WALLINGFORD — With spectators not yet allowed into Wallingford sporting events, fans are fast finding ways to take in a game outside the parameters of a field.
At Lyman Hall, there’s a break in the trees at the northeast corner of the Phil Ottochian Complex. It provides a pretty decent view down the length of Fitzgerald Field.
A Sheehan entourage was gathered there for Monday night’s Titans-Trojans rivalry clash in field hockey.
“It’s a bunch of parents,” Sheehan head coach Katie Gill confided. “My mom is actually over there.”
Turns out, Mrs. Gill and her compatriots had a great look at the goal that earned the Titans a 1-0 victory in overtime.
It came with just 3:17 left to play courtesy of the tireless Mallory Crispens. Off a restart at the 25-yard line, Crispens carried the ball into the circle and wristed a shot that stayed on the ground and managed to find its way untouched through traffic and into the cage.
”There was a lot of adrenaline going, a lot of energy,” said the senior. “I just wanted to get the game over with. Easiest way to do that is put it in the net.”
For the previous 66 minutes and 43 seconds, putting the ball in the net was the single most hardest thing for the Titans to accomplish. Despite having a considerable advantage in possession, Sheehan could not dent the back line of defenders In Hwa Ferretti and Claire Riccitelli-Pestana and sophomore goalie Leah Herpok.
What the Ferretti and Riccitelli-Pestana didn’t thwart, Herpok stifled with her pads.
On occasion, the Lyman Hall offense would counter behind skillful senior midfielder Ashleen Keating, but Sheehan’s defense held firm behind senior backs Dempsey Lajoie and Mia Mills and freshman keeper Rilee Pentenauer.
Given the frustration with which each Sheehan surge downfield ended, it was almost stunning to see the shot by Crispens manage to find its way so cleanly into the net.
“We had the ball almost 90 percent of the game and we just couldn’t finish it.,” Crispens said. “hat last ball going in was just a Hallelujah!”
Sheehan’s OT victory marked yet another field hockey game between the rivals decided by just one goal. The Titans won both of last year’s matchups.
“As long as I’ve been here I feel it’s been a one-goal game,” LH coach Stephanie Lavado-Berghorn wrly conceded.
While Sheehan carried the attack, Lavado Berghorn was optimistic her team could spring a successful counter. The Trojans had their bids. They just couldn’t convert.
“I was hoping Ashleen would get the extra touch today, or we had a moment where Grace (Chappell) was on the far post and laying out for the ball, trying to get that extra touch,” Lavado Berghorn said. “I mean, the girls ran themselves into the ground tonight. They ran to the last second of everything, so I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Monday’s game left LH at 0-3 and Sheehan at 1-2.
The two Wallingford teams went into their rivalry bout after battling the perennial fieild hockey powers in the SCC. LH fell 5-0 to Daniel Hand and 2-0 to Branford, while Sheehan lost 3-1 to Cheshire and 6-1 to reigning Class M and SCC champ Guilford.
“You know, we started the season off with Guilford and we played incredible despite a 6-1 loss. Our kids were just fighting,” Gill remarked. “And then again against Cheshire on Saturday. Tooth and nail.
“Tonight we were kind of flat to start and I’m like, ‘Ladies, we’ve just got to work together; we’ve got to put one in, we’ve got to put one in.’ And they did so great, domianated. We just couldn’t finish, but we finally did, thank goodness.”
The game-winner by Crispens came moments after Lyman Hall junior Erin Cioffi took a deflected ball square off the middle of her forehead. It look scary and Cioffi immediately dropped to the turf.
Fortunately, it appeared to be nothing that a bandaid and a bag of ice couldn’t cure. The incident, though, also appeared to take some starch out of the Trojans.
“I think they were (taken) out of the game because there was an injury and they care more about their teammate than the game, and I think that speaks volumes about who are as people,” Lavado-Berghorn.
“They’re a great group; the senior class has been through a lot the last couple of years together,” the LH coach added. “With everything that’s happened in 2020, they are really genuinely appreciative of each other and any opportunity to play.”
The folks on the Sheehan half of the sideline, and no doubt the ones watching through the break in the trees, were feeling much the same.
”I’m very happy these girls got to have that Lyman Hall-Sheehan game despite everything that’s going on,” said Gill. “It’s always a fun time, it’s always a nail-biter, it’s always anyone’s game.”
If things hold steady, if there’s no season-ending surge in COVID-19, the two rivals will go head to head at Sheehan on Nov. 5.