With eight minutes remaining in the second overtime of Tuesday’s North 1 Group III first-round game, Roxbury head coach Dianne Naugle-Douglas had a decision to make.
Her team had just been awarded a penalty stroke after a scramble in front of the net and Naugle-Douglas had to choose from a group of players she trusted to take the shot.
After a quick thought, she called the name of senior Sammie Darling, who stepped up and rewarded her coach’s faith in her, finding the back of the net and giving eighth-seeded Roxbury a 1-0 victory over ninth-seeded Montville.
“She said Sammie and I went, ‘Uh oh,’ ” Darling laughed. “No, I felt really happy that she chose me and I felt confident when she said my name.”
Naugle-Douglas said that her decision was made in part because of pregame warm-ups and in part because of the rest Darling had gotten towards the end of the first overtime.
“Honestly, I thought she would have more legs then some of my other players who had been running a little bit more,” she said. “And we went through a couple strokes before the game started and she was pinpoint on them. I could have gone with three players and been confident with any one of the three of them.”
Tuesday’s contest continued the Gaels’ trend of starting slowly and picking things up in the second half as Montville controlled possession and scoring chances in the game’s first 30 minutes.
But Naugle-Douglas sent a message to her team at halftime and they responded, earning four penalty corners in the half after just a one in the first half.
“Wins don’t happen magically, wins happen through hard work,” she said of the message she gave her team at halftime. “You have to get better each and every half and we seem to do that, we seem to play better in the second half than in the first.”
The game almost didn’t reach overtime when Roxbury sent a shot towards the cage with just over three minutes left that got through the Montville defense and past goalie Sarah Karback. But senior Kayla Lewis was able to knock the ball out of the air and clear it from the goal line to prevent a goal and keep the game knotted at zero.
The save shocked the Gaels, but they immediately pushed it out of their minds and focused on overtime.
“Honestly, it was a great save,” Darling said. “We were all just kind of like, ‘What!’ But going into overtime, you’re happy you get to keep going.”
The first overtime was spent mostly in the midfield with the Mustangs generating the best scoring chance with just under two minutes remaining when they let lose a shot that was saved. That sent the game to the second overtime where Darling was the hero, and left with a moment she will never forget.
“It feels so awesome,” she said. “You feel like electric running through your body the minute you score a goal. But honestly, the first thing on my mind was to go to my teammates.”
Darling didn’t have to worry about that as the minute her stroke hit the back of the net her teammates came pouring onto the field to mob her.
“You just see a whole bunch of white come running out to you,” she said. “It is just overwhelming.”
Roxbury now moves on to face top-seeded Northern Highlands in Saturday’s quarterfinal round.