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Nighthawks Get Revenge Against Pomperaug In South-West Conference Title Game



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Nighthawks Get Revenge Against Pomperaug In South-West Conference Title Game

By Andy Hutchison

Pomperaug had owned this rivalry since it began. Newtown High School Head Coach Amanda Hadgraft said she did not beat the Panthers when she played field hockey for the Nighthawks from 2001 to 2004, her predecessor Kathy Davey said the Hawks had never topped the Panthers and none of the current Hawks had beaten their biggest foes.

That all changed on October 30 when the Nighthawks pulled out a double-overtime nail-biter in not just any old game, but in the South-West Conference Championship game. The tourney’s second-seeded Nighthawks upset No. 1 Pomperaug 1-0 on a chilly, frosty but — in the end —thrilling night at New Fairfield High School.

Hannah Koch netted the game winner (assisted by Alyssa Robinson and set up by a Taylor Barry penalty corner) with 5:51 left in the second 10-minute overtime. Had the game remained tied, the teams would have ended up as co-champions, but Hadgraft wanted no part of that, even given the success Pomperaug had had.

“I told them they didn’t work this hard to share a title with another team,” Hadgraft said she told her players during the first overtime intermission.

“Beating them is just out of this world,” said Hadgraft, whose team celebrated a scoreless tie with the Panthers late in the regular season. “It feels absolutely amazing, especially since it’s been such a long time coming.”

Pomperaug fell to 14-1-1-2 and Newtown improved to 14-2-2 following their third straight 1-0 SWC playoff win. Newtown had beaten Joel Barlow 1-0 (4-2 in penalty strokes) in the quarterfinal and blanked New Fairfield 1-0 in the semifinals.

“It was a nail-biter again,” said Hadgraft, whose team and Pomperaug’s each had nine penalty corners in a close-throughout game. NHS goaltender Jessica Balsano made eight saves to help the Hawks to victory.

“It was so exciting,” Barry said.

The girls spent some of their bus ride home from New Fairfield calling last year’s seniors to share the news that they had just dethroned the three-time defending conference champs. It was Newtown’s first conference crown.

“It’s amazing. We’ve never beaten them before,” said Koch who earned MVP honors. “We just thought we had everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

Not only had Pomperaug owned bragging rights for so long, this was a season of change for Newtown. Hadgraft is in her first year as head coach and eight starters were gone from last year’s SWC and state runner-up squad. Newtown will now look to get back to the Class L state title game as the CIAC playoffs got underwaythis week.

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