The Warriors had starting goalie Morgan Sylvestre sent off for a foul on the edge of the box that the officials deemed a denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity. Junior Jordan Carman grabbed the goalie shirt and gloves for the first time in her career, which meant Foxboro was losing not only its keeper but also one of its best defenders.
Going up against the league leaders, a team with the second most goals in the league (behind only Foxboro), and an attacking unit boasting three of the top five scorers in the Hockomock for 50 minutes, it was improbable that the Warriors could come away with a victory.
But that’s exactly what happened. Foxboro dropped back into a solid defensive shell, largely holding Canton to long distance chances, and Carman dealt comfortably with everything she faced, helping the Warriors hold on for a 1-0 win that moved them into first place in the Davenport with one game remaining.
“I’m smiling very big under this mask right now,” said Foxboro coach Katie Stalcup. “It was just about containing, keeping them outside of the box as much as possible, not diving in, not letting them get any near shots off, and not letting them just pass the ball around. We did a good job of cutting off the angles for them to get it out wide.”
Despite the unseasonably cold weather, the teams looked ready to go from the start and settled into a tough, midfield battle.
The first quarter saw only a couple of half-chances for either side. Jordyn Collins settled a cross from the left but tried to play the ball out wide to Katelyn Mollica rather than shoot on the turn. Three minutes later, Olivia Rodman sent a left-footed cross into Gabriella Herivaux but the side-footed effort was easily held by Sylvestre.
Things livened up over a 12-minute span in the second quarter that saw the hosts go ahead and then quickly drop down to 10 players.
In the 24th minute, Collins blocked a clearance that forced Canton back into its own box and then Alyssa Vandenboom blocked the second attempt to get through on goal only to hit her shot right at Bulldogs keeper Marissa Staffiere. A minute later, the same duo combined for the opener.
Vandenboom played a perfectly weighted through ball between the center back and left back that Collins ran onto and the senior striker made no mistake, firing her shot in off the far post to put Foxboro ahead.
Just five minutes later, Elisa Diletizia got free for the first time in the match and was storming in on the Foxboro penalty area. Sylvestre was off her line quickly but her tackle caught the Canton forward. The officials conferred and agreed that if not for the foul Diletizia had a clear sight at goal and gave a straight red to the keeper and a free kick on the edge of the box.
With no backup keeper, Stalcup was forced to give Carman her debut in goal, which meant taking her from the stopper position where she has been so effective all season.
“Not even in practice, but she’s always told us that if need be that she would be the one that would step up,” Stalcup said about Carman’s goalkeeping experience.
Mia Gilmore wasn’t able to test the new keeper with her free kick, as it went narrowly over the bar. Six minutes later Gilmore had another chance from the edge of the box, after good interplay between Emily McCabe and Sarai Costello, but again it went just over.
The expectation was that Canton would create chance after chance in the second half, laying siege to the Foxboro goal in search of the equalizer, and the Bulldogs had plenty of possession, but the Foxboro defense continued to hold out. Lindsey Resnick in the middle, flanked by Meghan Burke and Peyton Feldman with Emma Dahl taking Carman’s spot at stopper alongside Kailee McCabe playing deeper than usual proved difficult for Canton to break down.
“I think we started forcing it a little bit too much,” Canton coach Idris Senyonjo admitted. “I think the idea of we need to score started getting in our heads more than actually we’re going to score if we keep doing what we’re supposed to be doing. But they did a good job defensively. They’re a good team.”
In fact, Foxboro had one of the best chances of the third quarter. Collins got free on the break and laid a pass off to Mollica on the right but the shot went just wide.
“That was what was so brilliant about it, when we did get the counters we were able to keep possession of the ball and at least get a few runners on the side,” Stalcup said. “They thought they were going to pound it on us and when we got the counter it put them on their heels.”
Canton’s best chance came nine minutes into the fourth. Anne Hoban broke free down the right wing and the defender hit a low cross into the box that Herivaux met first time. It was a well-struck shot but it skimmed the crossbar on its way past. Two minutes later, Rodman had a chance on the left but tried a cross rather than a shot and Carman got a touch and Burke was able to block the rebound attempt.
“It forced them to go much further deep to defend and it meant that we had to break up two blocks of four, which made it much harder,” Senyonjo explained. “You still have to make sure you do your job. We had probably, what 80 percent of the possession after the red card happened? But that doesn’t do you any good if you don’t get score a goal.”
Although the Warriors haven’t won a third straight title yet, it leaves them needing just a point on the road in Wednesday’s rematch to clinch the division.
“They came in [today] and the pressure was on them to get a win and now that pressure is on us,” said Senyonjo. “It’s kind of switched around.”
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