CONWAY — In the blink of an eye, the regular-season is almost in the rearview mirror for the Kennett High field hockey team. The Eagles have just one match left on the schedule and stand one win away from their second undefeated season in the past three years.
The season, albeit it just eight games instead of the traditional 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has flown by in four weeks for the hometown flock. Kennett is scheduled to wrap up the regular season on the road against Franklin (0-4 in Division III) on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
The Golden Tornadoes are in a rebuilding phase, having been outscored 41-0 in its four matches this fall.
“I need to make sure the girls don’t go into the game thinking all they have to do is show up to win,” said Cassie Daley, Eagles’ head coach by phone on Monday. “Everyone loves an underdog or roots for an upset. We have to come out ready and play our best game.”
Daley shakes her head at the regular season winding down.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “It seems like we just started.”
Kennett at 7-0 and Souhegan (5-0) are the last undefeated teams and sit atop the 18-school Division II standings, followed by Lebanon, 6-1; John Stark, 5-1; Pelham, 3-1; Hanover, 7-3; Sunburn, 4-3; Goffstown, 2-3-2; Plymouth, 4-4; Merrimack Valley, 2-3-2; Kingswood, 1-3; Derryfield, 0-0 (will play on three regular-season games, beginning Friday by hosting Sanborn); Portsmouth, 0-1; Hollis-Brookline, 0-2; Milford, 0-3; Bow, 0-5; Pembroke, 0-6; and Oyster River, 0-7.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, due to the coronavirus, is making this a fall with an open tournament, meaning everyone gets into the tournament. The tournament is scheduled to begin on Monday with a play-in round.
Under an 18-team traditional bracket, teams seeded 15-18 would play in the play-in games with No. 15 hosting No. 18 and No. 16 hosting No. 17.
The preliminary round of the tournament, once the field is trimmed to 16, is slated to take place on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. with the highest seeds hosting games,
Kennett with a win on Wednesday can finish no lower than the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Souhegan, which plays one more regular-season game than the Eagles, could win out and finish at 9-0.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to go,” Daley said. “Everyone seems to be playing a different amount of games. I think if we win our last game we’ll be No. 1 or No. 2.”
Kennett, which has outscored its opponents 22-7 this fall, swept the season series from Carroll County rival Kingswood last week with a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Knights under the lights in Wolfeboro on Tuesday night, and then won 4-1 at Centola Field at the top of Eagles’ Way on Thursday.
The host Knights took the lead in the first quarter (this year, due to the virus, the state is playing four quarters instead of two halves), but the Eagles drew level on a Maddie Stewart goal in the second period. Kennett took the lead in the third frame on a pair of goals from Kathryn Hawkes.
“Playing on turf is always difficult for us,” said Daley, adding the team was unable to use the Peter Ames Gymnasium to prep for the Knights. “The girls really worked as a team to get that win.”
Kingswood netted a goal in the fourth quarter, but the KHS defense held strong to leave town with the win.
On Thursday, the Eagles scored in every quarter with Stewart putting the hometown flock in front, and Jaelin Cummings added on to the advantage with goals in the second and third frames, and Hawkes capped the scoring in the fourth period.
“We played an outstanding game,” Daley said. “I’m very proud of these girls and the situation they’ve put themselves in. They continue to improve, which as a coach, you love to see.”
Liza Graustein was solid in goal for the Eagles, picking up the win.
Daley praised the play of senior co-captain Ella Chandler on defense.
“Ella is playing outstanding,” she said. “I feel like she found her stride this year. I can’t say enough about how well she’s playing and communicating in the back end of the field.”