HAMPDEN — One go-ahead goal didn’t count. And neither did a second one.

For many teams, seeing one late lead after another waved off would serve as a killer of momentum, a shot to the spirit. For the players on the Winthrop High School field hockey team, however, it just convinced them that their most dramatic moment was ahead of them.

“It made them angry. I think it gave them even more drive to just put it in,” coach Jessica Merrill said. “I just remember the girls coming back and saying ‘We’ve got this, we’ve got this.’ ”

They were right. Winthrop found the net 4:41 into overtime off a corner, with Katie Perkins swooping in to redirect a Kinli DiBiase shot and lift the top-seeded Ramblers to a 2-1 victory over No. 2 Dexter in the Class C North final Tuesday night at Hampden Academy.

This time, it counted, and as a result, the Ramblers will play in their first state final since 2012, looking for their first title since 1989.

“I was really excited for the girls,” Merrill said. “We worked hard all season long, and we really didn’t have this expectation with so many places, so many spots to fill.”

Winthrop improved to 15-1-1, while Dexter fell to 14-3-0.

“Our goal was to come on later in the season, but for us to do what we’ve done, it’s a surprise,” Merrill said. “I’m just so proud of them.”

The Ramblers, who fell in this game last year to MCI, 3-0, appeared to break a 1-1 tie off a pair of long shots from at least 20 yards out. The first came with 16:45 remaining when Moriah Hajduk’s straight-on shot kicked back into play and was redirected in, only for the celebration to be cut short when officials ruled that the shot had caromed off the back of the cage and gone in without the required touch from inside the circle.

Winthrop seemed to jump on top again with just over 10 minutes left, with Perkins this time skipping the long shot that Nora Conrad knocked in, but it was ruled again that the ball had gone into the net illegally on Perkins’ shot, rather than hit off the post.

The sequence posed the threat of deflating the Ramblers. Their coach saw the opposite effect.

“It gave the girls confidence,” Merrill said. “We saw that we were having success. We were putting it in.”

The Ramblers had chances to put the game away in regulation, and though they came up short, they cashed in when they had the chance in the extra period. Winthrop was awarded a corner with 3:31 to go and Kerrigan Anuszewski sent it over to Hajduk, who passed it over to DiBiase heading toward the left side of the goal. The senior sent a shot from the tight angle toward the right side of the cage, and Perkins raced in in time to get a stick on the shot and tip it in for the winner.

“I saw she was going up to the top, so I cut down to the post,” Perkins said. “I knew I had to get my stick just inside for it to go in, so if I got a tip, it would go in and not just wide of the cage.”‘

Perkins said she didn’t know if DiBiase’s shot would have made it in anyway. She didn’t feel like finding out.

“I don’t know if it would have gone wide or hit the post,” she said. “But I just made sure to get that touch on it. … We make sure we’re always low, and we don’t swing at the ball so we don’t whiff it.”

Winthrop took the game’s first lead with 8:57 left in the first half. Hanna Caprara sent the ball over to Anuszewski, who hit junior back Layne Audet with a perfect pass toward the net between two Dexter defenders. Audet finished off the setup with a quick shot into the cage, making it 1-0 with her first goal of the season.

“It was my first goal in varsity, so it was pretty cool to have it in a game as important as this,” Audet said. “I just saw it come in from the left and no one was going to it, so I just hit it in.”

The Tigers responded with 26:12 left in the second half after a Winthrop infraction awarded Dexter a penalty stroke. Captain Rebecca Batron fired the shot without hesitation, burying it into the net to tie the game at 1.

Winthrop would have the final answer. It would just have to wait a little longer than it anticipated.

“I think we had that going in our favor that we’ve been here before, we’ve been under that type of pressure,” Merrill said, referring to last year’s defeat. “To have it not go the way we wanted it to go last year, it gave the girls so much drive. They refused to lose.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.