SWAMPSCOTT — What a difference a year makes.
Almost exactly 365 days ago, the Swampscott field hockey team got shut out in its playoff opener on the road in Weston. Wednesday at Blocksidge Field, it was the Big Blue’s turn to cruise to a first-round playoff win, topping No. 10 Newburyport, 4-0, in the Division 2 North tournament.
It was the first-ever tournament win for coach Jamie Spano and company.
The road ahead doesn’t get easier for Swampscott, however, as it travels to Watertown Friday afternoon. Watertown had its 184-game unbeaten streak snapped early this season and the Red Raiders haven’t lost since.
“It’s pretty cool. I’m feeling very good,” Spano said. “These girls have worked so hard all season for this, so that’s one (thing) checked off the list. We have Watertown Friday, and we’re just going to have to play hard, play our game.”
Sydney Cresta, one of the No. 7 Big Blue’s senior captains and an offensive force for Swampscott, gave the home team an early lead. After threatening on several occasions through the 10 minutes, Cresta brought the ball almost all the way up the field and got a shot off. It was saved, but the Big Blue kept the ball in the Clippers’ offensive zone, and it paid off. Newburyport defender Sydney Rogers blocked a shot from Cresta, but the play resulted in a penalty stroke. Cresta capitalized on the opportunity to give Swampscott a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“She can dribble through anyone, and as soon as she passes, things just start happening,” Spano said of Cresta. “(That first goal is) huge, it sets the momentum and lets them know they can do this.”
Newburyport looked to tie things up a couple of minutes later as Alexandra Sirek broke away from the Swampscott defense, but her shot was wide.
With 5:50 to play, Michaela Freddo took a free hit around the 25 yard-line on the football field. Cresta received it and got a shot off, but it was saved and deflected. But Natalie Domeniconi was there to pull it around goalie Maya Zolnay and slip it in to make it 2-0 Big Blue heading into the half.
Cresta looked poised to make it a 3-0 game just seconds after the faceoff in the second, but her shot went just wide. Swampscott was able to add to the lead with 23:30 to play, and capitalize on a corner opportunity. Cresta received the inbound and her shot was saved. Ashley Marston sent back the rebound, and Hannah Amato tipped it in at the left goalpost. The play was initially ruled a corner, but was changed to a goal after a discussion.
The Big Blue wasn’t done, as Domeniconi added her second of the game, tipping in a pass in front of the net.
Newburyport threatened and kept the pressure on through the final 15 minutes, but the Swampscott defense held strong, even when goalie Jillian Flanders left the game with four minutes to play, being replaced by Mary Miles.
“Our defense has been so solid all year,” Spano said. “They keep us in these games, and they do a phenomenal job back there.”
Swampscott (11-5-3) visits Watertown Friday at 2:30.