Girls' soccer suffers second loss in tough conditions

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Jacob Schwartz” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Sophomore Maddie Bledsoe punts the ball.

by Kristian Lundberg
Girls’ soccer’s 4-1 loss to Weymouth Friday was as ugly as the weather.
Even though the match had bright spots, the Tigers, 9-2-2, sputtered in all facets of the game. Their offense was neutralized by a combination of an impenetrable Wildcat defense and swamp-like conditions that turned the Dickinson Stadium turf into a multi-purpose swimming pool. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ defense did not gain its footing on the sodden field, and it conceded more goals than it had in any previous game this season.
“We gave the ball away way too much,” coach James Hamblin said. “We weren’t fully prepared, and they were.”

For the Wildcats, senior Melissa Darling netted a hat-trick, and senior Shannon Conneelly also tallied a goal in a dominating team performance on offense. With the win, the Wildcats exacted a measure of revenge, as the Tigers had traveled to Weymouth and shut out the squad 1-0 earlier this season.

In the game’s first 10 minutes, both teams battled to a stalemate in the midfield, and it appeared that the match would become a low-scoring affair. However, 12 minutes in, Darling broke through the middle of the Tigers’ defense and dribbled in alone with the goalkeeper, sophomore Maddie Bledsoe. Darling fired a shot at Bledsoe, who managed to get a hand on the ball, but the rebound popped straight back and rolled into the net. At 28:07, the Wildcats took a 1-0 lead.

Six minutes later, the Tigers battled back, thanks to a strong individual effort by senior Holly Szafran, a captain with seniors Sarah Perlo and Katie Regan. Szafran stayed onside as the Wildcats’ defense pushed up, received a pass and beat her defender down the left wing. Her left-footed shot was pushed aside by the Weymouth keeper, but junior Madison Nadeau, following the play on the right wing, collected the rebound and tapped the ball into the empty net, to tie the game at 1-1.

Just when it appeared that the Tigers had gained all of the momentum, Darling struck again with 22:37 left, putting the Wildcats up for good. In a seemingly innocuous play, Weymouth sent a low, hard cross towards the six-yard box, where the Tigers were in position to easily clear the ball. But Bledsoe dove for the cross, knocking it straight to Darling, who finished with authority. Her second goal gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead heading into halftime.

“The weather played a small part,” Hamblin said. “Maddie’s been awesome all season, but she spilled two goals.”

The rain, which had fallen steadily throughout the first half, picked up during the break, collecting around the sidelines and in the corners. The ball, which had zoomed across the slightly damp surface in the first half, began to skid on the heavily saturated turf in the first few minutes of the second frame, slowing down the speed of play even more.

As the second half progressed, the puddles forming in the corners spread five yards onto the field, trapping any soccer ball unfortunate enough to roll in its general vicinity. The Tigers’ offense was thwarted by the puddles a few times, and both teams were mostly unsuccessful at hacking the ball out of the water.

With 27 minutes left, Conneelly, completely unmarked, headed home a free kick from 25 yards out to put Weymouth up 3-1. As the torrential rain continued to pour, Darling completed her hat-trick by tapping home another rebound with 13:32 left. By then, any doubt of the game’s outcome was erased. Hamblin pulled the starters to give the substitutes some playing time, and the game ended with the same 4-1 score.

“After the fourth goal went in, there was no chance of us coming back,” Hamblin said. “We wanted the younger players to get some playing time, and they held their own in the last 15 minutes.”

He added, “We’re hoping for a quick, swift response. We need to play more as a unit than as individuals, and we played more as individuals in that game.”

Still, Hamblin said, “We should finish our season strong.”