Manning lifts Rockets past Raiders in playoffs

The Needham High School varsity field hockey team mobs goaltender Carolina O’Connor (55) in celebration following their 1-0 win over arch rival Wellesley on Saturday night in the DI South quarterfinals.

By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor

The Needham and Wellesley High School field hockey teams wrote the latest chapter of their epic and historic rivalry on Saturday evening, as the two Bay State Conference powerhouses squared off in the Division I South quarterfinals at DeFazio Park.

The Rockets (15-4-0) received the No. 7 overall seed in the South despite falling 1-0 to Wellesley (13-5-2) back on October 24. The Raiders received the No. 10 seed and were forced to play a first-round game against Hingham (3-0 win) just to get to the quarterfinal round.

Both sides began the game playing extremely conservatively, making sure not to put themselves in an early hole by taking unnecessary risks. As time expired at the end of the first half, Needham was awarded a penalty corner. With zeros on the clock, Eileen Manning whacked home the ball home out of mid-air on the penalty corner to draw first blood for Needham, and the Rockets entered halftime exuberant and ahead 1-0.

The second half saw some extremely aggressive play out of Wellesley, who controlled the majority of the possessions and peppered the Needham cage with shots in an attempt to tie the game. The best chance of the second half for Wellesley came from Kayla Johnston, who burst down the right wing, drove the cage, and fired a shot that was kicked away by a sprawling Caroline O’Connor to preserve the 1-0 Needham lead.

Wellesley was awarded two late penalty corners, but stout defensive play by the Needham backfield, highlighted by a pair of forced turnovers by Callie Hem, kept Wellesley off the scoreboard and allowed Needham to escape with the 1-0 victory.

For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.

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