BEAR — Archmere’s field hockey team, just a year removed from a sub-.500 season, came within a whisker of earning a trip to the DIAA Division II state championship game. An overtime goal by Gabriella Marte, however, lifted No. 2 Caravel against the third-seeded Auks in the semifinal round on Dec. 9, and the Buccaneers will be moving on to Saturday’s final.
With snow flurries in the air, the teams battled through more than three scoreless quarters on a chilly afternoon at Bob Peoples Stadium at Caravel, but not for lack of scoring opportunities. The Buccaneers pressed the Auks all afternoon, particularly from the beginning of the second quarter on, but the Archmere defense and goalkeeper Maura Smeader kept the ball out of the cage.
The Auks picked up an opportunity with 4:38 to go in regulation when a Caravel player was sent off after being carded. But, after an Archmere violation, the Buccaneers struck while shorthanded. They worked the ball into the circle after a restart deep in Auks territory. Alice Pifferi found the back of the cage from Smeader’s left with 3:17 left to finally erase one of the zeroes on the scoreboard.
With their season in the balance, the Auks pressed on offense. It paid off less than a minute after Caravel’s goal. Bella Dell’Oso found Elise Angiullo near the edge of the circle hard to the left of Bucs keeper Lexi Boettcher, and Angiullo was able to find a sliver of space to tie the score with 2:23 remaining.
Smeader made a save early in the overtime period, and the Auks escaped a minute later when a Smeader kick went off a Caravel player’s stick and the ball rolled inches wide of the net. The Buccanners needed one more opportunity, and off a penalty corner, Pifferi inbounded to Gabriella Marte, who from in close beat Smeader high into the net at the 9:45 mark.
Caravel, who handed the Auks their only regular-season loss on Nov. 9, had controlled the action most of the afternoon, although the Auks had the better of the play in the first. Four of Archmere’s five penalty corners came in the opening 15 minutes, and they forced Boettcher to make two saves on the first one.
Smeader was solid for the Auks as the Buccaneers earned corner after corner the rest of the way. She also added a blocker save on a penalty stroke by Pifferi early in the second. Archmere’s best chance in the second came when Megan Disabella stole a pass, chipped past a defender and went one-on-one on Boettcher. Disabella got the ball past the keeper, but she lost the handle on her stick as she tried to get by Boettcher, and nothing came of the opportunity.
Caravel finished with an 18-7 edge in shots and 17-5 in corners. Boettcher had five saves. The Buccaneers (12-2) will play the top seed, Delmar, for the Division II state championship Saturday morning at 11:30 at Dover High School. The teams met on Nov. 23, with the Wildcats taking the 3-0 decision.
Smeader had 12 saves in her final high school game. The Auks, who reached the semifinal round for the first time since 2011, finished with a record of 12-2.
All photos by Mike Lang.