WORCESTER — After a seven-year hiatus, Walpole is back on top. Caroline Feeley’s corner goal was all Walpole needed to defeat Longmeadow in the Division 1 state field hockey championship.
Walpole (23-0-1) has been a dominant force in the South, winning the sectional crown 10 of the past 11 years. The Porkers have struggled in the Eastern Mass. finals, falling to North titans Andover and Acton-Boxborough.
Walpole had captured its last state championship in 2006. But this year was different. The players were determined, and with senior leadership, it finally paid off.
“I had excellent captains this year,’’ Walpole coach Marianne Murphy said. “They were determined. They’ve all been on the team since they were freshmen. I told one of their moms when they started that I was going to win a state championship with those three. at some point in their career here. They waited to their senior year, but they did it.”
Walpole dominated in the first half, earning five corners, but could not capitalize on scoring opportunities. Determined in the second half, Feeley took advantage of a corner and found the ball in a scrum in front of the net, pushed it in front of her, and knocked it in.
“I just tipped it forward and reverse-sticked it in,” said the senior captain. “We ad-libbed on the corner. It was the best feeling in the world. It really feels good to have the title back.”
The goal came while Longmeadow was a player down because of a yellow card penalty for tackling from behind.
The Lancers did not go down without a fight. They picked up pressure the last two minutes, forcing two corners with seconds remaining. Walpole’s corner defense, led by Melanie Weber and Ashley Waldron, kept the Lancers from finding the net.
“The corner defense was outstanding,” said Murphy. “Defense wins championships, bottom line. If you have people that are back there that know what they’re supposed to do and play the ball, you’ll end up on top.”
Senior captain and Boston College commit Brooke Matherson said, “This is an unbelievable feeling. This is why we play. We’ve been waiting since freshman year. This is a game we’ve been dreaming of. It’s a crazy feeling to win it and have a state championship.”