WORCESTER, Mass. -- Rachel Dube made one last go of it, and ended up giving the Watertown Raiders quite the scare.
Out of a Raiders penalty corner, the Auburn senior snatched the ball outside the circle and led a charge all the way to the other end of the field, forcing a Raiders touch penalty with no time left. Field hockey rules state that a game cannot end on a penalty, giving the Rockets, down 1-0, one last corner from the left side.
But the Raiders defense held up, thwarting a Gina Lirange shot and rebound at the post to hold on for a 1-0 win that clinched a perfect 23-0-0 season and a second straight Division 2 state title for the Raiders. This also marks their fourth title in the last 10 years, and 11th in school history.
"That was very intense, very intense on our part," head coach Eileen Donahue said of the final seconds. "[We wanted to] stop the ball and clear it out. I mean it was neat, I was watching my kids at the 50 (yard line) killing themselves to get there and help out. This team's been all about everyone on the offense helping everyone on the defense, so it wasn't just certain people. It's been about everyone, and I think it paid off today."
Said junior Erika Kelly, who scored the game-winner with 12 minutes left, "It was...there were tons, like the crowd is into it, everyone's up, it was just so intense. I just knew I had to get the ball out. Once it got out, game's over...we're usually good on the corners, so it wasn't a worry for us, but there was still a good chance they could have got it. We played it out, and it came through."
Indeed, there were few weaknesses on this squad, which flexed its defensive muscle at times as the Rockets (19-2-2) made flurries of offensive chances in spurts. And for a while, this one looked like it might be coming down to a lucky break in overtime, or even penalty strokes.
But the Raiders made a rare fast break with 12 minutes to go in the contest, with Bianca Jones feeding Lauren Giordano with an entry pass from 40 yards out on the left wing. That drew the Auburn goalkeeper off her line, and with Erika Kelly trailing from the right, Giordano tipped the ball just out of the outstretched reach of the goalie, and Kelly easily tipped it home.
"Wasn't that neat?" Donahue laughed. "Lauren clearly saw Erika wide open, and it was good timing."
Pointing to the Auburn squad leaving the field behind here, Donahue continued, "There it is. It was an element of team play that was awesome, and a nice finish as well."
Of course, the chemistry between Jones and Giordano is no secret. The two connected for a goal, with the roles reversed, in the Raiders' Eastern Mass final win over Canton earlier this week.
"Absolutely, absolutely. We've been working alot on that," Donahue said. "Because as you know, we don't have turf at our field, so we have been practicing alot in Waltham and Woburn, which I'm very thankful for. So for us to be out here and play these teams on turf, we've had to adjust to alot of things."
Kelly joked in the Canton win that her and Giordano were like magnets. Certainly nothing will refute that today.
"Whenever we see each other open, we just give each other the ball. It's just a given," Kelly said matter-of-factly, with a laugh.