It has been a field of dreams season for the Bishop Ryan Celtics.
The Bishop Ryan girls’ field hockey team went undefeated in seven league and playoff games to capture the annual Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school championship.
The last time the Celtics won a league title in the sport was 2006.
In the 2016 final, played in rain-soaked conditions at Bishop Ryan, the Celtics edged the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, 2-1. Both teams, however, advance to Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference semifinals Thursday, Oct. 27 against opponents from the Halton Secondary School Athletic Association.
“Our girls had a perfect season,” Bishop Ryan coach Jenn Gallagher said. “I’m not sure when the last time that happened in our association. It’s impressive for any team to go 7-0.”
The Celtics raced to a 2-0 early lead thanks to a pair of goals by veteran Ashley Sanelli, but the visitors rallied impressively in the final 30 minutes.
“Our crosses and connecting for goals was just beautiful,” the Celtics coach said. “It was stuff we’ve been practising all along.”
Brebeuf broke goalkeeper Victoria Pancucci’s shutout bid on a shot by Charlene Gavina with 13 minutes remaining. That goal came shortly after a Brebeuf penalty shot by captain Nicole Mayer that was stopped by Pancucci.
“I think our team played really well,” said Sanelli, who has been a top BR scorer this season along with Nicki Startek. “We practised hard and it showed in our record. The coaches and the girls make it fun. It’s a good sport to play.”
Sanelli credited Chloe Donohue and Rebecca deWilde for making key passes to set up her goals.
“They (Brebeuf) were putting a lot of pressure on us,” Sanelli said. “They have a lot of good players on that team. I think we lost our focus near the end, but we pulled through.”
Braves’ coach Terra Alfano said her team gave a solid effort. “I’m disappointed with the scoreboard but, as always, I’m proud of my girls. We’re happy to be here. It’s been a long time since this team has even been in the final.”
Other members of the Celtics are Paige Vaccarella, Madison Bryers, Natalie Daniels, Lauren Domingos, Heather Hudecki, Jayden James, Cheyenne Kunzli, Camielle Mio, Victoria Pasalic, Samantha Preston, Megan Ridgers and Brook Snider.
Said Gallagher: “Most of our girls are hockey and soccer players. So the combination of those skills, they bring to field hockey.”
According to Gallagher, by participating in a September field hockey tournament in Mississauga against tough provincial-level competition, it provided “an incredible learning experience” to the Celtics.
“It just brought us to another level,” Gallagher said. “When we came back from that we were pretty unstoppable.”