SWAMPSCOTT – In the final ten seconds of the game, Pat Ryser was prancing up and down the sidelines going back and forth. And when the final whistle went off, the longtime Tewksbury Memorial High School Field Hockey coach leaped, with her arms over her head, celebrating as her team came from behind to knock off Swampscott in a fantastic state tournament game played on Friday afternoon.
Ryser was elated because her team showed tremendous grit, character and poise during the pressured-filled game. Tewksbury trailed by a goal, only to have dominated play throughout almost the entire game, and saw veteran players Ashley Kelly and Kelsie Bradley come through with second half goals lifting the No. 5 seed past the No. 4 seed Big Blue, 2-1, in the quarterfinal round of the Division 2 North sectional tournament.
That win, coupled with the first round win over Gloucester two days earlier, put Tewksbury in the sectional semi-finals for the first time in seven years. On Tuesday night, the Redmen took on the No. 1 seed Watertown Red Raiders. To get to that point, Tewksbury had to actually come away with state tournament victories, something the program hadn’t done in the previous five years.
“In that first half, I was so upset because they got that one goal but I thought we were the better team,” said Ryser, whose teams have made it to the tournament for 17 straight years, an amazing accomplishment. “But that’s what happens in tournament games. Things are a little bit shaky. I knew in time that we could get them but we just had to refocus and I was just hoping that it wouldn’t be too late. We had all of those chances early on especially with the corners. We have been struggling on those lately and have been working on them. But Ashley Kelly has been playing out of her mind lately and she got that first goal off a corner and that got us going. I knew once we scored it would carry on and it did.”
Swampscott got on the scoreboard first scoring its lone goal of the game with about eight minutes left in the first half. Victoria Himearas sent a long drive from the right side of the crease over to the left side and Annie Kane was there to drive it home for a very nice executed play.
Tewksbury had all kind of chances in the first half to tie the game up especially in the final few minutes with three straight corners and three shots that were all saved by Katie Papele. Then about nine minutes into the second half, Tewksbury was finally able to crack Swampscott. Off its eight corner of the game and first of the second half, Amanda Brown sent a pass in to the left side of the net where Kelly drove it home on a hard hit to tie the game up at 1-1.
Both teams had good scoring bids in the game’s next ten minutes. Haley Golini gave a nice pass ahead to Lindsey Monti at the left side of the net and Papele came up with a beautiful save one of her seven on the day. Then with less than 12 minutes to go in the game, Tewksbury’s goaloe Cora Gagnon made a big kick out save on a long shot from outside the perimeter keeping the game tied.
Then about four minutes later, Tewksbury got the game winning goal. Again Brown started the offensive threat. She had the ball in front of the Swampscott bench and sent a pass to her left to Hayley Sutherland, who was about 30 yards away from the net. She wound up and rifled a hard shot to the center of the cage and teammate Kelsie Bradley was there to tip the shot over the shoulder of Papele to the top right corner for the game winner allowing Tewksbury to prevail and move on.
“I’m just so proud of these girls. They were able to find a way to put it all together and take this game. We broke the curse, we got the two wins and now we’re on our way to the sectional semi-finals,” said Ryser.
The coach added that defensively the entire team played well, including Gagnon, who turned away four saves, two very good ones.
“Cora played well and she made some big saves when we needed them,” said Ryser. “And I thought our backs especially Taylor Lirakis played phenomenal. They have some real good players over there and some very speedy forwards.”
In the first round win over Gloucester, the teams were scoreless through the first half until Kelly got the game winner with eight minutes left in the game coming off another corner. Then minutes later, Gagnon made a huge save on a penalty stroke as she went on to pitch the shutout and help Tewksbury win a tournament game for the first time in six years.
“It was a great game, back and forth and Gloucester is a very good team,” said Ryser.