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READING – For the better part of the first three quarters the Reading High field hockey team was controlling play, but gained nothing to show for its efforts. But then a big play near the end of the third quarter helped the Lady Rockets finally get on the board, and ultimately score again to put the tournament game away.

The seventh-seeded Lady Rockets overcame a slow start to gain control of play and eventually score both late in the third quarter, and again in the game’s final minutes, to come away with a 2-0 victory over 26th-seeded North Attleborough, in a first round Division 2 state tournament game at Hollingsworth Field on Thursday.

Reading was led by Ava Goodwin who scored the second goal and assisted on the initial tally, and Caitlyn McKenna who banged home the first goal. The Lady Rockets’ defense was also outstanding, limiting North Attleborough to just four scoring chances, allowing Reading goalie Myles Lakin to make just one save.

North Attleborough goalie Gracie Leary had six saves to help keep her team even until close to the end of the third quarter, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Lady Rocketeers’ season from ending with a final record of 7-9-3.

The Lady Rockets were sluggish out of the gate, as North Attleborough kept the ball in the Reading half of the field most of the first quarter and gained three corners. But the Lady Rockets’ defense broke up two of those chances, while a shot by North Attleborough’s Julia Puccio sailed just wide left of the net.

Meanwhile, the Lady Rockets could only gain one genuine scoring chance about six minutes into the contest when Golden moved the ball into the circle and fired a low shot on net. But Leary kicked the drive aside to help keep the game scoreless through the end of the first quarter.

“I think nerves got in our way early in the game,” said Reading head coach Taylor Reynolds. “This is the first time we’ve played in the tournament in three years, so we don’t have that experience. We worked hard this season and wanted to be here really bad, so we just had some anxiety being here in the first quarter.”

But early in the second quarter the Lady Rockets finally gained an edge in play, which led to some good scoring chances. Goodwin had a shot from just to the left of the net that Leary stopped, and a few minutes later Maddie Rzepka moved up the left side and fired a high shot that Leary was able to bat away.

With two minutes left in the first half Reading had another scoring chance when Maddie Egan moved the ball up the left sideline and made a nice centering pass to Liv Chamberlain, but her shot went just wide left of the net, so despite the Lady Rockets controlling play the game remained scoreless through halftime.

“Once we shook off our first-quarter jitters we started to play our game, and we were able to do that much better in the second quarter,” said Reynolds. “We made harder passes to who we needed to pass to, and get a few corners and eventually some shots on net. We just need to come out stronger next time.”

The Lady Rockets continued to control play to gain more scoring chances early in the third quarter. First off a corner Rzepka just missed the far side of the net with a shot, then three minutes later she fired another drive from the right of the circle that actually hit the far post but deflected away from the cage.

Then late in the third quarter Rzepka initiated the play that led to Reading’s first goal, when from midfield she snapped a high drive to Goodwin left of the net. Goodwin then made a nice centering pass to McKenna, who one-timed it into the far side of the cage with 15 seconds left in the quarter, to give Reading a 1-0 lead.

“We finally gained some momentum in the third quarter, which helped us get our first goal,” said Reynolds. “Both Maddie (Rzepka) and Ava (Goodwin) made great passes, and Caitlyn (McKenna) was in the right spot to bang it into the net.”

The Lady Rockets then resorted to their defense to protect their lead in the final 15 minutes, but the Lady Rocketeers got a great scoring chance six minutes into the fourth quarter. Caitlin Vacher got the ball at the top of the circle and wacked a low drive on net, but Lakin kicked it aside to preserve Reading’s one-goal lead.

After North Attleborough couldn’t score off two more corners, Reading regained control of play which led to its second goal. From midfield Golden lofted a high shot that Goodwin gained control of to the left of the cage, and she fired a drive into the far corner with five minutes left, and extend Reading’s lead to 2-0.

“I was just looking to the left side of the cage, and I saw Ava (Goodwin) there and tried to get the ball to her, and she tipped it in which was nice,” said Golden. “Their defense wasn’t covering her very closely, which gave us that opportunity. I also felt our defense did a nice job covering their best goal-scorers.”

From there it was just a matter of using solid defensive play for the Lady Rockets to stay ahead, and some good defensive play by Natalie Wall, Solana O’Shea, and Rzepka prevented North Attleborough from getting any scoring chances over the game’s final five minutes, and help Reading hold on for the tournament win.

“I felt Brooke Golden played well defensively, and Natalie Wall was a wall in the backfield for us,” said Reynolds. “Also Maddie Rzepka refused to let the ball get into our own circle defensively, and caused a lot of our scoring opportunities by dribbling the ball around their defenders and send the ball into their circle.”

Reading now advances to the second round of the state tournament and will next play on Monday, when it will host 10th-seeded Canton, a 2-0 winner over 23rd-seeded Leominster yesterday, at Hollingsworth Field (5 p.m.).

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