Field hockey: Concord rides fast start to win over Timberlane in the D-I prelims

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 10-18-2023 10:26 AM

CONCORD – After the Crimson Tide concluded the regular season on Friday with a somewhat surprising 1-1 tie with Timberlane (6-10-1), Concord wasted little time finding the back of the cage in Tuesday’s rematch in the Division I preliminary round.

Just 1:11 into the first quarter, junior Ally McGonigle buried the Tide’s first goal off a rebound following several shots from Lilly Merrill. Nearly nine minutes later, Gracen Arndt doubled the lead to give the Tide a little more breathing room. 

Timberlane struck back in the second with a goal from Keely Johnston off a wonky deflection, and while the Owls kept the pressure on into the second half, a penalty stroke goal from Concord junior Nadia Hanna made it 3-1 and sealed the playoff victory.

Now, the No. 6 Crimson Tide (11-5-1) will prepare for a rematch in the quarterfinals on Friday against No. 3 Bishop Guertin (14-2). Here are three notes from Tuesday’s win and Concord’s path ahead:

Adjustment from Friday keyed the offense

In Friday’s 1-1 draw, Concord struggled to solve Timberlane goalie Brandi Garand. Entering Tuesday’s game, head coach Nicole Armaganian said, her team knew it had to tweak its approach.

“We definitely learned Friday that their goalie is lights out,” she said after Tuesday’s win. “We practiced moving the goalie before shooting and then not burying it into her pads. I think that was the changing factor because she’s incredible back in that circle.”

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The early goal from McGonigle also likely helped Concord settle in and not press after the Owls held the Tide’s offense in check in the previous meeting.

Tide focus on being first to the ball

The Tide’s ability to get to loose balls early and often propelled the team’s fast start. That allowed Concord to control possession and have the majority of the offensive chances in the first quarter.

“We just talked about, we need to go to the ball,” she said. “We needed to just mentally say, ‘It's our ball, and we wanted to get to it first.’ … They have the skills. This was a lot about mentally preparing and making chances that way.”

At this point in the season, there are only so many X’s and O’s changes that a coach can make. It’s those intangibles that make the difference, and Concord’s edge in that regard on Tuesday pushed it into the next round.

“We’ve been saying all along that on any given day, it’s anybody's game, and I did not take Timberlane lightly at all,” Armaganian added. “Good effort by them, and I’m happy to move on.”

Next up: Bishop Guertin

When Concord last played the Cardinals, the Tide was 5-2 on the season. The matchup with a 6-2 BG team posed an early test that Concord certainly did not pass. The 6-1 loss was the Tide’s worst of the 2023 regular season. Heading into Friday’s game on turf at Stellos Stadium, the team’s ability to acclimate to the increased pace of the game will likely decide the outcome. 

“We have a lot of adjusting to do because we’re a grass team adjusting to the turf,” she said. “We didn’t play our best (last time). We weren’t able to prepare on turf before that game, so we’re picking up some turf time this week to hopefully better prepare.”

It won’t be rocket science for the Tide. If it can start fast like it did on Tuesday, Concord should have a chance to pull off the revenge win and advance to the D-I semifinals.

“We have speed, we just need to get to the ball first,” Armaganian said, previewing the matchup. “That’s going to be the key.”