TOWNSEND -- The game plan was to frustrate Leominster senior all-star forward Dominique Zarrella.
The North Middlesex Regional field hockey team certainly executed the plan in the first half, but Leominster had the answer in the deciding second stanza.
Trailing 1-0 to the host Patriots, Leominster got the life it needed on junior Sarah Arsenault's game-tying goal with 11 minutes left.
Four minutes later, junior Hannah Buckley found the back of the cage to give the Blue Devils a dramatic, come-from-behind 2-1 non-league victory Wednesday afternoon at North Middlesex Regional High School.
"We definitely came out with a lot more energy, and we weren't going to let them beat us," Buckley said. "We're not going to let them do that, especially coming off a loss to Shrewsbury.
"It feels amazing. We worked really hard in the second half. It's such a good feeling."
The Blue Devils improved to 4-1, while North Middlesex dipped to 0-4-1.
"They definitely turned it around in the second half," North Middlesex coach Kelly Marciano said. "I have to commend Hannah Buckley because we tried to take Dominique out of the game by marking her end to end, and Hannah really stepped up. Credit to her."
Credit the entire Leominster unit in the second half.
While the Blue Devils were bottled up by North Middlesex's strong defensive play by Katie DeLeo, Eryn Melanson, Kylene O'Neil and Ashley Rosko in the first 30 minutes, they were a totally different team -- certainly more hungry -- in the final 30.
After North Middlesex watched Casey and Buckley break down the defense only to come up empty on scoring bids, the Pats took a timeout with 15:57 to play.
But that did nothing to stop the hard-charging Blue Devils.
Leominster kept pushing the action and got rewarded with 11 minutes to play, as Arsenault popped in a loose ball past North Middlesex keeper Olivia Dineen on the far post off a Blue Devils penalty corner to knot the game at 1-1.
That was Arsenault's first tally of the season, and it couldn't have come at a better time for Leominster.
"It was so important," said Buckley about tying the game up off a penalty corner. "I'm so proud of (Arsenault). Once you score a goal and get moment like that, the whole team just comes together.
"It's like a wake-up call."
That was just the motivation Leominster needed to attack even harder.
Marciano knew that was bad for her team, too.
"If anything, that goal just motivated them to play harder," the NM coach said. "I could see it. I knew they weren't going to back down."
Four minutes later, Leominster found itself up 2-1.
The ball was hit into a pack of players and deflected right to the top of the circle, where Buckley was left wide open.
"I'm alone a lot of the time, so I just use it to my advantage," said the ultra-quick forward.
With the ball in front of her, Buckley wound up and smacked a shot through a wall of defenders that beat Dineen to the far post, giving Leominster a shocking 2-1 advantage with 7:01 remaining.
"I saw the opportunity, so I was waiting at the top of the circle for it and I finally got it and it went through everyone's legs ... thank God," Buckley said.
Was she aiming at the far post? Nope.
"I have horrible aim; I did not see that coming," she joked.
North Middlesex tried to rally, but Allison Kleeman was rejected by Leominster goalie Kasey Mammone with 5:25 left.
"We just couldn't finish," Marciano said. "We had our opportunities in there, but we couldn't put it in there. We're very happy with the effort; I'm always happy with the effort. I'm not happy with the outcome, but we've got them one more time (this season)."
The Patriots played a sensational first half, limiting Leominster's chances while keeping a close eye on sniper Zarrella. The Pats even took their first lead on their first goal of the season with 17:21 left in the opening half.
"That was a big thing -- get the monkey off the back," Marciano said.
On a textbook play, Marie Shepard dished off to Danielle Kobleigh on the far post, and the senior knocked the ball past Mammone for a 1-0 lead.
Hannah Mason played another strong game in the midfield for Leominster, as did senior captain Rosko for the Patriots.
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