NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The long wait for the soccer season to finally kick off ended on Monday night at Beaupre Field when North Attleboro hosted Oliver Ames, but the wait for the first goal celebration will last at least two more days.
In a game of few clear-cut scoring chances, neither side was able to find the back of the net and went home with a point apiece.
OA, which was making its return to the Davenport division after four years in the Kelley-Rex, would have gotten on the scoresheet under normal circumstances, but a goal on a late corner was wiped away because headers aren’t allowed under the new modified rules.
“It went alright,” OA coach Britt Sellmayer said about the return to play with the new rules in place. “It’s tough for the kids getting used to the rules, in terms of the kick-ins and stuff. We were a little panicky today. I have to do a better job coaching them that if someone encroaches, don’t kick the ball just wait.”
The Tigers started the game well, dominating the midfield led by senior Emma Pereira. OA was struggling to find the final ball to turn its possession into scoring opportunities and the North defense continued to deny the visitors any good chances near the penalty area. Summer Doherty and Haley Sinacola consistently intercepted passes or stepped up to clear balls from the edge of the box.
“I’ve got one defensive starter back, but I’ve got some good defenders,” said North coach Bill Wallace. “I usually don’t sub in on defense but now I’ve got the luxury of doing that. Even at the end there, I took Katie Manning, who’s a defender and told her to get to balls and she did a great job. It’s the one area we’ve been working on the most is defense and the girls have kind of embraced it.”
Kathryn Gibson had a shot from distance for the Tigers, but it was easily saved by North keeper Kaylah Seavey. Eight minutes into the second quarter (another modified rule for this season), Jenna Gilman stole the ball in the attacking third and played Allison Evin behind the fullback but her shot from the left channel was saved.
Evin then teed up classmate Camryn O’Connor for an effort from 18 yards but it was again comfortable for Seavey. A minute before halftime, North had a chance when Emma Pratt danced past a pair of defenders and had a shot that went wide.
OA has a history of being tough to defend on set pieces and the Tigers nearly made the breakthrough with a long free kick five minutes after the break. Lauren Sellmayer’s ball landed just behind the North defensive line but keeper Maddie Ferrin was quick off her line and read the bounce in traffic to make the catch.
The new rules almost cost the Tigers a minute later. Two defenders struggled with a bouncing ball, as they weren’t able to head it, and Steph McKenna nearly took advantage to run clear on goal. Lily Adams’ cross from the right wing to McKenna in the middle was cut out by Ella McDonough and then Tess Collins sliced a volley wide.
O’Connor started to assert herself at the end of the third quarter, having a series of chances from distance that were on target but didn’t trouble the keeper. Alexa Lane went close with nine minutes left but her cross from the right went straight through the box and slipped just wide of the post.
Sellmayer explained, “We need to have a little more composure. We played 80 minutes of soccer and neither goalie had to make a good save. They did a great job. They were organized at the back and we need to do a better job breaking them down. Maybe a few more diagonal runs rather than going straight at them all the time and when we have our chances we can’t serve it right at the goalie.”
Although OA turned a corner in that would in most seasons have been the game-winner, both teams left the field feeling like a draw was a fair result and both were happy to just be back on the pitch.
“I’ve got 24 kids and we played all 24,” said Wallace. “These kids are just so happy to be out here and you can see it in their play.”