CANTON, Mass. – On Monday night, it took Canton almost the full 80 minutes before they found the breakthrough goal and picked up a crucial two points. Two days later at WWII Veterans Memorial Field, the Davenport division-leading Bulldogs did all their scoring in the first quarter to make it a sweep of the series with North Attleboro.
Olivia Rodman scored twice in the opening nine minutes on Wednesday and the Canton defense recorded its third clean sheet of the season, leading the Bulldogs to a 2-0 win over North that keeps them two points clear of Foxboro at the top of the league standings.
While the attack, which is tied for the league lead with 25 goals this season, will get a lot of the attention, first-year coach Idris Senyonjo praised his defense for continuing to make things difficult for the opposition.
“That’s how we’re going to be able to win games like this, if you play as a whole team, defend as a team,” he said. “We’ve come a long, long way. You can’t win games if you don’t defend and for me that’s a key. Defensively, I’ve got to make sure we stay compact all the way from the forwards all the way to the back.”
Momentum seemed to carry over from the first meeting, as Canton jumped all over North in the opening quarter. The Bulldogs found a lot of success down the right wing. Alexandra Lopez found a lot of space out by the touchline and it was her crosses that led to the goals.
The first came after just five minutes. Lopez got free down the wing and played a low cross right to the foot of Rodman eight yards from goal. The Providence College-bound senior didn’t bother taking a touch, smashing a first-time shot inside the post, giving North keeper Kaylah Seavey no chance.
Five minutes later, another Lopez cross wasn’t fully cleared at the top of the box. Rodman harried the North defenders and kept the play alive. When the ball popped loose, Rodman was the first to react and hit a left-footed shot back across goal into the bottom corner for a 2-0 lead.
“This time, we played a different formation so we could counter what they were doing,” Senyonjo said about how his team adapted from the first game against North. “I wanted to be unpredictable. I put Alex there and they thought she wasn’t going to be a threat, but that’s where all the balls came from.”
North looked sluggish in the opening 20 minutes and struggled to put pressure on the Canton back line. A long ball from Autumn Hewitt nearly found the run of Emma Pratt but Canton goalie Elyse Broderick was out quickly to collect. Pratt also had a go from 20 yards that went wide, but that was about all that the Rocketeers could muster in the first.
“We were playing a little bit back on our heels,” North coach Bill Wallace explained, “so the space between midfield and forward was just too big and it’s something that we have to win more of those 50-50 balls in the middle of the field because if we’re constantly chasing then we’ve got two kids up top hung out to dry.”
There was a notable increase in energy from North after the first break. Two minutes into the second, Charlotte Moynihan’s free kick dropped in the penalty area but Anne Hoban was able to clear for the hosts.
Canton had one good look in the second. Sarai Costello played a through ball to Gabriella Herivaux, who fed Elisa Diletizia. She cut from left to right across the top of the box and forced Seavey into a diving save.
Chances continued to be few and far between for both teams in the second half as the aggression level increased in the midfield and both teams made it difficult for anyone to have time on the ball.
Moynihan had another good set piece midway through the third quarter trying to pick out the run of Steph McKenna but again Hoban was there to clear. North got its first shot on target with three minutes left in the quarter. HHaley Sinacola’s long free kick forcing Broderick into a leaping catch.
The Rocketeers kept battling and nearly got an equalizer early in the fourth. Moynihan’s corner from the right side hit Caroline Ferrin at the near post and freshman Ava Gilmore was in the right place to clear it off the line.
“I was very encouraged about the way we came back after that first period,” Wallace said. “The good news is they learned from it. We’re still a fairly young team and hopefully they can take this and say, we need to play a full 80 minutes.”
With six minutes to play, Diletizia came close to adding a third. A Costello corner picked out the forward in traffic and Diletizia’s flick came back off the post.
“For me coming in as a new coach, step by step you can see what we’re trying to do,” said Senyonjo about his team’s progression this season and about the challenge of facing the three teams (North, Oliver Ames, and Foxboro) who have accounted for the last seven Davenport titles. “I told them if we can get through this then we’ll be even better prepared for Monday.”
Canton (6-0-0) will continue its run against unbeaten teams when it hosts Oliver Ames for senior night on Monday. North Attleboro (2-2-2) will look to get back on track when it travels to defending champ Foxboro.