Field Hockey: Gorham bounces Bonny Eagle 1-0 from first round of playoffs

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GORHAM—Haley Lowell snuck the Rams past the visiting Scots on a lone goal, a first-half strike, in the playoffs prelims on Friday afternoon, Oct. 12. The notch came on a perfectly-executed corner.

The Scots weren’t without their chances and both head coaches – Vonde Saunders for Bonny Eagle and Becky Manson-Rioux for Gorham – remarked on the tight outcome.

“I wanted to take advantage of them,” Saunders said, asked about her strategy for Gorham, “in the first five minutes, and try to get it down there and score – which, we did get it down there; we just couldn’t get it to the back of the cage. But I’m really proud of them. We were down there a lot; they had a lot opportunities.”

“I’m a Bonny Eagle alum,” Manson-Rioux said, “and I know we play tough. It was a 3-2 game in the regular season, so it was anybody’s game. We were able to capitalize on that one corner and fend them off on the corners that they got. They had a couple of chances there, right at the end. Well-played game by both.”

“Bonny Eagle, [in our first game with them this season], same thing: They had excellent stops,” Manson-Rioux went on. “Their aerials went up and over us many times; they also hit the ball very well. So they were able to break through on those 16-yard hits, coming out. They did that to us even in the first game. So, we knew they were going to come play us tough.”

After 17 minutes of mostly balanced action – the Rams did hold a slight edge on the attack – Gorham broke the 0-0 deadlock, earning a corner and capitalizing: The insertion reached the stick of senior Captain Isis Adams near the top of the circle; Adams fired forward and the ball, a low tumbler, penetrated the scramble of bodies, where Lowell relayed it past Scots keeper Chloe Owen.

“We’ve been really working on the low hit,” Manson-Rioux said, asked about corner strategies. “The hit in was perfect, it was easy to get a stick on it. If it’s a bouncy ball, if it’s a little bit raised, it makes it harder for a tipper or somebody that’s on a post to get a stick on.”

Bonny Eagle pressured to start the second half, and picked up two or three consecutive corners around the 20-minute mark. None of those attempts proved fruitful, however.

Manson-Rioux commented on her girls’ defensive efforts. “We’ve been really focusing on keeping the ball wide. They did a great job at doing that today. They looked up, they saw the space, and they passed it out to either a space or somebody that was there to make the play or collect the ball. They executed that today, which, in some previous games, we struggled with and passed it more up diagonally. That goes to the other team, instead of out and up.”

Gorham slowly pushed back. The Rams attacked hard through the next 10 minutes or so – but they couldn’t find the back of the Scots’ cage a second time any more than the Scots could find the back of theirs even once.

Saunders remarked on Gorham’s long attacking stretch. “They just came out fighting,” she said. “But we came back, fighting hard, getting it out and out and out. They had a lot of opportunities, but we stopped them every time.”

“We had six corners in the second half; our goal was to get five,” Manson-Rioux said. “I think that goal kind of gave them a focus. So we exceeded that – but we still need to capitalize.”

Desperate to extend their own season, Bonny Eagle redoubled their efforts in the waning minutes, and managed to generate a couple more corners, rapid-fire. The Rams, though, stood strong, met the challenge – and prevailed.

“I wouldn’t want them to do anything different there,” Saunders said, asked about her girls’ last-minute assault on the Gorham goal. “In that last 30 seconds, it was really stressful. I just kept telling them to breathe, before that last corner. Catch your breath, and then do it. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t finish. But they fought hard for it; you could see they all wanted it. They’re awesome, and they always listen to me, and they’re really good kids.”

Manson-Rioux took a moment to pat one Adams in particular on the back “Isis, she’s my right-mid. She had the assist on the goal; she had a couple of awesome hits in on the corners. She just played unbelievably today in her position, getting the ball up, dodging, defensively. Just playing really smart.”

Gorham moves to 11-3-1 on the autumn. The No. 5 Rams are much-improved, record-wise, over last 2017, when they went 6-8 to enter the playoffs as the 12-seed. Hopefully, they continue to show off their strengths in the tough A South, both in the current tournament and in coming years.

Gorham faces off with No. 4 Falmouth (9-3-2) in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

No. 12 Bonny Eagle closes their season at 6-9, a slight improvement over 2017, when they finished 5-9-1. Given how disruptive transitioning to a new coach and a new system can be for a program, the Scots have nothing to hang their heads over.

“It was everything I could’ve asked for,” Saunders said of her first season at the helm for the Scots. “The girls are amazing; they made it so much fun for me. I enjoyed coming to see them every single day. I’m excited for next year.”

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Additional photos can be found here: 

Mya Daniels tracks the action.

Bonny Eagler Riley Heacock wends through a tangle of Gorham opponents.

Emma Burnham unwinds into a hit for the Scots in their playoffs loss at Gorham.

Hannah Milne drives up the sideline for Bonny Eagle.

Olivia Napolitano centers from the corner for Bonny Eagle.

Gorhamite Sarah Stevens stands against an oncoming Bonny Eagler.

Hailey Morrill surveys her pass options.

Faith Dillon dribbles forward for the Rams.

Haley Lowell tries to block a Bonny Eagle blast.

Isis Adams unwinds into a hard shot following a corner insertion; teammate Haley Lowell would tip the shot home for the game’s lone goal.

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