MANCHESTER — The Manchester Essex field hockey team finds itself in very familiar territory: the Division 2 North Semifnals.
The Hornets entered the state tournament with an undefeated 15-0-3 record, 33 points and the No. 2 overall seed in the Division 2 North State Tournament and opened up as heavy favorites over No. 7 Newburyport, a team they beat 3-0 in the regular season.
On Saturday at Hyland Field, Manchester Essex proved why it’s one of the favorites in the North section, turning in a dominant 4-0 win.
The win gets the Hornets back to the sectional semifinals for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.
Led by Cape Ann League All Stars and senior captains in forwards Brittany Smith and Anna Heffernan, midfielder Taylor Meek and Sarah Beckman on defense, first year head coach Kara Beauregard is confident that the Hornets can make another deep tournament run. But Newburyport was not a team to be taken lightly, boasting a 10-5-3 record of its own with 23 points while coming off a big win over Marblehead in the first round.
Manchester Essex (16-0-3), however, showed why it is such a confident bunch playing like a team that did not want its season to end on Saturday. The Hornets dominated play on both ends of the field as the Clippers had trouble getting, and keeping, the ball out of their own zone.
Smith started things off quickly scoring Manchester Essex’s first goal in the opening minutes and it never looked back.
Senior Rachael Gallagher then followed suit by scoring a goal of her own just before the 20-minute mark. Meek followed five minutes later to give the Hornets a 3-0 lead in the middle of the first half, a lead they would take into halftime.
The Clippers looked a lot stronger to start the second half but it was the Manchester Essex defense that kicked it into another gear and showed why it finished the regular season unbeaten. Newburyport had a few corners and a couple offensive rushes but couldn’t convert on any of them, as the Hornets defense was just too strong.