Home field edge helps Concord field hockey hold off Central/West, 3-2

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11CONCORD, NH — In an era when just about every high school in New Hampshire has an artificial turf field available for use, there may be no greater home-field advantage than the one enjoyed by a field hockey team that plays its home games on natural grass.

On an artificial surface, the game is all about speed and ball handling on a perfectly smooth, true surface. Everything changes on grass. A choppy, natural surface slows the players and causes the ball to take some unusual bounces. The thick grass slows the roll of the ball, allowing for some thunderous lead passes that stay in play. Attempts at precision passes with gentle strokes tend to go nowhere.

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That advantage was on full display Wednesday, at Rollins Park, as Concord High fought off a challenge from Central/West, 3-2.  Junior Emma Beaujouan scored on a blast from 15 yards out with just over four minutes to play in the third quarter, snapping a 2-2 tie.

Central/West (5-5-0) pulled out all the stops in the fourth quarter, pressing the attack to try and get the equalizer, only to be stymied by a stingy Crimson Tide defense.

“Concord played a helluva game. They used their knowledge on this surface to a great advantage and it took us about a quarter-and-a-half to adjust our game to the surface and the style,” said Central/West Coach Bill Larkins. “We made our adjustments and they played with a lot of grit. These girls never gave up.”



Katelyn Dudley had both goals for Central/West, continuing to score in bunches for the Little Green. After scoring just one goal in its first four games (1-3), the Little Green has tallied eight times in its last three.

The two goals were the most given up by Concord in a home game this season.

Concord (7-3-0) drew first blood, midway through the first quarter. Kayla Taylor took a feed from Aly McGonigle and was able to beat Central/West goalie Chloe Gilroy for a 1-0 lead.

The Crimson Tide doubled its lead in the second quarter, with Amy Desrochers tipping home a shot by Beaujouan.

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As Central/West began to get acclimated to the grass surface, it began to mount a comeback. With about a minute to play in the first half, the Little Green buzzed the net and got on the board with Taylor’s first goal of the day.

Just 32 seconds into the third quarter, Taylor struck again. The game was tied, 2-2, and Concord was back on its heels. To their credit, the Crimson Tide was able to regroup, and as they did, they started taking control of the midfield.

Suddenly, the Little Green began having trouble transitioning from defense to offense. The Concord midfielders, led by Malena Caceres, kept Central/West pinned down, scrambling to clear the ball.


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Concord was able to take advantage of consecutive penalty corners to take the lead for good. Off the first, with 5:20 to play in the quarter, Concord’s Lily Merrill looked to have broken the tie, only to have the ball cleared by a Little Green defender just before crossing the line.

On the second corner, Beaujouan left nothing to chance. She gathered in a pass at the top of the circle, took one step inside and ripped a thigh-high shot past Gilroy and into the back of the cage with 4:07 to play.

Down a goal, Central/West cranked up its sensed of urgency and pressed the attack. Harriet Barber, Zoe Demers, Taylor and Alisa Bonia pushed the ball up the field repeatedly but were stopped cold by the Concord defense when they tried to penetrate the attack zone.

“We just couldn’t penetrate the circle.” said Larkins. “That was our real struggle in the second half. We were getting up the field to the 25, to the circle. Then, if it was a set piece, they packed the circle nicely and then (the ball) would come back out.”

Gilroy played a strong game in net for Central/West, finishing with 7 saves. She got strong support in front from Armani Holmes.

Central/West will be back in action Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Memorial (0-8-0) before traveling to Exeter (9-1-1) on Monday.




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Bill Gilman

Bill Gilman is a veteran journalist with 35 years of experience covering community news and sports in New England. He and his wife have two grown sons and two perfect granddaughters.