Home Local Sports Overtime tally sends Padua into second straight Division I field hockey final

Overtime tally sends Padua into second straight Division I field hockey final

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Padua keeper Shannon McCormac and a pair of teammates track a Dover shot. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

NEWARK — After watching Dover get the better of the play during the first half, Padua’s field hockey team turned up the offensive pressure as the second half wore on. The Pandas were unable to score in regulation, but Riley Hickox deflected in the game-winner in overtime to send Padua to the Division I state championship game with a 1-0 win over the Senators on a cold Nov. 14 at Rullo Stadium at the University of Delaware.

The winning play came off a penalty corner. Off the inbounds pass from Angela Taglione, the Pandas worked the ball around the too of the circle. Hickox positione herself to the left of Senators goalkeeper Richana Brown and redirected a pass into the cage with 5:36 to go in the extra session.

Riley Hickox (right) and her teammates react after her overtime goal sent the Pandas to the state championship game. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

Hickox said the inability of the Pandas to crack #33D earlier did not weigh on them.

“We didn’t let that make us nervous or anything. We just decided to keep working and pumping balls in there to get the best opportunity for ourselves,” she said.

The second-seeded Pandas had four penalty corners in the first 15 minutes of the contest, but No. 7 Dover jammed their passing lanes and kept the ball away from the net. Brown was forced to make just one save on those four corners.

Otherwise, the first half possession battle belonged mostly to the Senators. Pandas keeper Shannon McCormac was not tested often, but she came up with two quality stops with about two minutes to go in the half after a Dover penalty corner to keep it scoreless at the break.

The Senators nearly went on top in the opening seconds of the second half, but Abigail Brainard swatted away a backhand shot just in front of the goal line. McCormac came up with another stop, but the Senators looked to be in control.

Gradually, the Pandas gained momentum. Brown came up with a diving save five minutes into the half off a Padua corner, and she made another a few minutes later. With about 14 minutes to go, Padua launched a counter-attack after a Senators corner and had themselves a three-on-one, but they were unable to get a clean shot on net. They kept on pressing, but Hickox said they couldn’t let frustration get the best of them.

“We didn’t let that make us nervous or anything. We just decided to keep working and pumping balls in there to get the best opportunity for ourselves,” she said.

The Senators threatened with two minutes left in regulation, but a shot off a penalty corner was deflected over the net. It was on to overtime, but the Pandas said they weren’t worried.

“I try not to think about it. I tried to make sure my teammates and I were communicating, making sure we were all working together,” McCormac said.

“None of us were really nervous,” Hickox added. “This atmosphere just fuels us to work harder and play our best.”

Final statistics were not available early Friday morning. Padua improved to 14-3, while Dover finished 10-5-2.

The Pandas will take on Cape Henlopen for the DIAA championship on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at Sussex Academy in Georgetown. The teams met last season for the title as well, a 5-0 Vikings win, and again earlier this season. Cape, the tournament’s top seed, scored a last-minute win.

Hickox said the Pandas have benefited from playing the Vikings in the championship round last season. “We learned to be a lot more disciplined. We work really well together, and we just work hard to achieve our goals.”

McCormac said it feels good to keep Padua’s athletic success going this fall. The school already has won the cross country and volleyball titles.

“It’s a great feeling to know our school’s doing so well athletically. We’re hoping to bring home the chip, but we know that everyone at our school, they support us,” she said.

McCormac said the team knows it will be the underdog against the Vikings on Saturday, but they are ready for the challenge. “It’s our goal to work hard out there, and, hopefully, accomplish something that we haven’t accomplished before.”

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