Division 2 field hockey: Frontier Regional survives, rallies to beat South Hadley in semifinals

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  • Lila Roche, center, of Frontier Regional, moves the ball against Megan Bonney, of South Hadley, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semifinal, Wednesday at Holyoke High School. Bella Yee looks on. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bella Yee, front left, of South Hadley, moves the ball against Grace Wesoloski, of Frontier Regional, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semifinal, Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Olivia Vecellio, center, of Frontier Regional, moves the ball between South Hadley defenders Breann Foley, left, and Gabi Moroney during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semifinal, Wednesday at Holyoke High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Olivia Vecellio, right, of Frontier Regional, looks for a shot against South Hadley defenders Breann Foley, from left, goalie Kaitlyn Lynes and Kylie Hunter during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semifinal, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 at Holyoke High School. Lila Roche looks on. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Emily DeMaio, center left, of Frontier Regional, and Megan Bonney, center right, of South Hadley, try to win the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semifinal, Wednesday at Holyoke High School. Lila Roche approaches, left. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lila Roche, left, of Frontier Regional, goes to the ball against Megan Bonney, of South Hadley, during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semifinal, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 at Holyoke High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/6/2019 10:48:25 PM

HOLYOKE — Lila Roche doesn’t speak much. The Frontier Regional freshman’s play shouts instead.

She started her first field hockey game of the year Wednesday in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semifinal after featuring as a dangerous option off the bench during the regular season. In a tied game with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left, Roche capitalized on her opportunity. She approached from the left side after South Hadley goalie Maddie Foley sprawled to stop an Olivia Vecellio shot. The ball rolled over to Roche, who popped it into the cage for the decisive goal to send the top-seeded Red Hawks to their ninth straight sectional final, 3-2.

“This says a lot about her composure at such a young age,” Frontier coach Missy Mahar said. “She did exactly what we needed her to do on the forward line and came through in the end.”

For the fifth year in a row, Frontier (15-2-1) will face No. 3 Greenfield (14-5-1) for the Western Mass. title. The Green Wave, who beat Smith Academy 4-0 in the earlier semifinal, won the previous four titles. The Red Hawks last triumphed in 2015. They’ll renew the rivalry at 5 p.m. Saturday at Holyoke.

“We get to see Greenfield on another pretty Saturday,” Vecellio said.

Vecellio opened the scoring 11 minutes in. She began at midfield and maneuvered through South Hadley’s defense, leaving a trail of defenders in her wake. Vecellio appeared to move in a straight line but no Tiger could impede her path because of her deft control of the ball.

“We’ve worked together to improve our skills, so we are able to do that as a team,” Vecellio said.

Vecellio deked Foley and calmly finished the breakaway to give the Red Hawks a 1-0 lead.

“Liv is a very dynamic player,” Mahar. “She’s very fluid in the way she can penetrate and finish.”

The Red Hawks carried that lead to halftime, and South Hadley responded quickly in the second. Corryn Moroney tied the game 8 minutes in from Breann Foley, then Megan Carey, who scored an overtime winner in the quarterfinals, put the Tigers (13-6-1) ahead with 15:25 left.

“We have a strong history of playing Frontier and playing them well. We’re no stranger to Frontier scoring first and having to come back. They knew they could do it,” South Hadley coach Tara Cole said. “They always rise to the occasion when we make postseason.”

South Hadley’s first goal put Frontier on its heels. The second created a sense of urgency. The Red Hawks lived in South Hadley’s end after the Tigers went ahead, as Vecellio coordinated their attack. She found Alyson Barnes in tight with 7 minutes left, and the junior tapped in a tying goal.

“It’s all about being resilient and staying composed. We have experienced players who have been in this situation before, and you can’t give up,” Mahar said. “That’s just what we needed at a time when we were flat and set back on our heels.”

Fourth-seeded South Hadley didn’t give up after the Red Hawks regained the lead. The Tigers created what looked like the tying goal when a shot ricocheted off a Frontier stick with 3:15 left and into the net. One official signaled goal and South Hadley celebrated, but the tally was waived off because a goal can only be scored when touched by an attacking player in the circle.

After the clock hit all zeroes, Frontier’s bench raced to embrace goalie Skyla Burniske. The Red Hawks planned to enjoy their victory Wednesday night before returning to practice Thursday to prepare for the sectional final. They beat Greenfield twice during the regular season in Valley League play.

“We wanted to be there, we didn’t care who,” Vecellio said.




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