Having been eliminated from tournament consideration on the final day of the season in two of the previous four years, it appeared another Norwood High field hockey campaign was about to come to an agonizing conclusion as the minutes ticked away Saturday afternoon at Newton North’s Dickinson Stadium.
But trailing by a goal and needing a victory to earn a spot in the Division 1 South draw, the Mustangs erupted for three goals in the final 7:01 for a 3-1 win over the Tigers, sending Norwood to the postseason for the first time since 2006.
“It’s really exciting,” said junior Jenny O’Donnell, who scored the game-winner with 3:05 to play. “We have worked really hard this season and it paid off in the end, and our captains have been really good, so I am happy for all the seniors that made it."
At 7-7-4, Norwood was assigned the No. 19 seed and will head to New Bedford to face the 14th-seeded Whalers in a preliminary round game Wednesday.
Allison Ryan tied the contest with a rocket off a penalty corner that energized the Mustangs, O’Donnell put Norwood ahead on another corner four minutes later and Samantha Hayes put the game away in the closing seconds.
“It’s so exciting, especially with all the adversity that they had to go though,” said Norwood coach Allison Penza. “To be able come back, get the tying goal, and even though we got that goal knowing that we still needed to win. Even to get that third goal where they played so smart the last couple minutes, it’s just awesome. I’m so excited to for the kids.”
Norwood was coming off a pair of lopsided defeats, having lost 8-0 to Natick last Tuesday and 6-0 to Walpole Friday, and despite having a clear possession advantage throughout the game and building a 14-5 edge in corners, it looked like it wasn’t meant to be for the Mustangs for most of the afternoon.
Norwood spent a quarter of the game shorthanded after picking up a five-minute yellow card in the first half and a 10-minute yellow in the second, and went into the half behind 1-0 after giving up a penalty stroke goal to North’s Bobby Grimshaw, who used his superior speed to spring himself on a breakaway and garner the call with 10:10 left in the first half.
After going 0-for-7 on corners in the first half and being unsuccessful on their first five of the second, the Mustangs converted their final two of the game to dramatically snatch the lead.
Ryan took a direct feed from Jackie Walsh and used a powerful blast from the top of the circle to beat North’s goalie Adi O’Connor with 7:01 remaining. Norwood went back to Ryan up top on the next opportunity and her hit found the stick of Annie Bretti in front. Bretti could not get a shot on but her bid deflected right to O’Donnell deep in the circle, who rapped it in for the 2-1 lead with 3:05 to play.
“In the timeouts and talking to them, they were ready,” said Penza. “We just said give whatever you have to give to us and we are going to come back and that’s what they did in the second half.”
Norwood held off the Tigers the rest of the way and could finally breathe easy when Hayes pushed in an insurance goal with 17.8 left with a diving shot at the right post.
Mustang goalie Courtney Fernandes only need to make one stop in the game but a critical play early in the second half when she came out to deny Grimshaw another breakaway chance and keep Norwood within striking distance.
“It’s nice for them to see all their work pay off,” said Penza.