Junior Kaylyn Trubiano scored the game-winner for the Keene High field hockey team in its 1-0 win over Merrimack Thursday afternoon in Keene.
Trubiano’s goal came just a minute and a half into the third quarter, off a feed from classmate Katie Harrington.
“I saw an opening in the corner, shot it and hoped for the best,” Trubiano said. “We always shoot when we’re in the circle, so I just went for it.”
Keene’s offense spent the entire first half trying to capitalize on an abundance of scoring opportunities — including a goal from Harrington in the second quarter that was called off because the ball went off a foot — but could not find the back of the net until the second half.
“We had a bad break, it went off a foot,” said head coach Michelle Tiani. “We’re right there. It’s going to click at some point. They’re creating opportunities, so it’s just a matter of time.”
When the offense isn’t quite clicking, a strong defense is imperative to keep the team in the game. The Blackbirds had that Thursday, with seniors Claire Stroshine and Meghan Ylitalo holding down the back line.
Along with the seniors, freshman Avery Allaire and junior Gwennie Walier rotated in to help pitch the shutout.
“When there’s only one [goal], you really rely on the defense,” Tinai said. “Having that senior leadership in there, knowing we have Gwennie and Avery, there’s no real worry. The defense is so consistent.”
“The back is kind of the backbone of the group,” Stroshine said. “When we’re struggling in the offensive zone, we help push the ball up front and give them the most support that we can.”
The teams were scoreless at the break, despite the Blackbirds controlling possession and creating a flurry of scoring chances for much of the first half.
Tiani sent out her non-senior lineup at the start the second half to give her seniors some extra rest, and Trubiano came through.
“The seniors were all happy, I was happy,” Trubiano said. “It was exciting. Feels really good.”
From there, it was up to the defense to continue to hold off the Merrimack offense.
And they did.
“It felt awesome,” Stroshine said of Trubiano’s goal. “It brings up the whole team’s attitude. It brings up the intensity, helps us kick it into second gear.”
Merrimack’s best chance to score came with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter when they had four consecutive penalty corners in the three-minute span, but the Blackbirds held firm.
“[Merrimack] made us work for it,” Tiani said. “Overall, it was really good. They battled, they fought, they played really well together. Happy for the win.”
Freshman Sofia Miller just missed on an insurance goal with four minutes to play, shooting just left of the cage, but the Blackbirds did what they had to do and held on for the win.
The victory puts the Blackbirds in ninth in the Division I standings with two games left to play. The top 11 teams make the playoffs.
Keene (6-7-1) hosts Bishop Guertin Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. before visiting Concord Thursday to wrap up the regular season.