100521 SPT classical at Chariho field hockey TM

Chaia Elwell (20) and the Chariho High field hockey team have had a lot to celebrate this season. The Chargers finished the Division III regular season with a 10-0 record and received a bye into the league title game. | Tim Martin, The Westerly Sun

WOOD RIVER JCT. — Chariho High will find itself in a most unusual position Saturday afternoon when it steps onto the turf field at Cranston Stadium for the Division III field hockey championship game.

It will be the Chargers' first and only game of the postseason.

Only three field hockey teams in Division III met the criteria to qualify for the playoffs — more on that in a bit. Chariho is the top seed by virtue of its 10-0 league record and therefore earned a bye directly into the title game. The Chargers will face the winner of No. 2 Rocky Hill vs. No. 3 Classical, who play Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Saturday's title game starts at 4 p.m.

"It feels a little eerie, but kind of amazing," Chariho fifth-year coach Mariah Northrop said. "These girls have put in a lot of work and deserve something amazing."

In the formula to qualify for the postseason, teams must accumulate 40% of the maximum total or eight points. Each team receives two points for a win and one point for a tie against a league opponent. With 10 league games per team, the maximum number of points is 20. Chariho (10-0, 20 points), Rocky Hill (8-3, 16 points) and Classical (3-5-2, eight points) were the only three teams to reach the 40% threshold.

The Chargers, 10-1 overall (their only loss was to Fitch, 4-2, in a nonleague game), have dominated Division III this season. They beat the other two teams in the tournament twice each, defeating Classical, 5-1 and 6-1, and Rocky Hill, 8-1 and 6-2.

Chariho has allowed just six goals in 10 league games and outscored its Division III opponents 46-6.

Northrop said the 8-1 victory over Rocky Hill on Sept. 26 was a milestone for the Chargers.

"We were 3-0 and they were 3-0," Northrop said. "I think we came out of that game pretty enthusiastic."

Northrop said center back Kaitlin Wojcik has been a big reason the Chargers have been able to shut down their opponents.

"She is excellent at defending and she is very good at approaching. She can stick tackle in a way that doesn't get a call," Northrop said. "And she can clear the ball away. If she's on, we are tough to beat."

Junior Laurel McIntosh leads the team in goals with 15 and also has eight assists. Sophomore Chaia Elwell has 12 goals and 16 assists. Junior Madison Dachowski has 12 goals and six assists.

"I think the chemistry on the field has kind of clicked this season," Northrop said. "They are doing an awesome job of moving the ball up the field. They've learned more about spatial awareness and they finally found the cage."

Chariho struggled the past three seasons two of them in Division II and one in Division III, compiling a combined record of 4-29-1. The Chargers managed just 17 goals in those 34 games while giving up 113.

This is Chariho's second season in Division III.

Starting in the early 1970s, there was only one division in the state and two teams met for the title, according to the Rhode Island High School Sports website (rihssports.com). In 1974, four teams qualified, and in 1996 the sport had two divisions. Three divisions started in 2018. Twenty-one teams are playing the sport this season spread across three divisions.

Northrop said the Chargers are in the right division for now. She said there is quite a disparity in talent from Division I to Division III.

"I feel like we are playing competitive games. I like the teams we are playing," Northrop said.

With so many underclassmen, should the Chargers return to Division II at some point?

"Possibly. That would be a (Chariho athletic director) Mike Shiels decision," Northrop said.

For now, the Chargers are focusing on Saturday. Chariho has never won a field hockey championship. Northrop said some stress does exist from being undefeated and handily winning so many games.

"Any team that goes undefeated has a certain amount of pressure on them," Northrop said. "I just keep telling them to play Chariho field hockey. Be the best you can be and if it's a win, it's a win."

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