Headed into the 1993 Nepsac Championship game as underdogs against Taft, Andover Field Hockey, Captain Jennifer Elliott ’94, now Assistant Head of School for Residential life and Dean of Students, overcame all odds and emerged with a 1-0 victory and the league title.
According to then and current Head Coach Kate Dolan, coming off a disappointing loss to Phillips Exeter Academy in the final regular season game, the team entered the playoffs second to last.
Dolan said, “We were seeded seventh…We had also lost the last game of our [regular] season to Exeter, and we were just going into the tournament hoping to do okay, so to make it to the finals seeded seventh was particularly gratifying.”
According to Elliott, Dolan’s emphasis on teamwork and unity encouraged the team to come together for the playoffs and make the most of its joint effort.
“We all loved Kate Dolan. Her coaching was all about team, and you had to be more committed to the team and to selfless plays than to your own flashy plays. I think we went into the game just needing to play together and trying to figure out how we could pull this off as a team, and I think that’s what I remember most. We were so committed to figuring how to pull it off together,” said Elliott.
According to Dolan, the quarter-finals marked a shift in the overall morale, confidence, and motivation of the team.
“I vividly remember the quarter-finals against [Loomis Chaffee]. It was pouring rain, and I think when we won that, it was so energizing and it gave us momentum. It gave [the players] a lot of confidence when they beat Loomis and then it just carried when we beat St. Paul’s,” said Dolan.
After defeating the second-seed team and clinching a few close wins settled by strokes and shootouts, confidence and energy fueled the team going into the championship game, according to Dolan and Elliott.
“Our first game we had to play the second seed and once we beat them, we realized that if we could beat the second seed, we could beat anybody. Then we won in the semi-finals after trailing. When the game was about to end we scored to tie it up and then we won in strokes against a team that we had lost to during the regular season, so by the time we got to the finals everyone was confident because we had nothing to lose. Everyone was pretty relaxed because we didn’t expect to be there,” said Dolan.
Elliott added, “We’d had some really dramatic games. We had beaten St. Paul’s, and we were playing Taft in the finals, but we had some really dramatic wins where it came down to overtime or shootouts. I think our semi-final game was a shootout. Our goalie stopped all the shots, which was amazing.”
In the closing minutes of the championship, Andover was up by only one goal, but the team’s defense held strong against Taft’s advances, securing both Andover’s victory and a sense of surrealness, according to Elliott.
Elliott said, “We were so scrappy and we were just doing anything we could to keep it out of the net, I remember the whistle being blown and just being so relieved and glad that we didn’t have to go into overtime. We were ecstatic. All the fans must’ve thought we were bananas because we just couldn’t believe it. We were just so excited. We felt like we deserved to be there, [even as] the seventh out of eight seeds.”