We all just jumped in, screaming and crying and just so pumped. I love this team. The girls, especially the Seniors, the Captains and the Coaches really deserved this win and I was happy to contribute and be a part of it,” said Rooney.
Co-Captain Kait Simpson ’14 said, “Winning this was definitely one of the best moments in my Andover career. This was such a team effort, and I can say honestly that this is one of my favorite teams that I’ve ever been on in my life. Everybody was so close; the chemistry was incredible, especially the way we worked together in the water.”
Following the tournament, Simpson was named the NEPSAC league MVP, and Conte and Sasha were named to the All-Star team.