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Longmeadow field hockey edges Northampton for title

  • Sophie Lellman of Northampton, center, moves the ball against Rachel Woods of Longmeadow during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0.

    Sophie Lellman of Northampton, center, moves the ball against Rachel Woods of Longmeadow during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Shannon O'Leary of Northampton, right, moves the ball against Mary O'Reilly of Longmeadow during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Katie Kratovil of Longmeadow and Leah Fagen of Northampton are in the background.

    Shannon O'Leary of Northampton, right, moves the ball against Mary O'Reilly of Longmeadow during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Katie Kratovil of Longmeadow and Leah Fagen of Northampton are in the background. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Leah Fagen of Northampton, right, and Kit Rosen of Longmeadow battle for the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0.

    Leah Fagen of Northampton, right, and Kit Rosen of Longmeadow battle for the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton goalie Mary Greco, right, makes a save against Ali LaBella of Longmeadow during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0.

    Northampton goalie Mary Greco, right, makes a save against Ali LaBella of Longmeadow during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Olivia Cotton of Northampton, center, and Megan Shea of Longmeadow go to the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Mary O'Reilly is in the background.

    Olivia Cotton of Northampton, center, and Megan Shea of Longmeadow go to the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Mary O'Reilly is in the background. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Adrienne Pascucci of Northampton, front, and Camille Burger of Longmeadow battle for the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0.

    Adrienne Pascucci of Northampton, front, and Camille Burger of Longmeadow battle for the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Northampton team shares hugs, tears and some smiles after their 1-0 loss to Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School.

    The Northampton team shares hugs, tears and some smiles after their 1-0 loss to Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Northampton team shares tears and some smiles after their 1-0 loss to Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School.

    The Northampton team shares tears and some smiles after their 1-0 loss to Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sophie Lellman of Northampton, center, moves the ball against Rachel Woods of Longmeadow during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0.
  • Shannon O'Leary of Northampton, right, moves the ball against Mary O'Reilly of Longmeadow during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Katie Kratovil of Longmeadow and Leah Fagen of Northampton are in the background.
  • Leah Fagen of Northampton, right, and Kit Rosen of Longmeadow battle for the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0.
  • Northampton goalie Mary Greco, right, makes a save against Ali LaBella of Longmeadow during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0.
  • Olivia Cotton of Northampton, center, and Megan Shea of Longmeadow go to the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0. Mary O'Reilly is in the background.
  • Adrienne Pascucci of Northampton, front, and Camille Burger of Longmeadow battle for the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School. Longmeadow won 1-0.
  • The Northampton team shares hugs, tears and some smiles after their 1-0 loss to Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School.
  • The Northampton team shares tears and some smiles after their 1-0 loss to Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final Saturday at West Springfield High School.

Although it did not result in a victory, none were better than Saturday’s effort in a 1-0 loss to perennial powerhouse Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament championship at Clark Field.

“Our defense was awesome,” senior goaltender Mary Greco said. “We had such a great defensive game today. I could not be prouder of my team.”

The Blue Devils (16-2-3) withstood heavy pressure through the first 50 minutes of action, turning away 13 shots on goal, eight corners and a penalty stroke over that time.

“I think it was our best” defensive game,” senior defender Shannon Keefe said. The Lancers “work really well together. They are very fast, they move well and they know where to go. They have really great passers.”

Longmeadow has played in each of the past 11 sectional finals and won nine of them.

The Lancers scored the game winner when Greco (13 saves) made a save on a shot by Mary Lamay. The ball went into a scrum and sat just outside the goal line. Jessie Moriarty got to it first and put it away for the 1-0 lead with 8 minutes, 11 seconds left in the first half.

“I cannot fault my team for the effort they had today,” first-year coach Mike Dean said. “It’s been building this whole entire season and we worked on giving your all, playing as a team, as a unit. They really did that for me today. They exemplified it and I’m quite happy with their performance.”

Northampton did not allow more than one goal in any of its 18 regular season games en route to the Central Division title. They gave up two goals in a 3-2 win over Westfield in the sectional quarterfinals before shutting out Minnechaug 3-0 in the semifinals.

Saturday marked the Blue Devils’ first championship game since 1998. The team reached the western Massachusetts semifinals last year after a long rebuilding effort under coach Kathleen Ralls, who moved out of the area during the off-season.

“Naturally, as any coach coming into any team, you want to do equally or better than the last season,” said Dean, who said he had conversations about the team with Ralls soon after he was hired. “I was fortunate to have a great team and to go forward to use different strategies with them.”

Northampton turned up the heat in the final 10 minutes and earned a corner with five minutes left when Shannon O’Leary made a terrific run through traffic and passed to Missie Maiewski in the circle.

O’Leary received the entry pass from Leah Fagen and sent it to the right post, but no one could get a stick on it before it skipped out of bounds.

One minute later, Reilly Griffin blasted a hard shot from the right side — the Blue Devils’ lone shot on goal of the day — but it was kicked away by Kelly Payne.

The highlight of the game for Northampton came with 22:17 left in the first half when Longmeadow was awarded a penalty stroke.

Lancers senior Kit Rosen, arguably the best player in western Massachusetts, fired a high, hard shot, but Greco was there to knock it away with a swipe of her left hand.

“I just keep my eyes on the ball, focus on it,” said Greco, who had faced one penalty earlier in the season, which was converted by Frontier. “I try not to think about anything else but watch the ball and stop it.”

Dean said the stop was huge for his team mentally.

“I think that was the point where we realized, ‘Wait a minute, Longmeadow isn’t some unbeatable machine. We can actually win this game,’ ” he said. “And we did continue that thought going forward for the rest of the minutes.”

Longmeadow (18-0-2) will face central Massachusetts champion Shrewsbury (18-3) in the state semifinals back at Clark Field at 5 or 7 Wednesday night.

The loss marked the final game for Northampton seniors Anisa Kamel, Melinda Messeck, Adrienne Pascucci, Olivia Cotton, Keefe, O’Leary, Fagen and Greco.

“Last year we made the semifinals and this year we made a goal to make it to the finals and we did,” Keefe said. “It feels great to be here. We played a really good game, gave it our all and left it all on the field.”

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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