WORCESTER – The Raiders found themselves in an unfamiliar spot with just under 11 minutes left in Saturday’s state final – tied and with momentum on the side of their opponents – but Watertown’s senior co-captain Kourtney Kennedy made the game changing play and the team lifted the Div. 2 Field Hockey State Championship trophy for the eighth straight time.
Watertown High School’s field hockey team seemed to have a solid lead, up 3-1 early in the second half of the state final at WPI, but a feisty Oakmont team battled back with two goals making it anyone’s game.
Along with an aggressive attack, the Spartans’ defense focused on Kennedy, and kept her largely hemmed for the majority of the game. Six minutes after the score was tied, Kennedy found space in the middle of the circle and blasted home the winning goal late in the 4-3 win.
“Initially I thought, just get the ball in the circle, and then I saw I could get past another girl and then I knew I could get that shot off,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy had already made the Spartans pay early in the game, when junior Maddie Leitner found her with a pass on a corner five minutes into the game. Seven minutes later, however, Oakmont senior Cassidy Driscoll hit the far upper corner on a shot from near the top of the circle, and the game was tied at 1.
Leitner tipped in a pass from Sydney Poulin with 2:40 left in the first half to give the Raiders a 2-1 lead going into halftime. And Junior Gabby Venezia gave the Raiders some breathing room less than two minutes into the second half when she scored off a pass from Poulin.
With a raucous crowd cheering them on, the Spartans battled back. Driscoll got her second on a goal from close-in on a corner with 22 minutes left in the second half. Then junior Sarah Craig scored with 10:58 left in the second half.
While fans in the stands may have thought the Raiders’ record streaks were in danger, the players remained calm.
“We worked on it in practice. We’ve been down in practice, and we came back,” said junior goalie and co-captain Jonna Kennedy. “When they scored those two goals we were still in it, our heads were still in it. We didn’t let it affect us.”
After a timeout, the Raiders largely controlled the ball for the rest of the game, setting up Kennedy’s winning shot.
Watertown Coach Eileen Donahue said she told her players to be careful not to turn the ball over on offense, and stop Oakmont’s long balls on defense.
“Toward the end we did. We did when it counted,” Donahue said. “I wish that was a little sooner in the game. We feel very fortunate to have won this game.”
The win extends Watertown’s national record winning streak – 123 straight – and games unbeaten –183 – and the team collected its 17th State Championship, and eighth straight.
Kourtney Kennedy and her fellow seniors, Olivia Venezia and Aurora Fiddler, graduate having never lost a game.
“For us seniors, it’s awesome to finish like this and its great for the rest of the team,” Kennedy said. “We are all just happy we were able to achieve it.”