Walpole’s Molly Weland (22) and Needham’s Mackenzie Kelly (left) race for a loose ball.
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Two of the Bay State Conference’s elite met on the turf at DeFazio Park on Thursday afternoon as the unbeaten Walpole Porkers (9-0, 6-0) took on the hosting Needham Rockets (5-2, 4-1) for a pivotal midseason matchup worth more than just bragging rights, with future tournament seedings well on the line.
Senior Brooke Skulski got the Porkers on the board less than 10 minutes in by tapping home the rebound of a penalty corner bid to make it 1-0, Porkers.
The teams exchanged blows throughout the remainder of the first half, but both goaltenders stood tall as Needham’s Camryn Foster (nine saves) and Walpole’s Giovanna Anello (seven saves) kicked away everything that came their way. A huge lunging save with the left pad by Foster robbed Walpole’s Nikki Griffin on the doorstep just before the half to kept it a 1-0 game at the break.
Needham upped its intensity and began peppering the Walpole cage at the beginning of the second half. The Rockets were awarded a series of consecutive penalty corners, but the Porkers defended them perfectly, blocking shots and knocking the ball up the field to thwart the tying goal.
Despite the onslaught of pressure by Needham, Walpole continued to play lockdown defense. A late diving save by Anello on Callie Hem during a penalty corner in the game’s final minute proved to be the game’s turning point, as the Porkers were able to advance the ball up the field and kill the remainder of the clock to hang on for the 1-0 victory.
Needham will look to get back on track at Milton on October 11, while the Porkers will attempt to remain unbeaten when Walpole hosts Weymouth that same afternoon.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.