MANSFIELD, Mass. – As the clock wound down in the fourth quarter, the field felt titled towards the home team. It seemed only a matter of time until Mansfield was able to turn its domination into an equalizing goal and salvage a point. With five minutes to play and the Hornets pushing numbers forward, King Philip countered and sealed the win.
Ella Pisani’s second goal of the night, coming against the run of play, clinched a 2-0 victory for the Warriors and a sweep of the season series with Mansfield, setting up a battle of unbeaten league leaders next week against Franklin.
“Against these guys it’s always the same deal,” said KP coach Gary Pichel about playing Mansfield. “We’re always fighting neck-and-neck and there’s no blowouts or anything. I’m happy.”
The Hornets got off to a slow start, struggling to create scoring chances in the first quarter, but they grew into the game and their depth proved important as they seemed to have more energy in the final 20 minutes.
Cathryn Cooney had a good look from 20 yards but KP keeper Emma Glaser made the save down to her right. Four minutes later, Cooney’s free kick nearly picked out Tarynn Smith at the back post, but she was unable to bring it down cleanly and Glaser was off her line quick to secure the loose ball. The pressure was mounting on the KP back line, but Mansfield just couldn’t find the final ball.
KP sprung a counter with five minutes left. Pisani slid a ball down the left channel, playing Jenny Montville in behind the Mansfield right back and clean on goal. Montville’s chance was smothered by Hornets keeper Olivia Salisbury but the rebound popped out to Pisani. She took a touch and calmly curled a shot over the keeper to wrap up the win. It was her third goal of the young season.
“We also went three at the back and really two at the back as I was pushing everybody up, so what’s the difference between losing 1-0 or 2-0?” asked Mansfield coach Kevin Smith. “We’ve got to take the risks.”
Mansfield almost cut the lead in half with two minutes to go, but Isabella Lennon shot off an indirect free kick in the box was sent wide of the post.
Pichel praised his defense for holding onto the clean sheet, even with Grace Lawler sidelined with injury. He explained, “I used a freshman midfielder, Kylie Menendez, because she’s been playing so well in the mid and I said I’ve got to put her back there and see if works and she did a fantastic job with Paige [Varvarigos]. She held her own in a big game.”
The Warriors started well. Freshman Ellish McGowen had a shot from 20 yards in the first minute and forced Salisbury (five saves) into a diving stop. Montville nearly took advantage of a mix-up between a pair of Mansfield defenders but her shot from 25 yards was comfortable for the keeper.
“We were both a little slow,” Smith admitted. “If you watched Wednesday’s game (a 2-1 KP win), it was brilliant. Both teams played awesome. I think we were both just tired. Neither of has played two games in three days since February, so we’re all going to be rusty.”
In the final minute of the opening quarter, KP grabbed the lead. Kiera Lindmark was fouled when jumping for a cross from a corner kick and Pisani made no mistake from the spot.
“Ella took Avery [Snead]’s number (No. 9) on purpose because she adores Avery and wants to be like her,” said Pichel of Pisani picking up the scoring slack left by the Warriors graduating the program’s two all-time leading scorers. “She’s got some good moves and a good shot. She’s off to a good start.”
While it wasn’t the best start for Mansfield, the Hornets looked much better after the quick timeout. Maria Sevastos had a chance only three minutes into the second, getting free down the left wing, but her shot skimmed the bar on its way over. Anna Darlington then played Carly Devine down the right channel but she was unable to get the shot off under pressure from Varvarigos.
“I’m very happy with the girls,” said Smith. “They took that first quarter and put it in the back of their heads and got rid of it and switched back on and played well.”
KP could have doubled its lead with two minutes to go before halftime. When Mansfield tried to play out of its own penalty area, Paulina Baczkowski forced a turnover but her shot from a tight angle was pushed aside by Salisbury.
Kara Santos’ long free kick in the final minute of the second was on target and Glaser spilled the shot, but the keeper bravely dove at Smith’s feet to ensure there was no rebound opportunity for the Hornets forward and keep KP in front at the break.
King Philip (2-0) will e back home next week to host also unbeaten Franklin with first place in the Kelley-Rex on the line. Mansfield (0-2) will be back at Alumni Field on Wednesday to host Taunton in the season opener for the Tigers.
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