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Derryfield defense denies Hopkinton’s upset bid, 1-0

  • Hopkinton's Brittany Marshall pokes the ball Derryfield's Colbi Vaillancourt during Wednesday's NHIAA tournament game at Exeter High School.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Hopkinton's Brittany Marshall pokes the ball Derryfield's Colbi Vaillancourt during Wednesday's NHIAA tournament game at Exeter High School. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Hopkinton sophomore Ireland Tawney tries to chip the ball away from Derryfield's Catherine Greene during Wednesday's match at Exeter High School.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

    Hopkinton sophomore Ireland Tawney tries to chip the ball away from Derryfield's Catherine Greene during Wednesday's match at Exeter High School. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

  • Hopkinton's Brittany Marshall pokes the ball Derryfield's Colbi Vaillancourt during Wednesday's NHIAA tournament game at Exeter High School.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
  • Hopkinton sophomore Ireland Tawney tries to chip the ball away from Derryfield's Catherine Greene during Wednesday's match at Exeter High School.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

EXETER – All season long, Derryfield has protected its cage like it were Fort Knox, with nary a ball entering its gates.

Last night in the Division III field hockey semifinals, two times Hopkinton put the ball past the Derryfield goalie, but two times a Cougar defender saved the day, stopping the ball inches before it penetrated the goalmouth. The defensive heroics spoiled the Hawks’ upset bid as top-ranked Derryfield (17-0) eked out a 1-0 victory over No. 4 Hopkinton (14-3) to advance to Sunday’s title game where it will take on No. 3 Berlin in an attempt to win its fourth straight title.

For the Hawks, the season ends on a disappointing note, but also with a sense of accomplishment, knowing it came closer than anyone to marring the Cougars’ perfect record.

“I thought we played very well. We played tough, much better than the first time (a 4-0 loss less than three weeks ago),” Hopkinton Coach Patty Connolly said. “We took some great shots. We had some great opportunities.”

Most of the scoring opportunities came in the first half, when goalie Maddy Bergethon and the Hopkinton defense of Maddy Cudmore, Callie Chase, Ally Rose and Sierra Bickford came up big against a high-pressure attack from the Cougars. Just three minutes in, Bergethon kicked aside two shots off a Derryfield corner for two of her seven first-half saves.

Less than three minutes later, it was Hopkinton’s turn to throw a scare into the Cougars when a Hopkinton shot rolled under Derryfield goalie Kate Johnson (one save), but the Cougars’ Cecelia Templeton flicked the ball away just an inch or two in front of the goal line.

Midway through the half, Bergethon stuffed a close-in shot by Colbi Vaillancourt, and moments later Bickford closed quickly to disrupt a Derryfield shot that Bergethon (12 total saves) swatted away.

“Maddy was playing outstanding throughout this whole playoffs,” Connolly said. “She’s just been really strong for us. All our playoff games she’s really come through.”

Perhaps Hopkinton’s best two chances came in the final 10 minutes of the half. Brittany Marshall uncorked a shot from just inside the right side of the circle, but Johnson made a lunging toe save to keep the game scoreless. Then Derryfield’s Theo O’Leary stood strong on the line to knock down Madison Sorel’s shot after it skipped past Johnson.

“I do think that that was our shot,” Connolly said, “but it (also) gives us something, ‘We can do this.’ It gives them that little push that makes them want to have more confidence and know that they can put one by her.”

Derryfield finally halted the scoreless deadlock 64 seconds before halftime on its fifth penalty corner of the half. Just moments before, Berklee Vaillancourt powered a shot that flew just wide right of the cage, but on her next try, her blast was true. Colbi Vaillancourt took the push from the end line and found her sister at the top of the arc. The senior touched the ball inside the circle and unleashed a powerful shot through the defense and into the back of the cage.

It was the only goal the Hawks would allow, but against a team that hasn’t allowed any all season, it was one too many.

Derryfield didn’t allow a single Hopkinton shot in the second half, though for a brief moment it appeared the Hawks had tied the game in the final two minutes. But the goal was disallowed because the ball had been kicked by Hopkinton player.

“Brittany Marshall has been outstanding for us all season and she’ll be a big loss for us along with our goalie,” Connolly said of her two senior starters. “It was a great run with them, but … we have a core of kids coming back, so we’ll give them another run next year.”

(Sandy Smith can be reached at 369-3339 or ssmith@cmonitor.com.)

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