By Katherine Dunn
Friends senior Olivia Nengel wanted something more for her field hockey team this fall.
After reaching the C Conference final the past two years without a title, she didn’t want the seven seniors on the Quakers team to graduate without finally hoisting the glass trophy.
Sunday afternoon, Nengel played a big role in making that happen. She had a goal and an assist to lead a second-half rally in a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Park for the Quakers first field hockey championship in 16 years.
“In 2017 and 2018, I think we had the skills, but it just wasn’t our day,” Nengel said, “so coming into this third season, my senior year, we knew that we all wanted it together and we worked hard all season. We bonded as a team, we have great chemistry and we really just wanted this one.”
Sixth-year head coach Angela Brewer now has a title to match the 2004 B Conference championship assistant coach Judy Turnbaugh won when she was the Quakers head coach.
“I look in Judy’s office and I see that championship picture that she has from years ago, and we’ve been striving for it ever since,” Brewer said. “This is our third year in a row and we really wanted to bring it home. That was the big driving force.”
The Quakers (11-5) were seeded second going into the title game. They beat top-seeded Park (11-3) during the regular season, 1-0, but dropped two other C Conference games. Park had just the one conference loss.
The Bruins, who won C Conference titles in 2016 and 2017, took the first lead in a game where all of the goals were scored on penalty corners.
Time had run out in the first half of the game played at Archbishop Spalding, but penalty corners continue, so the Bruins took advantage and Hailey Smith punched in a pass from Becca Frank.
The Quakers, however, dominated the second half, starting with three shots in a little over six minutes.
On their first penalty corner of the half, Rachael Freeman passed to Nengel, who drove the ball into the left corner of the cage to tie at 1-1 with 23:40 left in the game.
After Park goalie Selby Eline saved another Nengel shot, the Quakers set up for their second corner of the half. This time, Nengel got the ball at the top of the circle and passed to her left where Gabrielle Sklar nailed the game winner.
“We are usually a second half team,” Nengel said, “so going into the second half I felt really confident. We were all hyped.”
The Bruins had a few other opportunities, pressing for goals at the beginning and end of the second half, but Friends goalie Grace Bowen cleared the ball away both times.
Bowen made a terrific leaping save with about two minutes left in the first half against Frank’s shot that caromed high toward the goal. The senior knocked the ball over the top of the cage.
Friends junior defenders Julia Barry and Bryce Carlin also played key defensive roles in keeping the Bruins out of the goal in the second half for their second win over Park this season.
Brewer said she was pleased with the passing combinations and the confidence the Quakers showed in each other.
“We have some really skilled players that really turned it on today and had their best games of the year,” Brewer said.
For Park, coach Kara Hickok said Friends' passing and speed made a difference, but that her team had additional opportunities although the ball didn’t bounce their way.
“We graduated a lot of seniors last year and the individual growth of every player on this team was tremendous from preseason to this point. The focus was on how much individual and team improvement we’ve had,” said Hickok, who will graduate just three seniors, Smith, Molly Bloom and Bella Johnson.
The Quakers’ championship season will usher out seven seniors — Nengel, Sklar, Freeman, Bowen, Maren Helmacy, Luella Rubin-Wylie and Margaret van den Beemt.