In its first NHIAA Tournament appearance in four years, the Keene Blackbirds field hockey team looked like a team full of seasoned veterans on Wednesday in Keene, defeating Nashua North, 6-0, to advance to the second round of the tournament.
“We’ve had this whole season to work up to this one game. We looked at all the games as preparing for this,” said Keene head coach Michelle Tiani. “We were working on very specific things and it was amazing to see it all pull together today.”
Seniors Nelly Tattersall and Britta Baybutt led the team with two goals each, while sophomores Katie Harrington and Kaylyn Trubiano each added goals of their own to the rout.
The Blackbirds offense had control of the ball almost exclusively from the very first minute of action. Keene forwards and midfielders were winning battles and getting shots on goal to keep the pressure on the Nashua North defense.
“It was just such a team effort today. It was wonderful to see,” Tiani said.
Although Keene created scoring opportunities, it took a while to convert. The Blackbirds had five penalty corners in the first quarter, yet the score was tied at 0-0 after the first 15 minutes.
“Our penalty corners are a tough spot for us right now,” Tiani said. “We haven’t capitalized on those yet, so that will be a big focus for us moving forward.”
Finally, five minutes into the second quarter, Tattersall was in the right place to give her team a 1-0 lead.
Then the offense got rolling.
Not four minutes later, Harrington doubled the Blackbirds lead off a penalty corner, giving them a 2-0 lead with 6:05 remaining in the half, and that score would hold until the break.
The Blackbirds offense really found its groove in the third quarter, scoring three goals in three minutes and one more later in the quarter, giving them a 6-0 lead heading into the final frame.
“[The offense] gets very nervous in that pressure to score … but today they remembered that they have a teammate that has their back,” Tiani said.
Baybutt got that third quarter scoring flurry started and then Tattersall would score her second of the game, followed by Trubiano scoring one of her own.
Baybutt scored again later in the third quarter.
The 6-0 lead stayed intact until the final buzzer.
Sophomore goalie Bella Venezia pitched the shutout, although she may have felt more like a spectator at times, as most of the action was on the opposite end of the field.
Nashua North did not get off a shot on goal at any point in the game.
“The good thing with Bella, even when she’s not making saves, is she’s putting her input in,” Tiani said. “She’s coming in in the middle of the quarters and saying ‘This is what I saw, make sure you see this.’ She might not be in the direct action, but she is always involved in it.”
The Blackbirds had 16 penalty corners and did not give Nashua North any corner opportunities. Keene’s offense shot the ball 19 times; Nashua North had none.
“It’s been a while,” Tiani said on breaking the program’s postseason streak. “It’s awesome. For [these girls] to get this and put it all together, it feels so good for them. It just feels so good for them to be successful.”
Keene next plays Bishop Guertin, the 4-1 winner of their matchup with Merrimack, who also played Wednesday. The next round begins Saturday at 2 p.m. for the Blackbirds. The location of the game is yet to be determined.