NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames senior Dimitra Efremidis thought for sure that she had tied Wednesday evening’s division matchup with King Philip, but with 14 minutes to go her shot through traffic rang against the inside of the post and sliced across the face of the goal.
That thin of a margin separated the Warriors and Tigers at Muscato Stadium, with KP holding on for a 2-1 victory. The margins are that thin in the race for the Kelley-Rex title as well, as the victory keeps the Warriors ahead of rival Franklin by a solitary point with just three games remaining in the regular season.
“I don’t have to motivate this group. They want it,” said KP coach Liz Hathaway of the team’s quest for its first league title since 2008. “We have that one loss on the season (to Stoughton) and they did not like it, so since then they’ve been on a tear. They know what’s at stake, I don’t even have to say it.”
Despite suffering a fourth loss in the past five games, first-year OA coach Abby Tepper was upbeat about the effort that the Tigers showed on senior night, pushing KP right to the final horn.
“This was one of the best games that I’ve seen them play so far,” said Tepper. “When we played Mansfield, we beat them but we had let downs, but this game I feel like they played the whole game and we had chances at the end.”
The Tigers had plenty of chances throughout an entertaining game that saw both teams create scoring opportunities. It was the home team that cashed in first with Kendall Clifford’s cross from the right tipped in at the near post by Cristina Boudreau, through the five-hole of KP goalie Abby Campbell (six saves), just seven minutes in.
KP nearly answered right back when a looping shot from Christina Hathaway was cleared off the goal line by Sarah Tetrault, who knocked the aerial ball down from shoulder height. A minute later and the Warriors did tie the game when OA goalie Katie Vamosi(six saves) was caught off her line and Alli Meehan found space to slide in a shot.
Vamosi would make amends two minutes later with a sliding save to stop Caitlin Donahue’s shot from distance. After OA had a tying goal wiped away for a whistle, Efremidis would be denied not once but twice by Campbell. The first was on a diving save down low to the junior’s right and the second when Campbell managed to get a stick to a high, dipping shot off a penalty corner.
“They have that beautiful aerial corner that we knew about,” said Hathaway. “Abby knew it was going to go there and she’s great at the aerials. She made a great save.”
The save looked even bigger with two minutes left until halftime. Again from a corner, KP worked the ball through the crease in front of goal and Elizabeth Furfari worked space in front to flick an off-hand shot inside the far post for what turned out to be the game-winner.
In the second half, OA pushed for an equalizing goal and the Warriors pressed to limit the space for Efremidis and the Tigers attackers to work in. Hathaway praised the effort of sweeper Emma Izydorczak and left back Kate Lindmark for closing up the space in front of goal and stopping the cross from the right that OA used to score the opening goal.
“We knew that we had to press them and try to keep Dimitra down,” said Hathaway about the defensive strategy. “We had to press and stop the cutters up the middle and their crosses from left to right are huge and my left back and sweep did an awesome job to get the ball out.”
The Warriors also created chances on the counterattack but were denied by Vamosi, who made four saves in the second half, and by defender Katie Davenport, who was a constant presence in the middle.
The Tigers had already seen a shot get tipped just wide of the post, smacking the boarding on the outside of the goal and sending up a premature cheer from the bleachers, when Efremidis got free in the left channel and fired a low shot that looked destined for the corner. The senior could not mark her final regular season game under the lights at Muscato Stadium with a goal, as the ball clanged off the post and stayed out.
“Hitting the post and tipping outside wide…that’s unlucky,” said Tepper. “I told them before the game to have each other’s back and give 100 percent and I’ll be proud and that’s what they did. From what I saw…they left it all on the field.”
The close call keeps KP in front by the slimmest of margins and the Warriors hold their own destiny. Win the final three games and they will be champions. “
King Philip (11-1-3, 10-1-2) will begin its final stretch at Taunton on Friday, before closing with Mansfield and Franklin. Oliver Ames (8-4-3, 6-4-3) will look to get back on track on Friday at home against Attleboro.
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