by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 10-26-2013
NEWPORT — For the second time in as many years, the North Country Falcons field hockey team has earned a berth in the semifinals in Burlington. The Falcons advanced to the semis with a come-from-behind win over the visiting Fair Haven Slaters on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon.
Deteriorating weather conditions could not deter the Falcons from overcoming a late first-half goal from Fair Haven Slater Anna-Michelle Fabian. Fabian knocked in a cross from teammate Ashley Adams with just under three minutes left in the half to give visiting Fair Haven the early advantage.
Coming out of the half, North Country Coach Chantelle Bouchard gave her team a quick pep talk, Falcon Briana Boccelli said after the game.
“She told us to buckle down and get back to playing the kind of game that got us to the playoffs,” Boccelli said. “We were bunching up too much in the first and we knew we needed to keep our spacing if we were going to score.”
Coach Bouchard attributed the sluggish first half to the cool and rainy weather.
“I don’t think they were quite as loose as they could have been,” Coach Bouchard said. “It’s hard to warm up in weather like this.”
The pep talk appeared to work its magic as the Falcons found themselves pressing the Slater defense more often than not. The Falcons moved the ball well through the midfield, making use of the wings to create openings and spread out the Fair Haven defenders.
“We were definitely moving the ball better in the second half,” Boccelli said after the game. “If you can keep your spacing, make your passes count and keep moving forward, that’s what you need to win this game.”
That forward push finally paid off as Falcon Brittany Fortier found the front of the net and knocked in the tying goal with 22:12 left to play. The Fair Haven defense, spread out by the Falcons’ spacing, created a zone in front of Slater goalkeeper Jenna Alexander that Fortier worked to deadly advantage.
Boccelli would utilize the same tactic to crash the net and find an opening for a pass from Fortier. Boccelli would give the ball a sharp rap and put the Falcons in front with 13:04 to play.
The Slaters would generate a few good scoring chances late in the game but the combination of Falcon defenders and solid play from North Country goalie Myrriah Gonyaw kept Fair Haven off the scoreboard. North Country would keep up the pressure, threatening to add insurance to their lead but Alexander and the Slaters denied them the opportunity.
“The girls have played excellent all season long,” Coach Bouchard said. “They deserved to be here and deserved to win this game.”
The Falcons will advance to the semifinal game at UVM’s Moulton-Winder field on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 30. The third seeded Falcons (8-4-3) will take on the second seeded Stowe Raiders (11-3) for the opportunity to vie for the DIII crown. In their lone meeting of the season, Stowe edged North Country 3-2 on October 8.
“These girls communicate well and support each other so well,” Coach Bouchard said. “They’ve grown together as a team and I think that will definitely help them win games.”