CONWAY — Does anyone have any fingernails left?
The Kennett High field hockey team and Hollis Brookline engaged in the ultimate nail-biter on Tuesday in the opening round of the Division II tournament at Centola Field before a large, vocal crowd that was emotionally drained after two hours of action. In a game for the ages, the defending state champion Eagles, the No. 6 seeds, beat the visiting Cavaliers, the 11th seeds, 2-1 following two overtime periods and 10 shootout sessions.
“It was probably the most nerve-wracking game I’ve ever been part of,” said Cassie Daley, Eagles’ head coach. “It was crazy, an emotional roller-coaster.”
Kennett (10-4-1) advances to play No. 3 Souhegan (12-1-1), one of three schools to receive a first-round bye, in Amherst in the Elite 8 on Friday at 4 p.m. It’s a rematch of last year’s championship game, which the Eagles won 2-0 in Conway to cap an undefeated season.
Members of this year’s varsity team are seniors Molly Arnold, Arielle Butterfield, Veronica Carboni, Caroline Coleman, Ella Fecteau, Taylor Gaudette, Brynne Gove, Jordan Meir and Lily Orth; juniors Leah Alkalay, Tessa Capozzoli, Grace Gagne, Sydney Graziano, Vivian Rober-Carpenter, Remi Snowdon; and sophomores Georgia Coleman, Ava Gaudette, Nora Goodman, Sophia Hanson, Allie Hussey and Madison Walcott.
KHS and Hollis-Brookline (6-9) did not meet during the regular season, but the Cavaliers played everyone tough and did just that on Tuesday in the cold, windy conditions.
“It was a great, great game,” Daley said.
The Cavaliers opened the scoring in the sixth minute after a nice series of passes, but the Kennett defense put the clamps on their guests from that point on.
The Eagles were able to knot the match at 1-1 just before halftime. Junior Ava Gaudette, who was all over the field, found the back of the gage with a hard low shot.
“The second half was back and forth, but a lot of the play was in midfield,” said Daley.
At the end of regulation play the game moved to sudden death overtime with each team downsizing to six field players and a goalie for 10 minutes of next goal wins action.
The game remained deadlocked, so it was onto a second 10-minute next goal wins overtime.
Still locked at 1-1, the next step in the past had been penalty corners until a winner was decided. The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has changed from that tie-breaking method to a penalty shootout.
Similar to a penalty shot in ice hockey, the player has 8 seconds to go one-on-one against the goalie from the top of the 25-yard circle while the goalie must start out on the goal line. Each team designated five shooters, and the team with the most goals after all five shots would be the winner.
If still even after five rounds, it becomes the next goal wins, provided the other team does not score during its turn. You proceed until someone wins.
Capozzoli, Ava Gaudette, Hussey, Butterfield and Caroline Coleman were chosen to shoot for Kennett.
Capozzoli went first, and came oh-so-close to scoring, but hit the post and then time expired.
Ava Gaudette scored, but so did the Hollis-Brookline player.
After a Cavalier was thwarted by Walcott, who was brilliant in goal for the hometown flock, Hussey scored to put KHS in front.
“Madison played so aggressively,” Daley said. “She was living for it.”
Hollis-Brookline was able to score on its fifth and final shootout attempt to tie the match and force it to continue to sudden victory.
In the fifth round, after H-B was stopped by Walcott, Caroline Coleman scored a goal that will long be remembered ending this classic. Players and separators swarmed the field to celebrate.
“It was crazy,” said Daley. “The last time we played Hollis-Brookline was in the quarterfinals in the playoffs my first year coaching eight years go. We went to penalty corners as home against them and won it that time, too.”
She added: “Now it’s onto Souhegan. We know they’re a very good team, but I think we’re a very good team as well. I’m sure it will be another crazy game. Everyone in our division seems to be so evenly matched this year.”
Thirteen teams qualified for postseason play in Division II this fall. The top three teams (13-0-1 Hanover, 13-1 Portsmouth and 12-1-1 Souhegan) received first-round byes.
In other first-round action on Tuesday, No. 9 Goffstown (9-6) traced to Durham and beat No. 8 Oyster River (9-6) 1-0; No. 5 Lebanon (12-2-2) hosted and beat No. 12 Derryfield (5-10) 2-0; and No. 7 Kingswood (10-5) hosted and beat No. 10 Bow (6-9) 6-0.
In Friday’s quarterfinals, it’s No. 1 Hanover hosting No. 9 Goffstown; No. 4 John Stark hosting No. 5 Lebanon; No. 2 Portsmouth hosting Kingswood; and No. 3 Souhegan hosting No. 6 Kennett.
The winners advance to the semifinals, which are scheduled for Tuesday at 5 and 7 p.m. at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter.
The finals are slated for Sunday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. at Bedford High School.