GROTON -- There are fewer better ways to send out a senior class than with a dominating performance on home turf. That is exactly how the Groton-Dunstable field hockey team sent eight seniors on their way on Saturday morning. The Lady Crusaders controlled every facet of the game from the opening whistle to the final second, claiming a 3-0 victory over Fitchburg in nonleague action.
"You know, the record might not show it, but this was a very good season for us, especially with the move up in leagues," said Groton-Dunstable coach Mary Desmond, whose team finished 5-10-3 on the year. "We were competitive throughout and proved to ourselves that we could compete at the highest level. The girls effort throughout was outstanding and I knew I was going to get 60 minutes every game. I am just proud to see this class go out in the style they deserved."
It was fitting on Senior Day that a group of seniors would lead the way. Lauren Johnson paced the offense with a pair of goals while Liz Gonzales posted a shutout in between the pipes for the Lady Crusaders as part of a great defensive effort that saw only one shot put on net during the contest.
"Our defense today was outstanding and we had all eight seniors play the full 60 minutes, which was great," said Desmond. "This was just a great group of girls to coach, and while I wish we had more success in the wins department, this truly was a fun season to be involved in. It is going to be tough to replace this group of girls as they have meant a lot to the program's rise.
After a couple of close calls, Groton-Dunstable broke the ice at the 19:19 mark of the first half. Michelle Herilihy drove down the right side before sending a pass to the middle of the circle. Johnson was there to send a one-timer inside the left post and past the pad of Fitchburg goalkeeper Whitney Payton (11 saves) to give the Lady Crusaders a 1-0 lead.
With just two seconds left in the opening half, it seemed Groton-Dunstable had doubled their lead, but a goal was disallowed. Lauren Kraemer sent a shot from about 25 yards out towards the net and it got through a pair of defenders and found the back of the net, but it was determined that the ball was not touched in the circle, deeming the goal no good and keeping it a one-goal game at the intermission.
Midway through the second half, the Lady Crusaders saw a pair of golden opportunities go by the board. Hailey McEvoy drove to the middle of the circle and lined a shot that was kicked away by Payton. The rebound came back to McEvoy, who tried again from point-blank range only to have Payton turn the shot away again to keep it 1-0.
Eventually though, Groton-Dunstable would strike to make it a two-goal game. At the 51:32 mark, Kelsey Hannemann led a two-on-two break, sending a lead pass to Johnson who fired a shot from the right side across her body and inside the left post to push the advantage to 2-0.
Just under five minutes later, the Lady Crusaders added an insurance goal to ice the game. Livy Penney made an impressive run down the left side before sending a pass through a sea of defenders to an open Herilihy, who flicked a shot from 10 yards out that slipped inside the left post to account for the 3-0 final.
"To close out a season with a great performance like this, especially getting a shutout, was great to see," said Desmond. "I just can't say enough about this team and their desire. They left a mark on the school and have this program headed in the right direction going into next season."