Field hockey: Leavitt edges Oceanside, climbs to No. 2 in West B

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TURNER — With 12 seconds remaining on a stopped clock, Kierstin Leclerc set herself over the ball after Leavitt earned a penalty stroke with time ticking away in the first half. She looked up at Oceanside goalie Zoe Billington, searched for an opening, put her head back down and awaited an official’s whistle.

Given the signal, she tried to fire the ball right.

“I was aiming at the right side, because I saw it was more open,” Leclerc said. “It actually went to the other side.”

It went left, but still eluded Billington on its way into the cage.

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“All that matters is that it went in,” Leavitt coach Wanda Ward-McLean said.

The Hornets’ defense stood tall in the second half, allowing Leclerc’s goal to stand as Leavitt topped Oceanside 1-0 in an important KVAC victory Tuesday in the teams’ season finale.

“We knew we needed to win to get where we wanted to be,” Leclerc said. “We just pulled it together and played hard.”

The win lifts Leavitt (10-3-1) into second place in Western Class C as the season comes to a close. The Hornets passed Spruce Mountain (10-4-0), which lost at Eastern Class B No. 1 Gardiner on Tuesday. Oceanside is the No. 2 team in Eastern B.

“All we could do was worry about today’s game here,” Ward-McLean said. “And we did.”

“My biggest concern today, honestly, was that we didn’t get anybody hurt,” Oceanside coach Joanna Hall said. “We shouldn’t have moved (in the standings), and I know this meant a lot to (Leavitt). But for me, that was definitely on my mind.”

The Mariners (10-4-0) applied most of the pressure in the second half, earning seven corners and firing five shots on Leavitt keeper Ashley Kelley, all of which the first-year keeper saved.

“She played the best she’s played all season today,” Ward-McLean said.

Kelley has been a revelation in net for the Hornets this season. Prior to putting on the pads this fall, Kelley had never played between the pipes.

A little extra help from former Leavitt standout Taylor Eells hasn’t hurt, either.

“Taylor’s been giving her a little confidence boost, and it’s nice to have Taylor back and helping out,” Ward-McLean said. “Ashley had never put on pads before two months ago, so to be able to share those nuances. As a coach, I can tell them the same thing, but it’s not like someone who’s actually played the position.”

One final push from the Mariners as the clocked ticked away became far less dangerous thanks to the crowd at the field. Hall tried to call timeout with about 10 seconds to play, with Oceanside standing over a free hit inside the 25-yard line. But the officials didn’t hear Hall trying to call timeout until three seconds remained, leaving little time for the Mariners to try to score, or earn a penalty corner.

“We had our opportunities in the second half,” Hall said. “We had the ball down there most of the time.”

“The defense hung in there,” Ward-McLean said. “They had two girls playing way up, so we had to be careful we didn’t miss that second girl up. They recognized that.”

In the first half, play was even across the midfield. Leavitt had its best pressure early, and Billington was equal to the task, turning aside five shots in the opening half. She finished with six saves.

Kelley stopped six overall to earn her sixth shutout of the season.

Leavitt played the game without senior captain Sadie Royer, who was sidelined with an illness. She participated in senior day festivities, but did not suit up for the game.

Playoff seeds will be finalized after the rest of West B plays out its schedule Wednesday. Preliminary games begin this weekend, with quarterfinal action set for Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 21 and 22.

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