WORCESTER — Acton-Boxboro won its third state Division 1 field hockey championship in six years, beating Shrewsbury, 3-0, Saturday at Worcester State.
Junior forward Eleni Neyland redirected two passes from junior captain Eleana Cardarelli to secure the win for A-B.
A-B controlled play most of the first, earning four corners before the break. With just over five minutes left in the half the determination paid off. Senior captain Colleen Fowler received the ball at the top of the circle on a corner and sent it straight into the net to put A-B on the board.
The goal was special for Fowler, who plays defense and usually only has the opportunity to score on corners.
“It was amazing. I play defense, so I’ve really only scored three times this season,” said Fowler. “To have one of those goals be in the state championship my senior year was incredible.”
Riding the momentum from the first goal, A-B quickly recovered the ball from Shrewsbury and sent it into the circle two minutes later. Cardarelli sent a cross to Neyland, who lifted it into the corner to give A-B a 2-0 advantage.
“I knew once we broke through it would inspire the girls,” said A-B coach Mae Shoemaker. “They really stepped up. I told them to be patient and once we get the first one in you’ll feel better and start moving, and it did.”
A-B continued to dominate in the second, outshooting Shrewsbury, 6-2. Shrewsbury’s offensive line, led by Alanna Maniatis, Lauren Ineson and Christa Dioron, gave a good effort but could not get by A-B’s defense, anchored by Maggie Bettez.
The game got more physical toward the end and Dioron earned a yellow card for pushing, forcing Shrewsbury to play a man down for five minutes.
“It did get a little physical. My girls aren’t used to a lot of physical teams. Once they started getting pushed around a bit, they thought they had to step up,” said Shoemaker. “I hadn’t seen Shrewsbury play, but I knew when you get to the state championship team you’re going to be darn good.”
A-B took advantage, scoring quickly with a one-player advantage. Neyland tipped in her second goal off another feed from Cardarelli with just under eight minutes remaining to seal the deal.
“I’m just the one who put them in,” said Neyland. “It was everyone. The whole team worked so hard to get it there. It feels amazing. I’m glad I could give the team something for everything they’ve given me.”