By CLAUDE SCILLEY
A couple of close calls at the end of the year just may have provided the spark the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers needed Thursday to play their best game of the year.
For the Panthers, that’s a good thing, because anything less might not have gotten them the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association field hockey championship.
On a cold, windy day at Caraco Field, Regi gained its fifth straight county and eastern Ontario championship with a 2-1 win over the Holy Cross Crusaders. The Panthers had a strong start, took a 2-0 lead and weathered a storm in the middle part of the game to secure the win, one that gives Regi a berth in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship, a three-day tournament that begins in Peterborough next Thursday.
It seemed to be the consensus among the Panthers that, in an undefeated season that ended 12-0, their performance in the final was their best of the year.
“Definitely,” coach Mia Sarris White said. “We’ve seen glimpses of it but everything came together today.”
It could well be that overtime losses to eighth-place Frontenac in the quarter-finals, and fourth-place Napanee in the semifinals, shook some life into a Regi team for which many believed it was their championship to lose.
“We’re a strong program, so we’re not used to losing,” Sarris White said. “I think those close calls brought it to their reality that it might not be our year if they don’t change things.
“All the students are busy; they all play multiple sports and everyone’s distracted, but once playoffs hit and those scares happened, I think it really did bring everyone together and focused on that common goal of making it to OFSAA next week.”
Among the things her players did better, Sarris White said, was controlling the ball in front of the opponent’s goal.
“We’ve been working through the year to keep their stick down right in front of the net,” she said. “They’ve had the tendency to lift it to do a big hit, but the minute they lift it they lose the ball. They actually followed through on that today and had a lot of offensive chances, sweeping the ball to the goalie.
“She saved quite a few of them, but we managed to get two of them in.”
Those goals came from Jen Cowan and Lilly Dickson.
As well, the Panthers displayed passing skill that hadn’t been quite so evident throughout the regular year.
“We’ve played on field, in rain—and on turf only a few times,” Sarris White said, “and (playing on turf) was really beneficial for us to play a good, clean game.”
Panthers goalkeeper Lise Freundorfer was sharp in posting the shutout.
“She saved a couple of goals singlehandedly,” Sarris White said, “(when) somehow they got around all the defence. There were two in particular that really saved the day for us.
“She’s a fantastic goalie, extremely athletic, someone that we could use out on the field as well, but we don’t want to give up her athletic ability in the net.”
Holy Cross got its only goal from Gracie Knapp Hermer, off a penalty play with about 10 minutes to go in the game.
Despite being unbeaten—having handed Holy Cross its only defeat this year—and having allowed opponents to score just three goals in 11 games (and never more than one in any game) going into the final, Sarris White said the Panthers were taking nothing for granted.
“We considered this a rebuilding year,” she said. “We were very happy to make it to the final. I don’t want to say we didn’t expect to win, but we certainly expected it would be a challenge. We went into the game not knowing who would come out as the winner.”