MANSFIELD, Mass. – It looked as though Sunday evening’s playoff game was over in the final seconds of regulation. With the clock stopped at 2:00 and everyone waiting for the official’s whistle, Emma Oldow got free on the right side and sent in a curling cross just past the dive of King Philip goalie Emma Durant and onto the foot of Amanda Mangano at the back post.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, the sophomore forward had strayed just offsides and the celebrations of the home fans were cut short. Six minutes into the first overtime period and there was another celebration, this time from the traveling supporters behind the benches at Alumni Field.
Emma Corcoran’s deep corner to the back post was met by freshman Avery Snead, who nodded it back across the net and inside the far corner for a ‘golden goal’. The Warriors had pulled the upset over their league rivals, avenged two losses in the regular season, and ended the Hornets unbeaten season in the first round of the tournament.
“We practice all week on these corners and setting up the girls,” said KP coach Gary Pichel after his team’s 2-1 victory. “[Avery] came through with a huge one, just a huge one! It looked like it was going to go too deep and she was right where she needed to be.
He added with a laugh, “I thought I was going to have a stroke out there or something.”
Pichel was asked about his team talk before the overtime period and how he got the Warriors to refocus after being so close to having the season end on Mangano’s disallowed goal. He responded, “I didn’t even focus on that, didn’t even talk about it. I just told them what we needed to do for this overtime period.”
Mansfield coach Kevin Smith could only shake his head after the game. He had said before the game started that KP had improved over the course of the season and was a very dangerous opponent to have in the first round. He was proved right.
“We had a lot of chances,” he said. “Their goalie made some great saves, we missed a couple outside the post, Corcoran was great in their defense…it was a great game.”
The Warriors struck first in the 14th minute. Rachel Hogan got to a loose ball on the right corner of the penalty area and was brought down when she got a step on her defender. Corcoran stepped up and calmly dispatched the penalty into the top corner, leaving Mansfield goalie Emily Gaumond with no chance.
After falling behind, Mansfield was spurred into the attack and had several chances for the equalizer before the break. Stephanie Kemp had the first good chance when she ran onto a ball behind the defense from Hannah Reiter but Durant was off her line quickly to smother. Oldow saw a shot sail just wide of the post and then Kemp again got in behind the defense but her effort missed the corner by inches.
“Our seniors are such good leaders,” said Smith about the conversation down 1-0 at halftime. “They said, guys we’re yelling at each other and we don’t need to, we’re fine. I didn’t need to talk, they took care of it. They’ve set a leadership culture that they’re relaxed out there.”
In the 53rd minute, the Hornets evened the score with a golazo from sophomore defender Emily Vigeant. After a foul 40 yards from goal, Vigeant put her laces into the free kick and hit a laser just under the crossbar and past a helpless Durant to make it 1-1.
With the scores level, KP took a timeout to regroup and with the impetus on them to score again suddenly found their footing in the second half. Snead had the best chance after good footwork opened space for a shot that curled just wide. Maddie Smith created another chance with a steal in midfield and Chloe Layne’s one-touch pass freed Hogan but her shot was dragged wide.
Smith played a big role for the Warriors on Sunday, as she was tasked with marking Reiter, the Quinnipiac University-commit who was voted the league’s MVP this week. Pichel said, “She was questioning whether she could be more of a part of the offense but I told her it’s really critical to mark Hannah because she’s the field general out there.”
With six minutes left to play, Oldow sent in an angled cross that Durant stopped in the far corner but could not handle cleanly. The loose ball was prodded into the side netting by Allee Bezeau. Six minutes later, Mangano had her chance only to be denied by the whistle.
Smith said, “They bent and didn’t break until the free kick and we couldn’t find that toe poke in.”
In overtime, Snead rose highest. The freshman has been KP’s leading scorer this season and no goal has been bigger than the one she scored on Sunday.
“I told them that we could be the team that beat them,” said Pichel. “I told them they’d have to play the game of their lives and they’d have to give 150 percent…and they did. I’m so proud of them.
“It’s a culmination in the second half of the season of us gaining confidence, believing in what we can do as a team.”
While the season has come to a close for the Hornets (14-1-4), Smith reflected on what has been by almost every measure the best fall in the 29-year history of the program.
“Regular season undefeated, first league title ever, set records for goals scored…we’ve set almost every record in school history this year,” he said. “I’m proud of them for all that they’ve accomplished and it stinks that I don’t get to practice with them any more.”
King Philip (12-7-2) will get the chance to avenge two more regular season losses on Wednesday afternoon with a trip to another league rival, Oliver Ames.