Pride knock off Sabers

AMHERST – Souhegan field hockey’s path through playoffs looked like a promising one, but Sunday, the Sabers hit a road block.

No. 6 Merrimack Valley upended No. 3 Souhegan 2-1 in the Sabers’ first home loss of the season. The Pride were the last team to defeat the Sabers on Sept. 24 by the same score.

“We played with everything we had, we wanted it so bad, but we just couldn’t pull it off,” said Jesse Jay.

Erin Frost netted the game winning goal with 14:48 remaining in the game off a penalty corner. Izzy Hoyt put the ball into play starting a series of fluent passes that went from Hoyt to Olivia Thurber to Autumn Hoyt and on to an open Frost on the left side of Kate Heaney’s net.

What ensued there was a relentless barrage on the Pride’s net including four penalty corners, but the defense had the striking circle clogged up until the horn sounded.

“Anything other than putting a banner up in the gym would have been a disappointing way to end the season,” Souhegan coach Kelli Warecki said. “From day one I’ve seen unbelievable potential in these girls, I continue to see that. Today just wasn’t our day.”

The two teams shared possession fairly evenly during the first half, but at the 14:35 mark, the Pride struck first with a goal by Izzy Hoyt on a penalty corner, assisted by Cassidy Huckins

“Speed was an issue,” Warecki said. “I think we came out slow, we definitely came out slower than we have in the past. That was pretty much the deciding factor.”

The Sabers came roaring back 12:22 in the second half when Gina Mancini struck a ball into the striking circle for Devon Hickey to knock into the net.

Frost struck just under three minutes after the margin had been evened.

“We play (Souhegan) all the time and we always have battles,” said Merrimack Valley coach Kim Kenney. “We’ve had times where we get in our defensive zone and we panic and we can’t get it out and we did that today a little bit, but luckily we were able to hold them off.”

Each team conducted a total of six penalty corners, but the Lions made the most of theirs, having both goals stem from them. Heaney came up with five saves on the day for the Sabers to Maggie Carey’s three for the Lions.

With the triumph, Merrimack Valley will go on to see the No. 2 seeded Lebanon in the semifinals at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter.

Meanwhile, Souhegan is left to look toward 2014 following a strong 11-3-1 campaign.

“They’re such great teammates, such great kids to coach,” Warecki said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to spend time with. It was a fantastic season from start to finish.”

In addition to the loss, Souhegan says goodbye to its seniors. When asked what she will miss most about her senior class, “Everything,” was all an emotional Warecki could say.