WORCESTER — Sometimes a moment leaves you grasping for words, unable to form full sentences. Several feelings flowing all at once — triumph, exhilaration, pride, a sense of relief, and pure joy. All you can do is just scream and give the nearest person a big hug. Those waves of emotions washed over the Watertown High School field hockey team Saturday night after emerging from a rollercoaster ride called the 2023 MIAA Div. 3 State Final.
The result was a familiar one for the Raiders, a State Championship. By beating Newburyport, Watertown brought home the program’s third straight title, and 21st in school history. This time, however, completing the quest required tenacity, determination, and vigilance.
While Watertown often plays games where seven goals are scored (they played 18 this year), but most of time the Raiders are the only ones doing the scoring. Saturday’s game was a different story, finishing, 4-3.
The final started in a way typical for the 2023 Raiders, who came into the final with an unblemished 21-0 record, during which they had not even given up a goal.
Senior Molly Driscoll struck just 1:11 into the game to start the scoring for Watertown. Senior Aislin Deveaney doubled the lead with her goal with 5:30 left in the first quarter. At that point, Newburyport coach Shannon Haley called time out to right the Clippers’ ship.
The two teams battled scoreless for nearly 15 minute, until Newburyport senior Delaney Woekel did what no one had done in 41 games — score on the Raiders. The game went to halftime with Watertown leading 2-1.
While the Raiders’ national record shutout streak ended, Driscoll said that Watertown was not focused on that.
“We knew if there was a goal scored, who cares, the record doesn’t matter. We already got it,” she said. “It doesn’t matter at the end of the day. You’ve got to play to the last whistle and that’s what we did.”
Woekel found the back of the net again, just 1:08 into the third quarter to tie the game. The Raiders responded with intense offensive pressure, and three-and-a-half minutes later Driscoll scored her second goal. The one-goal cushion did not even last four minutes. Senior Morgan Valeri scored Newburyport’s third goal after getting a pass on a breakaway.
Driscoll said the team tries not to let goals phase them.
“It definitely kind of deflates, and then you are right back in it,” she said. “You’re like, alright that sucked, but you know what we, can get it back. We know that.”
The Raiders entered the fourth quarter knowing they had to summon something special to capture the 2023 State title. Donahuue said she gave the team a simple message.
“There’s 15 more minutes to go here and we have got to start connecting around that net better.” Donahue said. “Three goals is a lot but we needed more in this game and we had to be smarter about where we placed the ball, because we were sending it to Newburyport at times.”
Moments into the final quarter, Driscoll scored her 61st goal of the season and added one more goal to her school-record scoring mark — 150 — to give the Raiders a 4-3 lead. The job was not done, however, and the teams battled for another 13:59 as two sets of enthusiastic fans urged them on.
Driscoll said the team responded to the challenge.
“In the fourth quarter our message was the last 15 minutes we are all going to play together. You either leave it all out there on the field or you don’t. It’s your choice,” she said. “And 100 percent, all of the girls left everything they had out there, and that’s why we were able to come out victorious, so I’m really proud of them.”
Watertown piled on the pressure, but could not find the goal that would have given them a comfortable lead. However, the Raiders contained Newburyport, not allowing the Clippers to use their speed as they had in the first three quarters.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Raiders players and coaches celebrated on the field in a giant group hug, before composing themselves to accept the Div. 3 State Championship trophy.
Driscoll collected her third State Championship medal, but said this one was different.
“It definitely did seem more special. This is our senior year for three of us,” she said.
Donahue’s team have won 21 State Titles, and “three-peating” three times, but she said it’s hard to compare them.
“I’m just focused on this year. I think when I stop coaching I’ll reflect on things like that,” she said. “I have to give credit to Newburyport to come back from a 2-0 lead to tie it like that. Credit to our own team and our own program for making a lot of adjustments this year.”
One of the big changes was made by senior Ava Husson, who became goalie for the first time a week into preseason, having previously played defense. The final proved to be a test for her.
“It was so intense throughout the whole game, very nerve wracking,” she said. “I was trying my best and I know everyone else was trying their best. I was putting a lot of trust in the team and I’m just happy with the results, even though it wasn’t my best game, but everybody else stepped up and I’m really happy with the results.”
Donahue was proud of how her team rose to the occasion, including Driscoll, who scored her 16th hat trick of the season.
“If that wasn’t a girl fighting to help this team win I don’t know what is,” Donahue said. “We had other people out there, just diehards out there: Rachel Egan, Regan Driscoll, so many of them out there; even putting someone in the last five minutes, Sophia (Setouhi) did a great job out there.
“Molly has had a great career with us. She went down leaving no regrets on that field. I am very proud of her — and the team especially.”
The Raiders shared their victory with the parents, students, and fans who had trekked out to WPI for the game that will live long in the memories of those who played in, or even witnessed, it.