FAIR HAVEN — There are landmark days in the building of a successful program, games where you can look back and see the narrative changing right before your eyes. Wednesday was one of those days for the Fair Haven field hockey team.
The Slaters exerted everything they had and upset two-time defending Division III champion Windsor 2-1.
Fair Haven had a disappointing loss on Monday to rival Rutland, so the Slaters were focused on playing better against the Yellow Jackets. Coming out with the win was icing on the cake.
“Nobody was pleased with that (Rutland) result, so that made us work that much harder today,” said Fair Haven coach Allison Resnick. “We knew we could play better and we did today.”
Execution in critical moments will decide who comes out on top in close games.
The Slaters and Yellow Jackets were tied 1-1 heading into Wednesday’s fourth quarter and Windsor looked to grab control when play resumed.
The Yellow Jackets, like they did for much of the game, put tons of pressure on the Fair Haven defense to make stops. With girls like Peyton Richardson and Karen Kapuscinski, among others, an opposing defense is always going to have to work to keep the Windsor at bay.
The Yellow Jackets pressed hard to get the go-ahead goal, but time after time, the Slaters made a critical clear or goalie Bailey Pettis made a crucial save.
Pettis had six saves in the game, three coming in the fourth quarter.
“We tried to focus on our marking and keeping tight on them,” Pettis said. “My focus was making sure everyone was on their girl, while also making sure I was in the right position.”
Fair Haven didn’t get many opportunities to score in Wednesday’s game, but took advantage each time they did.
The game-winning goal was a beauty early in the fourth quarter.
Following another defensive stand by the Slater defense, sophomore Jaylena Haley made a great run with the ball down the right side of the field, bringing it into the circle. She attacked the net and forced Windsor goalie Lindsey Young to come out and defend, before putting it past her.
“Coming 1-on-1 with a goalie is so much harder than it seems, you have so much pressure on you,” Resnick said. “She took it from like the 50-yard line all by herself and beat all those defenders.
“To come on the goalie, maintain that composure, get that nice pull and get the shot off was just unreal. It was just pure heart and determination.”
The Slaters needed plenty of heart and determination to hold off a strong Windsor club. The Yellow Jackets kept pressing to get the equalizer and put plenty of scares into the Fair Haven coaching staff as they penetrated into the circle.
“When you have played a team already and you know who their big guns are, you have to make sure you shut them down early,” Resnick said. “We had the book from last time and we knew who their scorers were. We did a really good combination of denying their top players and playing our own game.”
The game’s other two goals came in quick succession in the first quarter.
Windsor got a handful of penalty corners midway through the quarter and Peyton Richardson put the Yellow Jackets ahead with a nice shot from the right side with 6:54 left in the first.
The Slaters responded with a goal a little more than a minute later, coming from Alana Williams.
Windsor did a great job of pressing for a go-ahead goal, especially late in quarter, but it wouldn’t come to fruition.
Wednesday’s win was big for a Fair Haven program focused on gaining relevancy on the state’s high school field hockey landscape.
The Slaters’ three wins so far this year is another sign that the narrative is changing around the program.
Pettis, a senior, is proud of the growth she’s seen in the program during her time playing at Fair Haven.
“Doing this four years and seeing everything get better and better and winning against Windsor, who is really good, I’m just so happy,” Pettis said.
“Especially for my senior year, I’m glad that this is what I’m leaving behind, this big win and showing that field hockey for Fair Haven is important and we can be awesome and win.”
Fair Haven (3-7-1) hopes win No. 4 will be in the cards this year. The Slaters host Brattleboro on Saturday.
Windsor (7-4-1), a team with aspirations of claiming a third straight Division III title, looks to bounce back on Wednesday at Springfield.