It took seventh-seed Daniel Hand of Madison 60 minutes of regulation and more than five minutes of seven-on-seven over time to get a goal. In the end, that was all it took for the Tigers to edge No. 14 Bethel in a 1-0 outcome in the Class M state tournament field hockey semifinals, at neutral site Trumbull High on November 19.
Bethel, despite being challenged with 14 Hand penalty corners, continued its recipe for success — shutdown and shutout work by the defense and goaltender — which carried it through the regular season stretch run and two rounds of states. Until Hand's Grace Hartmann followed up a rebound of a breakaway shot that was denied by Bethel goaltender Sophie Morris (nine saves). The winning tally came with 4:41 to go in the first 10-minute OT.
Bethel won three games and tied another to close out the regular season, not allowing a goal in those contests, to narrowly qualify for the state bracket. After falling to Newtown in the SWC tourney's first round, Bethel then blanked East Lyme and Suffield both by 1-0 scores in the first and quarterfinal rounds of state play.
Strong defense was turned in by MacKenzie Healy, Victoria Amarillo, Jacqi Pijnenburg and Abigail Flamme.
"I'm very proud of how we played," Bethel Coach Katie Ciskowski said. "It's been quite the run."
A collective effort helped the Wildcats shut opponents down late in the campaign and in states.
"Everybody came back. It was team defense," the coach said.
Bethel was led by the offensive prowess of Victoria Gracy, whom Ciskowski noted either scored or assisted each of Bethel's 21 goals this season, but there was plenty of support from teammates as the Wildcats shook off a slow start to the slate.
"All season they played together. They're a very close group of girls," Ciskowski added.