FOXBORO, Mass. – To run through a perfect season, especially against the level of competition in the Hockomock League, sometimes you have to be lucky as well as good. King Philip rode its luck on Friday afternoon at Sam Berns Community Field to upend fellow division leader Foxboro.
Senior Makenzie Shandley scored the game’s only goal with 20 minutes remaining in the second half to lift KP to a 1-0 victory, but the perfect start to the season owed a lot to the crossbar, which Foxboro struck twice in the final three minutes, and to the play of keeper Taylor Butler, who made several important interventions when Foxboro got behind the defense.
“Holy smokes, that was insane,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “We knew it was going to be one of these games and it was. This was back and forth all game long. I’m pretty happy with the kids for hanging in there.”
The game’s only goal came with the visitors kicking into a stiff wind. Jenna Hitchen played the ball into the left channel for Chloe Layne to run onto. The senior forward was able to keep the ball in play but seemed to be bottled up on the end line. That was until she pulled off a spin move past her marker, opening space for a cross. Shandley beat her marker to it and then showed a deft touch to redirect it into the net.
“Who would’ve figured?” Pichel replied when asked about it being Shandley that came through with the only goal rather than some of the league’s top offensive threats. “Kenzie is a hard-working kid though and to have that kind of touch in tight like that, where she just kind of redirected it.”
KP had plenty of work left to do to preserve the one-goal advantage for 20 minutes. With 10 minutes left, Jordyn Collins had her progress halted 25 yards from goal but was able to lay the ball off to Kailee McCabe. The sophomore midfielder was clean through on goal, but Butler was out quick and appeared to make a huge save, although it was ruled a goal kick not a corner.
The hosts upped the pressure over the final few minutes of the game, putting the KP defense on its heels. As the clock wound down under three minutes left to play, Lizzy Davis got room to fire a shot from just outside the box that looped over Butler but came back off the bar. Just a minute later, from almost the exact same spot, McCabe was first to a loose ball and had a go but again the bar came to KP’s rescue.
“I just came over here and told them from what I saw, we were the better team,” said Foxboro coach Katie Stalcup. “I might be a little biased but that’s what I saw out there.”
She added, “We had through balls, we had great crosses, I feel like we had so many chances, it was just they finished and we didn’t. That’s kind of been our problem all season in tough games.”
Foxboro was looking to its speed in transition to break down a KP defense that had only allowed two goals all season and had recorded 10 shutouts in 12 games entering Friday. Collins only needed five minutes to show how dangerous she was on the break, holding off Olivia Berry and forcing Butler to come out and block the shot.
“She is quicker in person that she was on film,” Pichel said of Collins. “The film doesn’t do her justice. Jordyn just goes from touchline to touchline all game and then she settles in the middle and that’s the cue for their midfielders to send it through the middle to her.”
Midfielder Ally Stanton was out injured for the visitors and that forced Pichel to alter his lineup, moving forward Avery Snead back into the center of the pitch, which kept the Providence College commit from having much impact in the final third. Caroline Cass, Emma Dahl, and Yara Fawaz mostly were able to keep Layne, the league’s leading scorer, from having much impact as well.
“My defense was amazing today,” said Stalcup. “I feel like we shut Chloe down pretty well. She did get that cross off but we didn’t let her get any shots off from close in, from inside the 18. I’m really proud of my defense.”
KP’s best chance of the first half was created by Jenny Montville, who broke free into the center of the Foxboro defense, creating space for Ava Tormey on the right side of the box, but her effort was held by Foxboro keeper Morgan Sylvestre.
Collins created several chances on the other end. She was tightly marked by freshman Grace Lawler all day but with 10 minutes left in the first half Collins had the strength to hold her marker at bay and force Butler into a save. Two minutes later, Collins sent the ball forward to Davis, who won a challenge with a KP defender on the edge of the area but dragged a shot wide.
Montville and Snead forced Sylvestre into saves early in the second half, while Collins tried to beat Butler at the near post from a tight angle. In the 59th minute, Layne finally was able to find enough room in the penalty area to fashion a chance and Shandley finished it.
Layne had a goal wiped away for a very tight offside call that could have put the game away, but with only a one-goal lead against a potent attack, KP needed to hang on down the stretch. Between the defense, with senior Makayla Griffin and Berry joined by Snead for the final minutes, and the woodwork, KP did just that and maintained its perfect record.