The Warwick girls’ hockey team won’t spend too much time looking back at this past weekend and thinking about what could have been. Realistically, there wasn’t really much more the Lady Titans could have done.
Mount was simply too good.
Playing the Mounties in the best-of-three semifinals of the State Championship playoffs, fourth-seeded Toll Gate battled but couldn’t overcome Mount’s speed and depth, as it fell 8-1 on Friday and again by the same score on Saturday, ending its season.
The two-time defending state champion Mounties, who went 15-1 during the regular season, advanced to the state finals where they will take on No. 2 La Salle – which defeated Bay View over the weekend – for the title.
“Warwick has come a long, long way the last couple years, and they’re a good team,” Mount head coach Stephen Shea said. “We just have a little more depth in terms of experience, and it shows. We’ve got two very good lines and a third good line, and solid goaltending and defense. I think we just have a little more depth than they could handle in the series.”
The results weren’t exactly unexpected, as Mount had beaten Warwick 7-1 during their one regular season meeting. The Mounties had also won 13 consecutive games entering the postseason, and they allowed just 10 goals the entire season.
Warwick head coach Dave Tibbetts knew his team would have to play perfect to have a chance. And even then, it would still be a long shot.
“They gave up 10 goals all year,” Tibbetts said. “We scored one on them in the regular season. Just to score on them is an accomplishment. They’re a complete team, they don’t take any shifts off.”
In Friday’s game, Mount jumped up early and never looked back. Caitlin Shea scored just 18 seconds into the game, and it was 3-0 by the time the first period was over. Shea ended the game with two goals, while Elisabeth Berard and Lauren Levesque each scored twice as well.
Emily Fox scored Warwick’s lone goal midway through the second period.
Still, there were positives, as the score could have been significantly worse if not for the strong play in net from Kayleen Murphy, who made 47 saves, and Arielle Frank, who made nine of her own.
“You can’t ask any more out of your goaltenders,” Tibbetts said.
On Saturday, Warwick was hoping it could get steady goaltending again and somehow keep the game low scoring into the third period.
And while the game went back-and-forth for the first shift, Mount threw a wrench into the Lady Titans’ plans just 1:30 into the game.
Berard held the puck to the right of Warwick’s net, and patiently waiting until Briana Castro flashed in front of the crease. Berard then zipped a pass to Castro’s stick, who fired it past Murphy for a 1-0 lead.
For the second straight game – although not quite as quickly as in game one – Warwick had surrendered an early goal.
“Last night we got one 18 seconds into the game, and tonight it wasn’t quite as quick but it was pretty quick at the beginning,” Shea said on Saturday. “That does make a big difference.”
Only two minutes and 19 seconds later, Mount lit the lamp again when Castro scored her second goal of the night on another pass from Berard, making it 2-0.
Then, with time ticking down in the first period, Alisha Sleboda redirected a shot from Berard past Murphy for a three-goal lead.
“Just too many shots,” Tibbetts said. “We didn’t keep it in their zone long enough.”
Regardless of the score, though, Warwick didn’t back down. Mount added two more goals in early part of the second period from Sleboda and Lauren Deguire to take a 5-0 lead before Warwick finally broke through.
With 1:06 remaining in the second, Fox carried the puck up the right side and slipped a pass in front of the goal, just outside the crease. Abby Ellis was waiting, and she one-timed it past goaltender Sarah Erban into the back of the net.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Tibbetts said. “I’m really proud of them.”
The game remained 5-1 into the third period, when Mount got goals from Levesque, Shea and Berard to round out the scoring.
Murphy made 37 saves in net for the Lady Titans.
And despite the quick exit from the postseason, Warwick still completed its best season in the program’s history.
The Lady Titans won 11 games in the regular season, shattering their previous best of six. They also won the DeCosta Division, and had the best record of any public school in the state.
Fox was the tied for the first in the state with 37 points, and her 21 goals were second.
“We won the DeCosta Division, we had a lot of close games against all the Division I teams with the exception of Mount,” Tibbetts said. “People know that we’re not an easy team to beat. We earned a lot of respect around the state this year and the girls are really proud of what they’ve done.”
There’s no reason it has to stop either. While Warwick will bid goodbye to seniors Jamie Claeson, Claudia Collins, Ericka Franzen, Alex Given, Emma Hindinger, Jacqui Lyman and Julia Walsh, a large portion of the team is returning and Tibbetts expects a strong group of incoming freshmen for next year.
“We’ve got a lot of kids coming back and some kids coming up hopefully,” Tibbetts said. “We’ll see what next year brings.”