It wasn't the usual NEE dominance we were used to seeing at Regionals over the past couple years, where they strolled in and dominated everyone. This year they struggled to move past pool play, relying on goal difference and a stroke by Lindsey Stagg, to move into the knockout stage.
NEE went through a tough quarterfinal match against Boston. They squeaked out a 1-0 victory after a huge save on a stroke, and an incredibly aggressive second half, which included three yellow cards, one of which was for ten minutes. The game was probably the most entertaining, just from the standpoint of what some of the fans and coaches were saying to some of the officials' calls, the creativity level was definitely a 10/10.
In the semifinal match, also their qualifying match for Nationals, NEE took on Seacoast United. The game was back and forth in the first half, as NEE scored five minutes into the game, then Maddie Mullaney answered back ten minutes later, taking the game into halftime at 1-1. In the second half, NEE's defense was the story as they locked down United, in significant part due to Ashley Hart and Lindsey Stagg. NEE would get goals from Lisa McNamara, four minutes into the second half, which would eventually be the game winner, assisted by Kate Blaisdell. And Stagg deflected home a pass from Maddie DiPietro, giving NEE a two-goal cushion, as NEE would qualify for Nationals, beating Seacoast, 3-1. But again, NEE's defense is what really separated the two NH teams in the second half. Seacoast had been dominate in the tournament up to that point, by counter-attacking and using their pace down the wings, as they walked through their pool, and beat Kennett's Hannah Frittenburg's Coastal, in the quarterfinals. But NEE snuffed it out in the second half and locked their wings down. Almost every pass Seacoast made was intercepted by either Stagg or DiPietro. After that happened, Seacoast didn't seem to have a Plan B, and couldn't respond to NEE's two goals in the second half.
In the Regional Final, NEE faced AGH, who had beaten them in pool play. With both teams already qualified for Nationals, this final had a little more significance than just who had the best U19 program in New England, but it also determined who had the best club program in New England this season, with NEE already winning the U16 Regional, and AGH winning the U14 Regional.
In the pool play match, AGH just outplayed NEE, but in the final, NEE played like a different team. They still let in two goals, but DiPietro and Val Crory scored for NEE as the game stayed tied at 2-2 for the majority of the second half. Pinkerton's Marley Mailloux picked the assist on DiPietro's goal. After Crory scored her goal, which was four minutes into the second half, the game went into a defensive stalemate. Neither team wanted to lose, and if they were going to lose, they weren't going to lose on a counter-attack, so into a shootout they went.
The shootout was probably the longest shootout of any of the Regional tournaments, going nine rounds, totaling 18 attempts, technically 19, because there was one retake, due to an obstruction call. It also came with an eerie silence. You were so used to hearing and seeing 6-8 teams, along with all of their supporters, at any point during the tournament, but because NEE and AGH had the very last game of the tournament, there was nobody else around, just the two teams, watching the shootout, and all of their fans, parents, etc... watching on top of a hill. Every time the ref blew the whistle to start an attempt, it would go dead quiet, until a cheer would erupt for either someone scoring or a goalie making a save. But finally, in the ninth round, our state queen of goals, Kate Blaisdell, scored the game-winner which would give NEE the U19 Regional Championship, as well as a three-peat. And for at least how long we've been following club field hockey, it allowed Chelsey Feole to say she still coaches and leads the top club program in New England, for three consecutive club seasons.
On a closing note, we will say this, AGH isn't coming... They are here they have arrived. They have a great coaching staff led by Alex Gheorghe, and an incredible depth of player talent, particularly their U14s. They've already pushed Seacoast down a spot in the pecking order, and they are coming for NEE's crown.
Seacoast United Gallery
North East Elite Gallery
NEE v. SU Gallery