Senators win 2-overtime thriller in D-I field hockey tournament

WILMINGTON — As the game headed into double overtime, the Dover High field hockey team had a decision to make.

The Senators were going to have to play the first four minutes down a player due to an infraction.

Coach Denise Kimbro asked the Senators what they wanted to do. Defend and try to kill time before both sides were even again, or try to score anyway?

Dover chose to put it in the cage.

Sophomore Alayna Gigliotti’s goal gave Dover a 2-1 double overtime victory over Concord High in the quarterfinals of the DIAA Division I field hockey state tournament on Thursday night at Delaware Military Academy.

Gigliotti tapped home a pass from fellow sophomore Superia Clark across the line to end a marathon affair played in steady rainfall.

“We had nothing to lose,” Gigliotti said. “We needed a goal. I saw Superia down on the end and I knew I had to get over there because she was about to cross it and I sprinted my butt off to it.”

“We have a lot of heart,” Clark said. “We didn’t want to play scared. If you only play defense, you’re not going to score.”

Dover, seeded sixth in the tournament, advanced to the semifinals for the second time in the last three seasons. The Senators (10-4-2) will play No. 2 seed Padua Academy (13-3) on Tuesday at the University of Delaware’s Rullo Stadium at a time yet to be announced.

Padua defeated seventh-seeded Smyrna High 3-1 in the first game of the quarterfinal doubleheader at Delaware Military Academy.

Despite the fact the Senators reached the semifinals two years ago, this is a new experience for most of the roster.

Dover has 11 players on its varsity squad who are sophomores or freshmen. This same group missed out on last year’s tournament with a 6-7-2 record. They lost three of those contests by one goal which could have been the difference between making and falling short of the eight-team field.

“Last year they were so close in one-goal games,” said Dover coach Denise Kimbro. “They worked hard all year. They weren’t going to let it happen again.”

“Last year was really frustrating, it seemed like we would always been on the losing side of one of these games,” Clark said. “But we worked really hard this summer to change that so we’d be able to come out on top.”

Concord took the early lead on Thursday before Clark knotted things up 1-1 with a goal 15 minutes into the first half.

The score stayed that way for the rest of regulation and the first 15-minute overtime period. Both teams had their chances to win it but goalies Richana Brown of Dover and Meghan McCullin of Concord each came up with clutch saves in the final minutes.

It wasn’t until Clark’s pass rolled to the corner of the cage for Gigliotti to push across the line that the Senators could rush the field and celebrate in a pile in front of Concord’s goal.

“It’s been a goal for us for a long time,” Gigliotti said. “We’ve know we’ve had the capability to do it. It’s actually happening now so we’re really excited.”

Padua 3, Smyrna 1: The Eagles held possession for most of the first half and had 10 penalty corners in the first but could not capitalize as they fell to Padua on Thursday.

The Pandas scored the game’s first two goals before Smyrna’s Madison Simpson cut the deficit in half with a goal four minutes before halftime.

Smyrna received a save from goalie Brynn Rifino on a penalty stroke earlier in the second half. But the Eagles failed to turn that momentum into another goal.

“I was confident in Brynn that she would be able to save that,” said Smyrna coach Nicki Shirey. “That always gives a team momentum. We just couldn’t get another one in though. We were a little lacking offensively. Our heart was there, we just couldn’t finish.”

The Eagles were playing in the state tournament for the second season in a row. They wrapped up the year with a 9-6-1 overall record.

Smyrna will only graduate four players after this season.

“We’re a young team with a lot of young girls out there,” Shirey said. “I think they performed well under pressure for as young as we are. The future looks promising. This is definitely something to build off of.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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