Paige Butler Nets Only Goal of Championship Game, Delivers Redemption

November 4, 2016

 

by Craig Smith

In 2015 the Windham field hockey team fell short of the championship, their ultimate goal.  It was devastating for them as they watched as another team took what belonged to them.  In 2016, that pain never left, but was instead harvested as fuel.  When prompted to speak about the previous year, both coaches and players alike distanced themselves from the topic, almost as if acknowledging the scar might tear it open once more.

That unspoken wound was a constant reminder for the young women as the 2016 regular season went on.  Each time they stepped onto the field they would remember that pain and push themselves to the limit so they might never feel that agony again.  They impressed throughout the season, and, when it was finally time for the playoffs, they had earned themselves the second seed.  Eleven teams placed to compete in the playoffs, but only Derryfield was more highly ranked.  With each game played, Windham inched closer to their coveted plaque, winning against both Kennett and Souhegan by a single point, but the higher seeded Derryfield was doing the same and allowing fewer goals in the process.

Eventually, on Oct. 30, the two teams collided on the field for one last time, this time with the championship on the line.  In their previous encounter, Derryfield had taken the win by a single point, only the second loss for the Jaguars’ season.  The meeting was held at Bedford High School, immediately following the Division III tournament finale.  No one knew what was going to happen in this game, but Derryfield was slightly favored due to the previous win against Windham and the fact that their defense had yet to allow a goal throughout the entire postseason.

The match started and Windham seemed to have their guard up.  The Bedford turf was different than the grass field the Jaguars were used to, but it wasn’t completely foreign to them.  It would take some time to adjust to how the ball rolled before they could really take advantage of their handling and passes.  As the team adjusted Derryfield went on the attack, striking the Jaguar defense as they probed for weaknesses.  Rachel Estes, Devon Hamilton, and Taryn Livingstone all pushed themselves to the limit to ensure a stop and in the rare cases that the defensive line was unable to prevent a shot goalie Abby Harris was there to hit the ball away safely.  Typically, a goalie is content enough to merely kick or deflect the ball while standing up, but Harris didn’t have that luxury if she was going to prevent Derryfield from scoring.  More often than not she was forced to dive one way or another, her legs extended to their maximum capacity, in order to make the save.

After a few frightening displays of power from Derryfield the Jaguars found their stride offensively and matched their opponent’s hunger, but there was a reason they had yet to allow a goal in the playoffs, and Windham found that each time they made progress it was stripped from them quickly and efficiently.  Eventually the horn signifying the end of the game would sound, but the score remained 0-0.  The first half of overtime began and rain began to sprinkle the jeering crowds, an unwanted omen for one of these two teams, but, as with the regular time the overtime, bore no goals and a second half of overtime was required.

The countdown ticked away as both teams struggled to find any meaningful momentum.  Even as the number of players on the field was reduced for both teams, opening up space for the players to pass and run, it would take a full 10 minutes before anything of note was accomplished.  Finally, when the time remaining dipped under five minutes, Bri Langlois and Rachel Estes would team up on a play to finally put this game away.  Before a shot could be made, the Derryfield goalie leapt into its trajectory and deflected it straight to Paige Butler who collected the ball and sent it into the back of the goal.  Windham would win in the second half of overtime 1-0.

Immediately following the winning goal the team was awarded the championship plaque.  Each and every Windham coach and athlete gripped it tight in their hands, tangible proof that they were deserving of the highest honor in the sport.  More than a year had gone by since this team’s hopes were shattered, but, with a single hit by Butler, that legacy was erased and made anew.  That shot was not simply the championship-winning goal, but redemption for an entire group of people that still carried the scars of their past.