Garnets Win OT Thriller; Will Face Lakeland in Section Finals

Mallory Little scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the Class B field hockey Section semifinal November 3 at Nugent Stadium, giving second-seeded Rye a 1-0 victory over No. 3 Briarcliff and a date in the championship tilt with top-seeded Lakeland.

Little hit the back right of the goal on a perfect feed from senior captain Torie Stearns with 1:45 left in the six-on-six OT period. Whether the cause was exhaustion, relief, exhilaration, or a mixture of all three, the Garnets collapsed to the turf after pulling out the win.

SPORTS-Stearns Nabhan1

The Garnets celebrate a goal in the Section quarterfinals

“It’s the most amazing feeling,” said Little. “The rest of the seniors and I did not want to finish our careers by losing on our home field. We weren’t going to let it happen. This win was for the boys on the football team too.”

The contest didn’t have to be as thrilling as it was, and Rye admitted as much. The Garnets controlled possession for a great majority of regulation and had 15 short corners to Briarcliff’s zero. Credit must be given to the Bears’ defense, which fended off the onslaught with poise for 48 minutes and 14 seconds. But the Garnets kept coming, and their perseverance finally paid off.

Although Rye’s offense misfired on scoring opportunities throughout, their defense and midfield game stifled Briarcliff time and again. Junior defenders Michelle Mulhearn and Laurel Kennedy short-circuited multiple Bear possessions, and Rachel Chin – also a junior – had a standout game on D. Chin, ever the pest, found a way to get the ball back up the field even when isolated one-on-one.

“This team is about everyone contributing,” said head coach Emily Fitzgerald, who led Rye to the Section semifinals in her first year as coach last season. “It’s not about one player. All the defenders really worked well together. They held us in the game.”

Senior captain Olivia Nabhan – playing as though she personally would not allow the Garnets to lose – seemed to be in all places at once, which frustrated Briarcliff’s coaches to no end. If a ball was hit away from the Rye offense, Nabhan swooped in from afar to give her team another chance. Nabhan’s hit from the 25-yard line set up the Stearns to Little overtime winner.

SPORTS-Mallory Little

Mallory Little

“That was unbelievable, I don’t even remember what happened,” said Nabhan after. “I’m so impressed with our defense. They are so young but stepped up and kept us in the game by stopping breakaways and everything else.”

Sophomore Emma Brinkman played beyond her years. Coming off a hat trick in Rye’s 7-1 victory in the quarterfinals, the forward used blazing speed to press Briarcliff’s defense. In the title game with Lakeland, she should play a vital role against a team that will undoubtedly be focused on the Stearns and Nabhan backbone of Rye.

The Garnets played Lakeland on the road in their first game of the season, and fought back from a three-goal deficit to leave with a 3-3 tie. Nabhan said that result gives her team confidence going into the championship bout, which is tentatively set to take place at Manhattanville November 7. Fitzgerald feels her team has improved greatly since the early meeting between the rivals, but knows Lakeland is likely a stronger team as well. Little was a bit more blunt in her estimation of what Rye will face.

“They think they’re going to breeze by us,” she said. “They’re wrong.”

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