Over the weekend, in Connecticut, Seacoast United & Northeast Elite were able to qualify for USA Field Hockey's National Club Championships.
The two walked through their groups, as they both finished with a perfect record of 3-0-0 (W-L-T), and neither of them allowed a goal.
The two would meet in the semifinals, their qualifying match, to see who would earn an automatic bid to Nationals.
Seacoast United started off strong, earning a corner right off the rip, then another, a few moments later, but weren't able to capitalize. It did look like Seacoast United would give Northeast Elite a tough game, but after those two corners, NEE settled in, and with the coaching of Chelsey Feole, they were in full control of the game.
Who else but the state's best goal scorer, Windham's superstar Kate Blaisdell opened up the scoring halfway through the first half. Four minutes later, Maddie DiPietro assisted NEE's newcomer to the U16s, Isabella Delnegro. 90 seconds into the second half, Blaisdell would score again, to seal the game, making it 3-0. Seacoast United would get one goal back, with 14:40 to go, but it was too little too late, as NEE would advance to the Regional final, and secure their spot at Nationals.
Luckily for Seacoast United, they were given another life. Because there were so many teams that attended the Regional Championship, we reached the limit to have three automatic bids, to Nationals, instead of what we usually have, two.
Seacoast United's second chance would come against Coastal. Coastal went up 90 seconds into the game, putting Seacoast in a hole. But thanks to their superstar Alana Richardson, she pulled them back and carried them to a National Tournament bid.
Richardson would score the tying goal, with 11:21 left in the first half. She would pick up an assist four minutes later, as Kate Zamagni would score the goal. In the second half, Richardson grabbed another assist, assisting one of Exeter's up and coming stars, Maddie Davis. With just over a minute to go Concord's high flying freshman, Maria Armaganian, assisted Sophia Rosati, as they killed the game, and sent Seacoast United to Nationals, with a 4-1 win.
In the Regional final, Northeast Elite took on AGH. AGH drew first blood, as they scored nine minutes into the game. Four minutes later, Hannah Berry tied the game for NEE. AGH would get one back, with 12:04 to go in the half, then who else but Blaisdell, would tie it back up, and send it into halftime, 2-2. In the second half, AGH began to dominate play more and more. They would score one at the 17:08 mark, then again to kill the game with 5:22 to go, and claim the Regional title, stopping NEE from capturing their fourth consecutive Regional title.
Even though we weren't able to claim the Regional Title, both Northeast Elite and Seacoast United will be representing NH at USA Field Hockey's U16 National Club Championships, and both teams had players that stood out amongst the rest.
Seacoast United's Alana Richardson was the best player for her team. No surprise from the Top 5 nationally ranked superstar, as she was the driving force behind her team's success all weekend. United's Maria Armaganian had a good weekend as well, as she'll look to be leading Concord's team come the fall. Winnacunnet's Grace Michael, also had a good weekend, as she was United's best defender throughout the tournament, and will be a massive piece for her high school during the fall.
Northeast Elite's nationally ranked Ashley Hart, put her skills on display this weekend, but the most recognizable thing about her was her pre-game ritual, which was pretty funny every time she did it. If you weren't there, you wouldn't understand, even if we explained it. Isabella Delnegro lived up to her expectations, as she was a newcomer to the U16 team after she was NEE's top U14 player last season. Kate Blaisdell put her scoring power on display, showing she has no desire to give up her throne, as the state's best goal scorer.
Our player of the tournament, Northeast Elite's Maddie DiPietro. DiPietro was the driving force behind NEE's sixth consecutive U16 Regional Final appearance. Her defensive prowess was in full effect, and her ability to get the ball from one end of the field to the other was unmatched, whether she was dribbling by defenders or using her incredible vision to make a pass that you didn't know was an option until she did it. She is, without question, the heartbeat of NEE's U16 team, and is probably one of the most underrated players on NEE's U19 squad, after being surrounded by so much star power. DiPietro is that piece of a jigsaw puzzle that can fit anywhere, and make it look good, without her NEE would not be the team they are at the moment.
Now we await July as the Regional Tournaments have all been completed. Seacoast United and Northeast Elite will send both their U19 and U16 teams to Spooky Nook, for USA Field Hockey's National Club Championships. We wish all four sides the best, and we'll see you all at Spooky Nook.
(Photo Cred: Northeast Elite & Seacoast United)