WESTBOROUGH – The wait is over for the Longmeadow field hockey team while Nashoba Regional must wait at least one more year.
On Saturday afternoon at Westborough High School’s Joseph R. MeWhiney Field, the fourth-seeded Lancers captured their first state championship in program history as they defeated second-seeded Nashoba Regional, 2-1, in the MIAA Division 2 final.
The championship is also the perfect ending to the coaching career of Longmeadow head coach Ann Simons, who announced that this would be her final season after 42 years at the head of the Lancers bench.
“It’s a fantastic way to cap a career. This is one for the ages, it’s epic,” said Simons following Saturday’s victory. “We peaked at just the right time, it’s been an interesting year, we’ve had our ups and downs. We had a big talk on the bus after one of our losses, prior to playing Acton-Boxboro. From then on there was no stopping us.”
Longmeadow finishes with a 19-2-2 overall record. In five postseason games, the Lancers outscored their opponents a combined 16-2. The Lancers defeated top-seeded Masconomet Regional, 2-1, in the state semifinals.
As for Nashoba (14-6-3), it’s the Wolves’ second straight year falling in the state championship game and third defeat in the last five years. Last year Nashoba dropped a 1-0 overtime decision to Westwood at Burlington High.
“Coming into this season, I knew Longmeadow was going to be a really strong team to compete against. They had a great run last year and we knew coming into today they had some really solid players and they work well together,” said Nashoba head coach Jaime Mariani. “They are really well coached over there. This is quite a way for coach Simons to go out.”
Longmeadow has reached the title game eight times while Saturday was Nashoba’s fifth in program history.
The Lancers struck first with the only goal of the first half when sophomore midfielder Molly Hornyak poked home a loose ball in front of the left post, beating Nashoba goalie Josie Sarno (three saves) for a 1-0 lead with 6:50 remaining in the quarter.
It remained a one-goal advantage for the Lancers until the late stages of the third quarter when Nashoba sophomore forward Gracie Reisner took a feed from teammate and senior captain Ali Vanasse off a penalty corner and found the back of the cage when she beat Lancers’ goalie Kaitlyn Lynaugh (two saves) to pull the Wolves level at 1-1 with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Despite the goal, the Lancers were unfazed as they took back the momentum when they struck again with 34 seconds remaining in the stanza. Senior forward Riley Harrington went upstairs with her shot and beat Sarno high inside the right post to make it 2-1 Longmeadow. Senior midfielder Audrey Oh earned the assist on the goal.
“We just couldn’t put one in after they took the lead back,” said Mariani. “It’s been a fantastic year with a great group of seven seniors. To be able to get back to the state championship again this year was a great accomplishment. I’m proud of these girls and the season they’ve had.”
For the final 15 minutes of action the Wolves pushed for the equalizer. Senior forward Abigail Zacchini, Vanasse and the rest of the Nashoba attackers were unable to solve Lynaugh and the Lancers defense as the clock ran out on the Wolves and their season.