BOLTON — Same result, different fashion.
Having already bested Quabbin Regional twice in close games during the regular season, the Oakmont Regional field hockey team left nothing to chance in Tuesday’s Central Mass. Athletic Directors Association Class B title game. There would be no nail-biter this time around.
The top-seeded Spartans grabbed control of the contest early and never relented, rolling to a 3-0 victory over No. 3 Quabbin at Nashoba Regional High School for the CMADA crown.
“We know them, having played two games against them, but each time we played them, it was a different team,” Oakmont head coach Leanne Roy said. “We played them on grass and we played them on turf and we were back on the turf tonight. I’ve known (Quabbin head coach Shelly Zalneraitis) long enough to know she knows how to build a team up for a tournament and make it challenging.”
Madi O’Brien led the charge for the Spartans, potting a pair of markers in the second quarter, while goalkeeper Annika Sallila stopped all three shots that came her way.
Oakmont had previously topped the Panthers in a pair of one-goal games, winning 2-1 on Sept. 21 and 1-0 on Oct. 17.
It took Oakmont (12-3-2) just 1:47 to pot the opening goal as Piper Zimirowski slipped a shot past Julianna Stanger for a 1-0 lead.
The lead double with 5:53 in the half as O’Brien found the back of the cage, just moments after Stanger had denied O’Brien on a flipped shot labeled for the top corner of the net. O’Brien added her second tallied with 1:35 left until the halftime whistle, collecting a bounding ball and roofing it into the top of the cage.
“I think one of our strengths is our speed and our ability to pass,” Roy said. “When we got away from that in the third quarter a little bit, I think we started making things difficult for ourselves. I think we might have gotten a little comfortable with the score at 3-0, but we had to make some changes.”
The Panthers (11-7-1) did indeed surge after the halftime break, pressuring Oakmont’s defense and getting good looks after a pair of penalty corners. But Sallila and the Spartan defense were up to the task and after a timeout, the Spartans regained the poise they played with in the first half.
“Once we took that timeout, the girls settled down,” Roy said. “Thank goodness for our defense, though. They really came through when we needed them. We just couldn’t let up. You can’t let up in a tournament game. … The next thing you know, it’s 3-1, 3-2 and that’s a position we didn’t want to be in.”
O’Brien and Rachel Simkewicz each had opportunities to pad the lead further in the fourth quarter, but Stanger (10 saves) managed to turn aside the Spartans down the stretch.
Both teams will be playing in the upcoming Division 3 state tournament, with the Spartans earning the eighth seed and a date with North Middlesex Regional at home. Quabbin is No. 11 in the Division 3 brackets and will host Weston in the Round of 32.
But before turning their attention to the state tournament, the Spartans are savoring the fact they’re returning to Ashburnham with a title plaque.
“This is a young group that came through COVID and haven’t had the chance to celebrate any championships, so this is fun,” Roy said. “They’re enjoying it.”