WOBURN — It was a razor thin margin that separated the Ipswich High field hockey team from its first-ever state championship Saturday afternoon.

Uxbridge High School scored the game’s only goal on a third quarter penalty stroke to defeat the fourth seeded Tigers, 1-0, on a cold and breezy day at Connolly Memorial Stadium.

“All we’ve ever asked them to do this season was to have consistency in showing up ready to play and giving it their best effort. They absolutely did that again in this one,” said Ipswich’s first-year coach, Nikki Pignone, of her squad. The Tigers’ best-ever season ended at 18-2-1.

“I thought our girls fought right down to the last second and gave it their all — and that’s all I could’ve asked for. I’m proud of them all.”

Uxbridge head coach Kelly Rosborough agreed that, after her team had outscored its four previous postseason foes by a combined 25-0, Ipswich proved to be by far their toughest test.

“They had a great game plan against us,” said Rosborough, whose club finished 19-0-2 to return home to Central Mass. with its first state championship. “They took what they learned or saw and put a great game plan into action.”

Uxbridge, which had just 16 players dressed but all of whom seemed to have excellent speed, broke through in the third quarter when, after consecutive corners, it was ruled that an Ipswich player had covered the ball up near the left post on the latter attempt, resulting in a penalty stroke.

Spartans eighth grader Amelia Blood was chosen to take the shot and calmly lifted a high, arching shot over IHS goaltender Morgan Bodwell’s glove and into the back of the netting.

“She’s a pretty confident eighth grader,’ Rosborough said of Blood, who finished the year a perfect 3-for-3 on penalty strokes. “It was a no brainer to select her.”

Bodwell, a senior captain for Ipswich, was spectacular in stopping seven shots. She faced intense pressure at times but remained calm and collected, kicking shots out whenever trouble appeared.

Ipswich put forth its best pressure in the fourth quarter in an attempt to tie the contest. Less than a minute in, captain Lexi James got the ball 10 yards in front of Uxbridge goalie Jessica Lutton (3 saves), but her shot attempt sailed inches wide. Three minutes later teammate Ashton Flather had a similar chance from 25 yards out; her attempt went wide at the opposite post.

With seven minutes to go Ipswich earned its first corner of the game, but Uxbridge defender Samantha Jones got her stick on the ball and steered it out of trouble. Moments later another corner for the Tigers went from Chloe Pszenny to James over to the team’s best hitter, exchange student Linde Ruitenberg of the Netherlands, but her blast flew wide of the mark.

“We had a lot of opportunities (in the fourth period); we just couldn’t connect,” said Pignone. “We definitely had an understanding of where we were at in the game and what we needed to do: go out and play our best 15 minutes of the season.”

The Spartans controlled play territorially for the majority of the first half, but Ipswich adjusted from the first quarter to the second, tightening up defensively and not allowing the crisp passes that Uxbridge had completed with regularly over the first 15 minutes to carry over.

Uxbridge had a pair of corners — the second of those resulting in a tip attempt at the post that almost went in — and had three shots in the first half, all of which Bodwell turned aside. The Tigers had just one shot on net during that time, but it was a good one as Pszenny flew down the far sidelines and unleashed a shot just before the first quarter ended that Lutton had to make a quick kick save on.

Ipswich will say goodbye to six seniors — Faith DeBoer, Azariah Lestage, Ruitenberg, and captains Julia Moseley, Bodwell and James, as well as another exchange student, German defender Ella Vogler, from this year’s history making squad.

“They gave it their all and served as great leaders,” said Pignone. “It was all about that consistency. “We didn’t score too many goals (43), but we almost always scored more than our opponents. The girls have so much to be proud of.”

Contact Phil Stacey

@PhilStacey_SN

Contact Phil Stacey

@PhilStacey_SN

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