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HIGH SCHOOL FIELD HOCKEY: Indians rally past Eagles, reach Group 6A finals

Caught in a fight for their playoff life, Stafford’s players did something Wednesday they hadn’t done all season: They rallied.

The Indians scored a pair of second-half goals—including the game-winner on a penalty stroke by senior Natalie Bohmke with three minutes, 28 seconds to play—and Stafford rallied to beat Colonial Forge, 2–1, in the 6A–South field hockey quarterfinals.

It’s the first time all season Stafford has rebounded from a halftime deficit and this turnaround clinched a state semifinal berth for the Indians.

“I think in the first half we were really nervous,” freshman Lia Constantine said. “In the second half, it occurred to us that it had to click, and it did.”

The Eagles’ season is over, ended again one win short of the state tournament. Colonial Forge has never reached the field hockey state level, having seen its season end year after year after year on a string of oh-so-close defeats to rivals Stafford and Mountain View.

That run looked like it might end, though, after a strong first half by the Eagles on Wednesday.

Less than a week after Stafford had dominated Forge in the Conference 4 championship game, the Eagles took a 1–0 lead midway through the first half when Allie Benoit redirected a hard shot by Nikki Simpao.

“Stafford is very strong in the middle and I told the girls in order to beat them we had to play wide, and that’s what we did,” Colonial Forge coach Julie Spinelli said. “And it worked. We were looking for those outlet balls and we had them and we were able to make the plays.”

Stafford looked stunned, and the speech at halftime was rousing.

“We didn’t come out as strong as we wanted to and we kind of got caught on our heels,” Bohmke said. “We knew we had to regroup and find each other on the field and string passes together.”

The Indians came out of the break fired up, and Constantine sparked the comeback.

In the first minute of the second half, she carried the ball hard up the right side and hit a pass across the goal mouth. There, Rachel Riley was waiting, and she tipped in the goal and the game was tied.

“Stafford definitely came out on fire,” Spinelli said. “We knew that was going to happen. We knew they can score.”

Constantine figured in the game-winning goal, too.

Stafford had the better part of play throughout the second half and had an advantage in shots, but couldn’t get a second goal in. The Indians kept pushing, though.

With about four minutes remaining, Constantine’s attack up the right side again led to a Stafford corner, and on the resulting play—after two point-blank shots were stopped—a penalty stroke was awarded when the ball wound up under the Colonial Forge keeper.

Bohmke stepped to the line and hit a low, hard shot to the goalie’s stick side. The stroke never got more than an inch or two off the ground and banged into the back of the cage.

Stafford will play at the National Training Center on Friday against First Colonial in the region final, a game in which its season is not at stake. It will still move on to next week’s state semifinals, also at the NTC.

Colonial Forge had two corners and several opportunities after the Bohmke goal, but walked away unsatisfied, having missed another chance to make the state tournament for the first time in school history.

“It probably gets harder as you go on, because you know how bad you want it,” Spinelli said. “As a coach, you’ve lived through this. It is hard, but Stafford is very talented and one of the best teams in the state.

“This is only my third year and it takes a while to build a program, but we’re getting there.”

Justin Rice: 540/368-5045