By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
FOXBORO, Mass. – Following Monday’s loss to Attleboro, Canton coach Kate Howarth told her team to leave take one night to get over the defeat and come back for practice on Tuesday ready to work and ready to prepare for Wednesday’s test against Mansfield at Gillette Stadium.
“At the beginning of practice, I said, did you all go home, cry, and do what you had to do to get ready for practice?” said Howarth. “They all laughed and said yeah we cried, which was good because they should’ve, but this is the response that you want.”
The Bulldogs played arguably their best game of the season, scoring in the opening 10 minutes of each half and then holding on against relentless Hornets pressure to pull out a 2-1 victory.
Howarth said, “We put the ball down and played the best game we have all season. We possessed better than we have all year.”
Canton jumped all over Mansfield at the start of the game. The Bulldogs dominated the ball and moved it around from side to side, while left back Sarah Collins bombed forward with consistent overlapping runs. It was Collins that would open up the Mansfield defense for the game’s first goal.
The freshman was fed by Sarah MacQuarrie down the left and she cut it back to Tessa Cudmore, who then fed the ball across the six-yard box to Hannah Link and she prodded it past Emily Gaumond.
Collins’ ability to get forward and create scoring opportunities was due to a switch made by Howarth for the game. She moved MacQuarrie from right back to the center of midfield and the senior captain was a dominant figure throughout.
“I tried her there a couple of times early in the season and in scrimmages,” explained Howarth, “but we ended up tucking her back because I like the way she got up. We made some adjustments and it worked.”
The Hornets started to create chances near the end of the first half with Rebecca Bornstein creating an opening in the final 10 minutes but her cross from the right channel just missed the foot of Jen Kemp and went all the way across to Jackie Carchedi, but her shot sailed over the bar.
Six minutes into the second half and MacQuarrie again popped up in an important position, driving into the box between a pair of Mansfield defenders who clipped her to give away a penalty. Center back Sarah Connolly stepped up to the spot and her shot past the outstretched Gaumond to make it 2-0.
“They were the best team for the first 15 minutes of each half…by far,” admitted Mansfield coach Kevin Smith. “Credit to them, they earned it. I thought that for the last 15 minutes of every half we were better but we missed a ton of good opportunities.”
As the second half wore on and Canton continued to be in control, Smith moved junior Hannah Reiter up from the center of defense to lead the line as a center forward, which also allowed Carchedi and Kemp to move out wide.
The switch instantly paid dividends with Reiter sending a header wide and then Kemp finding space on the left to send a ball back to Katie Bongarzone stepping up from midfield but her 20-yard shot was over the bar.
With 15 minutes left to play, Reiter got Mansfield back in the game. Jordan Zarat pressed forward from right back and she played a quick pass in behind the defense that Reiter ran onto and slipped past Canton keeper Kathryn Doody.
“She’s a dominant player,” said Smith of Reiter. When asked why he does not play the Quinnipiac-commit up front more often, he responded, “She’s just such a good defender. We have seven shutouts with her at center back.”
“She has so much composure on the ball and trust in her abilities. The girls know they can make runs because they’re going to get the ball.”
The Hornets continued to press with Bongarzone, Kemp, Reiter, and Carchedi all having chances that were saved or narrowly off target. The Hornets also had a late penalty shout when Carchedi went down in the box, but the official waved it away for a goal kick.
“We had our shots,” said Smith. “It was the complete opposite of how we played on Monday night.”
In the final minute of the game, Mansfield had one last chance when the ball was headed into the path of Carchedi, who managed to get a toe on it under pressure from Collins, but Doody was out quick to block the shot and deny the equalizer.
“She’s been solid all year and she’s come up big when we need her to,” said Howarth. “She’s been consistently solid back there.”
The Canton players stood together after the game, snapping selfies and looking around at their surroundings to take in this rare opportunity to play at Gillette. Unlike Monday, there was no reason for tears after this game.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.