It looked like the 2013 Blue Devils would certainly be in the hunt, perhaps the favorite. But by no means were they a sure thing.
They headed into the final against Windham unbeaten.
Unbeaten but shorthanded.
State MVP Erin Denning was hurt during practice. But Salem uses the Patriots’ “next man up” philosophy.
Sophomore Matt LaVasseur was that next man up and did an admirable Denning imitation. Things looked bleak when Windham won Game 1 25-19 and led 21-20 in Game 2 and also led late in Game 3.
But Andrew Ruffen came up big with 29 assists and nine kills and Colton Burnham and Danny Nugent each added 10 kills. It added up to a tight 3-1 win and a ninth straight title.
Girls Team of the Year
Windham worked plenty of overtime to capture state field hockey title
To be a champion, it takes extra work.
For the Windham High field hockey team, that meant working overtime in the semifinals and final.
The Jaguars were left for dead in the semifinals. St. Thomas, a team which lost to Windham 5-0 and 3-0 in the regular season, had nothing to lose.
STA lead in the waning moments but junior forward Nikki Croteau rescued the Jags from a crushing upset loss by scoring with a mere eight seconds left in regulation.
Then sensational junior Courtney Sweeny won it in OT with her school record 27th goal of the year.
The final wouldn’t be any easier.
Again an upset-minded four-loss team was primed to take out the once-beaten top seed.
Justine Levesque scored the equalizer with 10 minutes left and Sweeny (who else) beat Merrimack Valley with a goal early in OT. Despite the 15-1-1 record, nothing came easily.
First, the Jags were without coach Amanda Ward early in the season after her first child was stillborn.
The coach and the team battled through that trying time and started playing championship-level field hockey.
Then came the near-misses late in the postseason.
But in the end, talent, tenacity and a bit of lady luck combined to make them champions.