Members of Newtown High School’s field hockey team have certainly had an exciting week, and they will try to keep it going in the playoffs. The Nighthawks earned a berth in the South-West Conference Tournament, getting in as the eighth and final seed of the bracket, and capped off the regular season with a dramatic overtime win over Joel Barlow of Redding on Senior Night on October 22.
Caroline Chocholak broke a scoreless stalemate with 5:25 remaining in the ten-minute overtime period when she banged home a rebound of her initial shot, set up by Emily Campbell for a 1-0 win under the lights at Blue & Gold Stadium. When the ball hit the back of the cage there was a big celebration among the Nighthawk players who had to watch the Falcons celebrate a 1-0 OT triumph only a couple of weeks earlier. After the game, the Newtown players learned that they also qualified for the SWC playoffs despite heavy turnover from a year ago when the team lost most of its roster to graduation.
“That was awesome,” Chocholak said of clinching the win and finding out her team had a conference playoff game just around the corner. “I thought we were just going to make it into states.”
The Nighthawks hope to turn the tables on first-round SWC tourney opponent and top-seeded Lauralton Hall of Milford, just as they did against Barlow. In Newtown’s only meeting with Lauralton, the Hawks fell 2-0.
Newtown had played to a trio of ties and suffered that one extra session loss to Barlow before finally getting a taste of sudden death victory to cap the regular season with an overall record of 6-6-3-1 (wins, losses, ties, and overtime losses).
“That was the first time we won in overtime,” Campbell exclaimed.
Newtown goaltender Casey Demers made four saves and came up with a couple of important overtime kick-aways to move the ball out of danger. The game-winning goal as a result of a transition play after the Falcons were knocking on the door.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Caroline Tanner, who helped set up the game-deciding play.
Needless to say, Newtown Coach Stephanie Paproski was thrilled with the outcome, and the coach also was proud of her players for their efforts that led to the victory.
“I think our girls really worked hard for this win. It was really well-deserved; we played as a team,” Paproski said.
Both teams had good chances set up off penalty corners; Newtown had five corners and Barlow managed seven.
Newtown will visit Lauralton at 4 pm on Friday, October 25, and the Nighthawks were planning, after the Barlow game, to utilize the Newtown High back grass fields to prepare for their opponent. Newtown is accustomed to playing on turf, but Paproski and the players are confident they will be up to the task of playing on Lauralton’s grass surface — especially after the confidence boost the team got from beating Barlow.
“I think it’s going to be a good game. I think if they play like they did tonight it will be a competitive game,” said Paproski, adding that her team’s ball-controlling stick skills should be an asset on Lauralton’s natural surface field.
“I think this game is really going to give us the push to play harder than we have all year,” senior captain Erica Thill added.
Lauralton went unbeaten this season, but the Nighthawks hung in there during their regular-season meeting.
“We’re really looking forward to getting revenge against Lauralton,” said Julia Diluofo, also a senior captain, noting that the team caught some bad breaks in the October 14 loss to Lauralton. “I think it’s going to be a really difficult challenge.”