WINTHROP — Jessica Merrill didn’t have to give any pre-game speeches to calm her Winthrop field hockey players down or lift their confidence before Tuesday’s Class C North quarterfinal matchup with Mount View.

If anything, the Ramblers coach was wondering if she’d need to amp them up.

“We were really worried that, coming off of our win (in the) MVC championship on Friday, that the girls would come out weak, come out flat,” Merrill said.

As it turned out, Merrill had nothing to worry about. Winthrop took control of the game in the first half and extended it in the second, earning a trip to the regional semifinals with a 3-1 victory over Mount View on a wet and dreary afternoon.

“We met their intensity,” Merrill said. “I don’t think we played our best today, considering the conditions and what they brought, but I’m really pleased at how well they stuck together.”

The quarterfinal round had become a stumbling block for the Ramblers, who made back-to-back Class C finals in 2011-2012 but were one-and-done the past two seasons. The Ramblers never trailed Tuesday, however, as they snapped the brief skid of early exits.


“That was a really big deal, and it was really special to us seniors,” forward Emily Molino said. “We’ve been trying really hard for the last two years.”

Molino helped ensure that the Ramblers would get over the hump. Winthrop was controlling play but was still looking for its first goal when it was awarded its third corner of the game. The ball bounced over to Moriah Hajduk, who ripped a hard shot that Mount View goalie Alexis Bowman (three saves) was able to steer aside. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the ball redirected directly to Molino, who calmly knocked it into the cage for a 1-0 lead with 12:45 left in the half.

“Everyone’s been saying this was going to be the hardest game of the season, and to get on the scoreboard before they did, we knew it was important,” Molino said. “We got a jump start ahead and we took it from there.”

It was among the easiest goals of the season for Molino, who was unmarked near the goal and in prime position for the rebound.

“Usually I’m double-, triple-teamed there. They’re always like ‘Get on 20!'” Molino said. “I was really surprised that it was just wide open.”

After setting up the goal, Hajduk worked by herself for an emphatic start to the second half. The sophomore nudged the ball toward the center of the field and, with her back turned to the goalie, wheeled around and fired a shot that zipped by Bowman to her left and in for a 2-0 lead with 27:53 to play.


It was one of several hard shots Hajduk had during the afternoon, and she was relieved to see it was also her most accurate.

“I was able to do a pull-around and take a good shot to the corner, which I didn’t really intend to happen,” Hajduk said. “It worked out okay, so I was happy with that.”

Mount View’s best chance to get into the game came moments later. The Mustangs set up in the Winthrop end, and were awarded four penalty corners within two minutes starting with 20:46 to play as they increased the pressure on the Ramblers’ defense. None of the chances materialized — Reanna Boulay had a hard shot sail just right of the cage and Mount View had another good look with a loose ball near the cage — and Winthrop eventually cleared the ball to mark a costly missed opportunity.

“Something’s going to happen, we’re going to score something here,” Mount View coach Gloria Hewett recalled thinking. “But they’re really good. They’re a good team.”

The sequence resonated on the other sideline.

“If they got a goal in on one of those corners, it definitely would have been a game-changer for them,” said Merrill, whose team got two saves from Corinna Coulton. “It gave us that much more confidence to know that we can battle in this position where we’re not playing well and we can keep that ball out.”


Mount View eventually broke through on the scoreboard when Summer Brown knocked in a loose ball with 12:32 left, but it only came after Winthrop’s Sarah Spahr knocked in a shot from up close to make it 3-0 Ramblers with 13:20 left.

“Winthrop played a great game. They played fast, they played well and they didn’t give up the ball at all,” Hewett said. “When there was a change in direction, like when they got a free hit, they were onto it really, really fast.”

Not perfectly, though. At least not according to Merrill, who wasn’t thrilled to see her team out-cornered 5-3 in the first half after posting a 4-1 advantage in the first half.

“I think we did a lot better in the first half controlling play. In the second half they got a lot more corners than I ever want to see again,” she said, laughing.

It was more than enough, however.

“We knew that, on our good days, we can definitely take almost any team in the state if we really wanted to because we’re a very experienced team and skillful,” Hajduk said. “This may not have been our best game, considering the weather and a hard field to play with today, but I think we did really well in regards to keeping up the intensity.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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