WRENTHAM, Mass. – It is never easy to beat a team three times in a single season, but King Philip continues to meet all challenges this year and continues to show that there is a lot more to the team than just its two superstars.
The Warriors dominated the ball, limited Oliver Ames to a handful of half chances until late in the match, and had three different players find the back of the net in a 3-1 victory on Thursday afternoon that completes a sweep of the season series with the Tigers and sends the top seed into the Div. 1 South semifinal.
“You always worry about beating a team a third time, but my worries started to diminish when I saw how hard we came out and we were just taking it to them,” said KP coach Gary Pichel.
He added, “The kids came out with so much more energy at the opening whistle than they did against Hingham, so they learned their lesson. It’s not going to be a cake walk against a 16-seed and then you get OA and of course it’s always a battle against Britt (Sellmayer) and his team. We’re just happy to be moving on.”
OA’s defense was put under pressure from the opening kick. A long ball down the left channel was kept in bounds on the end line by Chloe Layne who created a corner, which Makayla Griffin curled it to the back post where it had to be cleared off the line. A minute later, Ally Stanton took a shot from distance that OA keeper Emily Meyers palmed out for another corner. Avery Snead headed the corner on target but Olivia Carroll was able to block on the line.
In the 12th minute, Layne again showed her ability to hold the ball up under pressure and passed it to Makenzie Shandley, who teed up Stanton for a shot that was saved. Three minutes later, Stanton played provider to set up Snead, who held off her defender but then blazed a shot over the bar.
The chances kept coming in the 23rd minute when Snead showed off her quick feet to dance around a couple of defenders but then dragged her shot wide of the post.
Allison Evin, the hero of OA’s overtime win against Franklin in the first round, nearly stunned the home crowd when she forced an Abigail Hodges free kick over the line, but it was ruled out for offside.
Led by Hodges, Carroll, and Emma Pereira, the OA defense had held the KP attack at bay, until the 36th minute. A bouncing ball landed at the feet of Jenny Montville, who hit a speculative shot on the turn from 25 yards. The half-volley looped towards goal and eluded the leap of Meyers before nestling into the top corner.
OA coach Britt Sellmayer said, “She hit it and it went up and came down in the net, so it was kind of deflating.” He joked, “It’s so hard to keep Chloe off and then Avery, I was thinking if we could stop those two, but we haven’t stopped them in four years, thank god they’re going to college.”
It was almost 2-0 in the closing seconds of the first half. Jenna Hitchen raced down the left side and forced a good diving save out of Meyers and then Montville saw her brace erased by a goal line clearance from Jenna Gilman.
“We’re trying to figure each other out in that first half,” Pichel said. “I was trying to figure out what his plan was, which was obviously to mark up with at least one person on Chloe and Avery, but I thought they were more defensive at the outset. We were just all over them.”
Eight minutes after the break, KP doubled its lead. Griffin set up Hitchen, who cut inside on her right foot and forced a save out of Meyers. The keeper managed to tip the shot onto the bar, but Snead was the quickest to react to the rebound and tapped it home.
In the 60th minute, the Warriors put the game away. A corner was half-cleared out to Stanton, who hit it first time through a crowd and into the bottom corner.
Pichel said, “We’ve worked hard the whole season to get them more involved with the play. Even though Chloe and Avery do the bulk of the scoring, we get big contributions from Jenny Montville and Jenna Hitchen and Ally Stanton. That’s three other players they have to worry about other than Chloe and Avery and that’s been a big plus for us all season long.”
OA started to create more scoring chances in the closing 15 minutes, but the KP defense of Olivia Berry, Paige Varvarigos, Grace Lawler (who was given the task of man-marking OA’s leading scorer Erin Holmberg), and Griffin proved difficult to break down.
“Sometimes you underrate their defense because of Chloe and Avery,” Sellmayer explained, “but it took us 70 minutes before we started getting some corner kicks and creating some chances on them.”
Leah Johnson had a chance blocked by Berry and Varvarigos was forced to clear a Hodges free kick off the line, while the rebound was sent over the bar. A Hodges corner in the 75th minute was met by a glancing header from Camryn O’Connor, but it went narrowly wide of the far post.
The Tigers avoided the shutout in the final minute. Johnson found herself with room on the left side of the box and picked out O’Connor alone in the middle. The sophomore took a touch and fired a shot into the side netting.
“We had some chances, but we didn’t get the luck that we needed in the first half,” Sellmayer reflected. “To beat a great team like KP, you’ve got to have some luck. We worked hard but it didn’t bounce our way today.”
King Philip (20-0) advances to face No. 12 seed Needham in the semifinal, which will be played on Wednesday at Whitman-Hanson.