NEWPORT–It was a gorgeous fall afternoon yesterday as the North Country field hockey team (3-8-3) played their final game of the regular season against Lyndon Institute (3-5-3).
It was a must win game for both teams, as they are separated by just two index points heading into the contest, but the Falcons and Vikings had to settle for the 1-1 tie.
Before the game got underway, North Country recognized their four departing seniors; Bailey Carter, Mariah Roberts, Danielle Gabucci and Stephanie Jones.
Said Carter of her time with the program,"I'll always remember all the bus rides, the inside jokes we shared together, and I'll miss everyone a lot. It was a good three years."
"It's been great having those girls on the team and it is going to be hard to replace them next year because not only the positions they play, but the fact that they play for the entire game," Coach Chantelle Bouchard said of the senior class.
With the action underway, North Country got right down to the business of trying to score a goal.
They kept the play inside the Viking half, and spent a considerable amount of time inside the LI twenty-five yard line.
Mariah Roberts, Phoenix Alix, Brittany Fortier and Adrianna Fournier all had chances to stake the Falcons to the lead, but nothing of consequence happened until late in the games ninth minute.
North Country was awarded a corner, and subsequently put a shot on net.
Lyndon goalie Sarah Camber kicked out a hard rebound, but to the wrong team.
Mariah Roberts pounced on the ball and drove home the game's first goal.
"She has the hardest hits out of everyone, and she'll score when you least expect it," her coach said.
The goal sparked the Vikings to increase their intensity and to start venturing into the Falcon side of the field.
Their tenacity paid off with 2:40 left in the opening thirty.
Chelsey Mitchell found Harper Favreau who tipped the ball past Danielle Gabucci to tie the game at 1-1.
The second half started with a bang for the Falcons.
Roberts had a chance in the opening minutes, but goal number two eluded her.
The rest of the half was a back and forth battle for sustained pressure, which neither team could produce.
Both squads had time inside the opposing team's circles, but there was nary a shot to be found.
Late in the half, NCU and LI each had one last crack at victory, but couldn't get a shot on net.
Ten minutes were put on the clock and overtime was a go.
Lyndon really stepped up their game in the extra session.
They barely let the Falcons get a sniff of mid-field, let alone anything remotely resembling a scoring play.
The match went from a very even affair to a one-sided, pro-Viking beat down in a hurry.
"I think they were tired, but they are my fasted runners, so I had to put them out there," said Bouchard. "But, just because they were tired, doesn't mean they were going to play hard. We can play defense the whole time, that's fine."
Like the coach said if we have to play defense, we'll play defense, that works for us.
And play D they did.
Lyndon had odd-man rushes, forced turnovers, and were given several unforced turnovers, but the “bend not break” play of the North Country defenders was the key in preserving the tie.
Gabucci finished the game with four saves, and Bouchard knows it is going to be hard to replace what Danielle brings the table each game.
"Honestly I don't know what I'm going to do. She is great, heck, even the other coaches come up and tell me how good she is, so we'll see what happens."
Currently in seventh, North Country would play MVU in the opening round of the play-offs if it were to start today.
Pairing will be announced early next week.