WESTBROOK, Conn. — Patience was the theme of the Stonington High-Westbrook quarterfinal game Thursday in the Class S state field hockey tournament.
For the fifth-seed Bears, patience would hopefully be rewarded with a breakaway goal after they staved off Westbrook's nearly game-long offensive siege.
For No. 4 Westbrook, patience would pay off by staying composed and keeping the pressure on despite a stalwart Bears defense.
Ultimately, Westbrook's patience ruled the day.
Kendall Orlowski scored off a penalty corner, the team's ninth of the game, with 17:28 left to give the home-standing Knights a 1-0 victory and send them into the Class S semifinals next week. They face top-seeded Granby on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
The loss ended the Bears' season. They finished with a 13-4-2 overall record.
Westbrook (15-2-3) controlled the ball on Stonington's end for 80 percent of the game but held just a 5-2 edge in shots on goal. The work of Stonington defenders Sophia Fernholz, Anne Drago, Sarah Flakus and Madison Mendez and goalkeeper Claire Evans kept the game scoreless for 43 minutes of the 60 minutes of regulation.
"I was hoping to hold, hold, hold and maybe get a breakaway and that would be our saving grace," Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio said. "I've been part of both sides where one team dominates possession but then sees the other team counter and capitalize on that one opportunity or a breakaway to take a lead. We held them off for as long as we could, but we could not generate anything on our one penalty corner."
Westbrook, meanwhile, stayed poised. All-State center fielder Alex Young, who stands about 6 feet and whose stick-handling makes her tough to mark, finally had one of her penalty corner entries lead to a goal with 17:28 remaining.
Young's entry from the left side was redirected to the top of the right circle, where Orlowski drilled a low shot from 15 yards out that bounded by Evans — who was shielded by a mass of players in front of the net by both teams — on the well-cropped Westbrook grass field.
"It was a four-pass corner, a set play with a lot of passing that is hard to handle for any defense," Westbrook coach Janet Dickey said. "Those low bouncy balls are sometimes the toughest to handle. I thought [Evans] did a great job today."
Dickey said remaining patient was the key to winning in regulation. Both teams experienced grueling shootout wins under the new format in Tuesday's first round. Westbrook's seniors have lost just one home game in four years, Dickey said.
"I wouldn't say it's frustrating," Dickey said. "It was more of staying patient. It was like a tennis match were we had unforced errors. We just had to stay calm and everything would take care of itself."
Young dominated play early on, forcing four Westbrook penalty corners in the first 15 minutes. It took eight minutes for Stonington to push the ball past midfield. Early in the second half, Young's shot from the extreme right flank was kicked away by Evans. Five minutes later, her blast was stopped and Evans (4 saves) could not locate the rebound before it was cleared.
Stonington finally forced its first penalty corner with 21:41 left. Elena Korinek and Dillon Griscom's passing sent a cross to the middle of the scoring circle only to wee Westbrook clear the ball before a dangerous shot.
Despite the loss, Stonington walked off the field with a positive feeling. The Bears are a turf team but this was a well-manicured natural field. They reasoned the more talented team advanced in what was a cleanly played game.
"I was proud of our defense," Flakus said. "We were under pressure but did not back down. We were hoping for that one opportunity to get a breakaway, but they limited our shot attempts."
The stats show a defensive stalemate though Westbrook had the possession advantage. The Knights held a 4-1 shots edge despite having nine penalty corners to Stonington's two.
Tucchio had nothing but praise for her team.
"I thought we absolutely exceeded our expectations," Tucchio said. "We're a young team that defended our league title, got to the conference final against a team we've played three times and made the state quarterfinals. There is lots of growth potential with the girls coming back."