CANTON, Mass. – Following Foxboro’s 1-0 win on Monday afternoon, Canton knew that it would need a win in Wednesday night’s rematch at WWII Veterans Memorial Field to overtake the Warriors and win the Davenport division title.
After twice taking the lead and having Foxboro quickly bounce back to tie the game, Canton’s third lead of the night turned out to be the charm. Gabriella Herivaux’s goal three minutes into the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs the lead for good and they held on for a 3-2 victory and a first league title since 2012.
“Both teams played hard the whole game,” said first-year Canton coach Idris Senyonjo. “It was tough, we scored a goal and then give up one like two seconds later. That’s always a demoralizer, but I knew they were going to become a little more defensive the longer the game went on because they didn’t have to win, we had to win.
“We had to force it, but there was nothing left in the tanks after that.”
Coming into the game, Foxboro and Canton boasted five of the top six scorers in the league this season. Fitting for a big game, all five of those star players found the back of the net on Wednesday, including Canton’s trio of senior forwards Olivia Rodman, Elisa Diletizia, and Herivaux.
“I spoke to each one of them yesterday,” Senyonjo explained. “I told them, all the goals you’ve scored are going to be irrelevant if we can’t get the result. Every goal that you’ve scored has led you to this moment. This is going probably going to be the last home game you play and why not finish with a championship?”
Foxboro started well, with the Warriors aggressively pressing and pinning Canton back. Aislinn Servaes had an early chance after a misplaced clearance inside the opening 10 minutes and forced Canton keeper Marissa Staffiere into a save. Seven minutes later, Jordyn Collins got space on the edge of the box but her shot was charged down by freshman Ava Gilmore.
“It was a very evenly-matched game,” said Foxboro coach Katie Stalcup. “It was a great game. I knew it was going to be a battle out here and I knew they were going to want to beat us so much because of what happened on Monday.”
It took most of the first quarter, but the hosts started to find ways into the attacking third. Diletizia switched play out to the right and Anne Hoban stepped past a defender before firing a long shot that was saved by Foxboro goalie Maddie Mayer, who was called up from JV to replace the suspended Morgan Sylvestre.
The chances kept coming for both teams. Rodman fired a cross from the left that Herivaux teed up for Emily McCabe to put on goal from just outside the box. Collins made a run on the left side of the box and knocked the ball off Staffiere, but Allie McCabe got back and cleared it off the line. Rodman then showed quick feet to shift the ball to her left and send a shot just wide.
Just after the half-hour mark, the hosts were in front. Mia Gilmore whipped in a cross from the right and Rodman showed great skill to bring it down off her chest and hit it quickly on the turn.
The excitement of the opening goal was short-lived. Within a minute, Foxboro got the ball into the box and Collins drew a foul. Kailee Mccabe made no mistake from the spot, firing Foxboro back level.
Early in the second half, Sarai Costello freed Diletizia with a long, curling pass around the left back and the forward forced Mayer into a save from a tough angle. A couple minutes later, Kailee McCabe slipped past her marker to get space for a shot from 25 yards that was just over the bar.
In the 49th minute, Herivaux managed to keep the ball in play on the near touchline and get it into the middle. The ball was played into the feet of Rodman with Foxboro defender Lindsey Resnick on her back. She was able to get her head up and slide an inch-perfect pass into the path of Diletizia, who was clean through on goal and powered her shot past Mayer’s dive and into the far corner.
Again, Canton celebrations were cut short just five minutes later, as Foxboro responded with a second equalizer. McCabe stepped up and let rip from the edge of the box. The shot was blocked, but looped to the left onto Collins’ foot. After taking a touch, she bent a shot inside the far post and tied the game at 2-2.
The home team came out flying for the fourth quarter, needing a goal to win the title. Rodman had a good chance from the left that initially looked like it was flying into the top corner, but ended up settling into Mayer’s gloves.
“I told them just throw everything you’ve got right now,” Senyonjo said about the message heading into the final 20 minutes. “It just came down to could we get lucky today because this game was going to give me a heart attack.”
A minute later, the Bulldogs were in front for a third time. A kick-in from the right was fired into Herivaux at the near post. She managed to bring the ball down off the bounce and, surrounded by defenders, managed to turn and get a foot on the ball as she was falling down, knocking it past the keeper.
After losing two leads, Canton tried to add to its advantage. Gilmore hit another great cross to the back post and Rodman directed it towards goal but Jordan Carman was there to block.
Foxboro’s best chance in the closing minutes came off the foot of a Canton player. Katelyn Mollica fired in a low cross from the right and Mekhala Costello stretched to block, tipping it towards goal but right into the grateful grasp of Staffiere.
“I just can’t help but wonder if it would’ve been different with Morgan in net but that’s something I can’t control,” said Stalcup about her senior goalie who was out because of a red card in Monday’s game. “They played well, Canton worked hard and they just got more goals than us tonight. My girls fought hard, we gave it our all out there.”
Senyonjo added, “It feels good. We beat a really good team.”
Canton (8-1-1) and Foxboro (7-1-2) will wait to find out the details of the Hockomock League’s cup tournament. When asked about the possibility of a third meeting in the cup final, Stalcup said, “That’s what I’m hoping. That’s what I would really love to have is one more chance.”