Bulldogs beat Green for playoff victory

When the score is tied in a game that determines the fate of a season, a team doesn’t always have to rely on its most experienced players.

The No. 7 Bedford High School field hockey team defeated No. 10 Manchester Central 3-1 in the first round of the NHIAA playoffs on Tuesday with the aid of some younger players.

At the 17:27 mark of the second half, Shanna Scribner, a freshman, rung the ball off the back of Central’s net to break a 1-1 tie after the Bulldogs had struck first in the opening half.

Three and a half minutes before Scribner’s goal, Central’s Abby Swenson had knocked in the game tying goal when she received a crossing pass from Abby Jackson

“It was an eye opener,” said Victoria Cull on Central’s equalizing goal. “We thought, let’s play better, let’s get in the game. We realized they could get the goal just as easily as we did.”

Feeding off the momentum the Bulldogs continued their pressure in the Little Green’s end until Cull whacked in the game-clinching goal with three minutes left in regulation. Central would not go down easily and nearly capitalized on a Stephanie Gardner’s penalty corner with 2:45 to play.

“It wasn’t that 60 minutes of flawless field hockey that we need, but they played well,” said Bedford coach Steve Connors. “We ended up bunching a little bit and let Central into the game, but once we spread the field back out and started moving the ball we ended up doing better.”

The first half saw considerable action in the Little Green’s end. At the 7:55 mark, the Bulldogs scored on their second penalty corner. Amy Gagliardi fed the ball into play to Laura Costes, who swung a shot into the Central mesh from just inside the striking circle. The Bulldogs tallied a total of nine corners.

Central responded with more consistent attacks to the Bedford zone and had a foiled penalty corner attempt in the waning seconds before halftime.

Little Green coach Bill Larkin was pleased with the way his team’s season turned out. Central field hockey had not seen the playoffs in eight years.

“I’m exceptionally happy with effort they put onto the field,” Larkin said. “They did an awesome job of controlling the ball and keeping the pressure on their end. I think what we saw out there was a collective effort of three years of rebuilding this program.”

The Bulldogs, too, are in unfamiliar territory for a team that has 11 freshmen and sophomores on a roster of 19.

“You could tell there was some nervousness,” Connor said. “They all came together.”

Among the Bedford freshmen is goalkeeper Paige Noble who made five saves.

“We had great goaltending,” Connors said of Noble. “She was in eighth grade last year and now she’s playing in a playoff game.”

On the Little Green’s end, goalkeeper Mikaela Edmonds compiled eight saves and her offense conducted five penalty corners.

Bedford will move on to play No. 2 Pinkerton in Derry on Friday in the quarterfinals.

“I’m very much aware of their rank and I don’t want that to defeat the focus,” said Cull. “I think that we play better with better teams.”