Mary’s girls take field hockey championship

Mary’s girls take field hockey championship on home turf
Posted on 10/19/2023
Mary field hockey team celebrating win

By Larry Moko

It’s 8 seconds that the St. Mary Crusaders and St. Thomas More Knights will probably remember for a lifetime.

That’s how long each of the two sudden-death penalty shootouts lasted during the 2023 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic girls’ field hockey championship Wednesday.

The teams played to a 1-1 tie in regulation time. It then went to the penalty shootout where each side (alternating five shooters) scored once.

At that point, in sudden death, St. Mary goalkeeper Jade McNicol made a save and her teammate Nikki Duffy scored against Jasmine Poirier, giving the host Crusaders a 3-2 victory.

St. Mary thereby earns the right to advance to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference semifinal on Oct. 24 against the Halton public high school champion.

“It was an amazing game,” St. Mary coach Melissa Kiely said. “I’m of course delighted we won the championship.

“Those 8 second penalty shootouts are a really tough way to end it.”

Instead of deciding the winner by way of penalty flicks from a designated spot 7 yards in front, the 8 second method was utilized. That’s a one-on-one between the attacker and goalkeeper with the ball placed on the 30-yard line. Even if the advancing goalie makes an initial save against the on-charging shooter, the play doesn’t end for eight seconds.

“It was stressful … my first time ever doing that,” McNicol said of the tie-breaking procedure. “It was pretty much up to my instincts.”

Her only experience with the 8 seconds strategy came during practices.

“It’s a challenging thing for a goalie to do,” Kiely said. “They have to learn how to read the player’s body language.

“Jade is quick and flexible. She’s an amazing athlete. I love how she made sure that she cleared the ball. She always ran after it just until the whistle blew. It’s that aggression and determination that helped Marys bring home the win.”

More trailed 1-0 until, with two minutes remaining in the second half, Angelina Jolly of the Knights capitalized on a short corner.

Said McNicol: “Even after we got scored upon the team kept pumping me up. I thought our team played amazing. Everyone was co-operating with each other. We were up in our spirits and ready to play.”

The Crusaders controlled play in the first half – taking seven short corners --- but the Knights held a territorial edge in the second half.

“It was a hard-fought game,” More coach Samantha Victucci said. “We held top spot for most of the season. We’re beyond happy with them.

“Angelina is the heart of the team. Her skill level is phenomenal.”

Leading the attack for St. Mary was Duffy, a centre midfielder who opened the scoring nine minutes into the contest before tallying twice more on dekes during the shootouts.

“I wanted to move it around to have an open net,” said Duffy, “Their goalie was coming out really far, so I ran quickly to get around her.”

The St. Mary coach said Duffy is strong in ice hockey as well as field hockey.

“Nikki holds up the centre of the field,” Kiely said. “She never runs out of energy. She keeps going no matter what. It’s that constant and reliable drive that makes Nikki such a star player. She plays to win.”

Other members of the St. Mary team included Sarah Poudrier, Marissa Racz, Maeve Puri, Olivia Hirlehey, Aisha Faria Paredes, Chloe Pender, Hannah Meadows, Ava Shewchyk, Reid Murray, Bella Shewchyk, Nicole Lester, Josephine Mella, Olivia Ollinger, Kendra Restauri, Jelena Vukovic, Emma Gunby and Maddie Leung.

During the regular schedule, the Bishop Tonnos Titans and the Crusaders each finished with 5-1 records. They were followed in the standings by More (4-2) the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals (4-2), the Bishop Ryan Celtics (1-5), the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves (1-5) and the Cathedral Gaels (1-5).

Quarter-finals saw St. Mary down Cathedral, 3-1, Newman edge Brébeuf, 2-1, and More blank Bishop Ryan, 3-0. More then ousted first-place Tonnos, 4-1, and St. Mary downed Newman, 1-0, in semifinal action.

“We’ve all worked really hard this year with morning practice before school and lots of time spent practising,” Duffy said. “I think we deserve it (the championship).”

It was the first city title for the Crusaders since 2021 and second in the past 24 years.

Mary field hockey team celebrating win

STM and Mary field hockey playersMary field hockey player shooting on STM goalieSTM field hockey playerMary field hockey teamPhotos by Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography

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