BRAINTREE — When Kate Gregory took her spot for a penalty stroke in the first half yesterday, she knew the risk, but even with the sectional final on the line, the senior decided to take her routine approach.
Without even glancing at her target, Gregory fired a bullet top corner, sending Andover to the Division 1 field hockey state championship game with a 1-0 semifinal victory against King Philip at Braintree High.
“I didn’t even look at the cage,” Gregory said. “I just looked straight down at the ball. My heart was racing. I could feel it, but I’ve done that thousands of times in practice. I just did it.”
With 5:39 remaining in the first half, Andover’s Katherine Furry took a shot at King Philip’s net off a penalty corner. The ball struck a defender on the goal line, drawing a whistle to set Gregory up for the one-on-one shot.
The trip to the state final is the first for Andover (21-0-1) since 2011, when it pulled off back-to-back championship seasons. This season has arguably been one of Maureen Noone’s strongest campaigns as head coach. Andover has outscored opponents by a whopping 82 goals.
Senior goalie Abigail Campbell’s eight-save performance helped keep King Philip in the contest.
Andover will battle Longmeadow, a 3-2 winner against Algonquin in the other semifinal, for the crown on Saturday at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (time TBA).
Watertown 1, Dennis-Yarmouth 0 — When their 184-game winning streak was snapped back in September, the thought was maybe, just maybe, the historic run of state titles for the Raiders (21-1-0) would also come to an end, but with the win against the Dolphins (20-2-2) at Braintree High, they earned a shot at extending the streak to nine.
It took less than five minutes for Watertown to notch the only goal needed in this one. Senior Sydney Poulin drilled home a shot from 10 yards out.
“Obviously it’s such a challenge,” Raiders coach Eileen Donahue said. “Every year it’s been a challenge for us to start our season. To go through what we go through, and to get to this game.”
On Saturday, the Raiders will travel to WPI (time TBA) for a meeting with Oakmont, which routed Greenfield, 7-1. The state final will be a rematch of last year’s championship, when Watertown scored a 4-3 victory.
“It’s a strong program,” Donahue said of Oakmont. “A very, very strong program.
“We’re very fortunate to be in this situation.”