Lady Sentinels win field hockey title

Lady Sentinels win field hockey title

BRISTOL - After being upset last year in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Division II finals by Burrillville, the Smithfield High School varsity field hockey team did the upsetting this year, snatching a 2-1 victory over undefeated La Salle Academy Sunday at Roger Williams University.

That makes three championships in four years for Smithfield.

The weather was as frigid as last year, but the game yielded different results as the Lady Sentinels not only got on the board in this championship game but also got on the board first. The Lady Rams tied it up quickly but the Sentinels persevered in the second half on a goal by Kayla Tannock that was the game winner.

"Oh my gosh, what an intense game," Smithfield head coach Andy Dewhirst said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game. These girls practiced so hard the last two weeks."

While the Sentinels wanted to add to their recent successful history, the Rams just wanted to make a little noise. This is the first year La Salle has had a field hockey team and the Rams made some noise. They went 12-0-1. They also defeated Smithfield both times they played during the regular season, 4-0 and 4-1.

"The 4-0 game, we were truly outplayed and we were beaten hands down," Dewhirst said. "We were afraid of them. We didn't expect much. They were a first-year team, they were running circles around us."

The second game yielded the same result but Dewhirst said it was a completely different game. The score was tied 1-1 at half-time and once Smithfield got tired, the Rams scored three goals in a row to take the win. But Dewhirst said she was proud of the way her girls played.

Both La Salle and Smithfield had first-round byes to start off the postseason. The Rams went on to shut out Chariho, 2-0 while the Sentinels had a come-from-behind victory, 3-2, over Cumberland on a goal by Tannock.

"To walk in as the underdog was a great feeling," Dewhirst said.

The Sentinels started the game off with possession but the Rams quickly took over the ball and the tone of play. The Sentinels were not scared as their defense went to work in front of Miranda Grundy in the cage.

More than halfway through the first, the Sentinel offense finally got in a groove. Allison Sylvester stole the ball from La Salle and passed up to Tayla Ruo.

The Sentinels kept possession as Celia Palardy hit up to Ashley Shilko. As the ball went closer to the La Salle cage, a penalty was called on the Rams giving Smithfield a penalty corner. Jenna Haberle took the swing as Shilko tried to guide it in the cage. Kacey Pimental also tried but it was blocked. The Sentinels kept plugging away and eventually scored a goal scored by Sylvester. She was assisted by Sophia Demopulos with 11:37 left to play in the first.

Not even two minutes later, the Rams got on the board with a goal by Martha Peppes for the 1-1 tie. The last few minutes of action were a scramble. Kathryn Doorley made a nice shot on Grundy who dove for it, blocked it under her leg pad and then gained control. Grundy finished the day with seven saves and allowed the one goal.

Taylor Peltier wound up to take a wicked shot that was blocked by Smithfield. It was blocked by Shilko's chin.

"Ashley, my bunny, when she got hit she gave me the thumbs up," Dewhirst said.

Dewhirst continued on that Shilko soon found out she would need stitches for her bloody chin. She said Shilko needed some time to collect herself and then went back out in the second half pulling herself together and getting the job done.

Shilko was a big part of the winning goal as she got the ball and brought it all the way down the field setting up Tannock perfectly. Tannock took her shot and scored for the 2-1 lead. With just over 13 minutes left, the Sentinels buckled down and held fast to the lead. When the buzzer sounded the Lady Sentinels jumped for joy and celebrated by their cage.

"It was truly a team effort," Dewhirst said. "When Jean Angell gave me the game ball I didn't know who to give it to. I have 11 girls and six on the bench that deserve this ball right now. It was a phenomenal effort by everyone. La Salle put up an awesome fight."

After the disappointment of last season, Dewhirst was hoping this year's team would have the thirst to get back to the finals and they were able to accomplishment that and more.

"I'm so proud of them," she said. "They put 180 percent and deserved this. They trained so hard for so long. They were ready for this."