The U-32 Raiders had seen this before: Rice Memorial’s Kelly St. Marie stepping to the line for a penalty stroke.
This time, the result was precisely the same. St. Marie converted the opportunity to give the Green Knights a 1-0 lead, just as she did in scoring the game’s first goal during a 4-1 regular-season victory over the Raiders.
This goal had greater implications: It started Rice on its way to its fifth appearance in six years in a high school field hockey championship game after the Knights eliminated U-32, 2-0, in Tuesday evening’s frigid Division II semifinal at South Burlington High School.
Saturday at UVM’s Moulton-Winder Field, the top-seeded Green Knights (14-0-2) will face the winner of the Harwood-Mount Abraham semifinal that will be played today at Middlebury College.
The penalty stroke was awarded to Rice after a U-32 defender sprawled on the line behind Raider goalie Bailee Hudson and stopped what would have been a Green Knights’ goal.
“I was pretty nervous but I had done one once before during the regular season,” said St. Marie, referring to the earlier meeting with U-32. “I was a little bit confident and I can rely on my team for everything else so I knew whether I made it or not, we’d come back from it.”
St. Marie elected to shoot high to the right of Hudson (16 saves), giving the goalkeeper no chance for the stop.
“That top left, that’s what I do every time. We do that in practice, so I felt pretty confident,” St. Marie said.
St. Marie’s goal was the only score of the first half, a period in which Rice exerted more pressure as reflected by an 8-1 advantage in corners.
Only 1:50 into the second half, Rice’s Sierra Combs knocked in the second goal.
“It did help the team relax,” St. Marie said of Combs’ tally. “Whenever we score, it boosts up the team energy overall.”
Combs later had a breakaway chance but Hudson rushed out to make the stop. Soon thereafter, the game’s momentum swung decisively in U-32’s favor. The Raiders pressed hard against Rice goalie Maura Sheridan (9 saves) but a defense led by left defender Paige Tremblay held fast.
“The last 15 minutes, they came at us because obviously they want their season to continue and kudos to them, they did a really good job,” St. Marie said.
“They took control. Props to that team, they never gave up. They got corner after corner,” said Rice coach Kelly McClintock of U-32. “Our defense really stepped up. Our win was defense. They carried out strong, especially at the end of the second half.
“Paige Tremblay was the MVP today. She carried out so strong and fed our forwards,” said McClintock. “She was calm and consistent.”
“We were able to handle the ball fairly well. In the first half, we could have taken care of a few opportunities a little better up in the circle,” U-32 coach Melissa Muller-Moore said. “I felt we created offense throughout the game.”