By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Each time Foxboro took the lead on Thursday afternoon, Mansfield bounced right back with the tying goal. And each time it was the Hornets No. 4 that got the telling touch to swing momentum back to the hosts.
Senior Caroline Maher scored all four of Mansfield’s goals in a 4-3 win over the Warriors at Alumni Field and in the process clinched tournament qualification for the Hornets (9-1-0, 8-1-0).
Foxboro took the lead with 18:54 remaining in the first half. Sophia Dicenso assisted on a goal by Caroline Wheatley to put the visitors ahead. Only 1:56 later and it was tied. Maher took a feed from Julia Todesco and finished.
Dicenso pounced on a chance in front of goal with 6:35 remaining in the opening half to again give the visitors momentum but just 4:15 later Maher once again found space in the middle of the Warriors defense to tie it up.
Maher would add two more goal in the second half, one at 26:35 off a corner from Emily Lerardo and the other at 15:44 from Olivia Horn, to build the Mansfield lead to 4-2 and put the Hornets in command.
“We were trying to keep the ball on the outside as much as we could,” said Foxboro coach Melissa Bordieri. “Their strength is in the middle and I knew she (Maher) was going to be tough.”
When asked what made Maher such a scoring threat, Mansfield coach Theresa Nyhan responded, “She is a bull in a china shop. She’s tenacious. She’s a playmaker and a finisher…she’s able to do both and that’s what separates her from the others.
“She scored some beauties today.”
The game’s momentum swung on Maher’s second that tied the game heading into hafltime. It was a pivotal moment with the Hornets on the edge but the Warriors unable to press their advantage.
“As soon as you get the momentum, you have to keep going and kudos to them for keeping going forward and not falling back,” said Bordieri.
Nyhan added, “It was a big momentum shift. We have our little turbo time after a goal where we have to pick it up for two minutes and just caught them back on their heels.”
The Hornets have shown the ability to bounce back at several points this season and Nyhan believes that her team has confidence when faced with adversity that it can find a way to get back into a game.
“We’re a resilient team,” she said. “We know we can score goals, so we didn’t panic. At practice we give up goals all the time and we keep coming back.”
The Warriors also showed resiliency on Thursday. Despite falling behind by two goals, Foxboro continued to push forward and won a corner that Annie McGeary fed out top to MaryLou Long and she blasted it past the defense and goalie Brenna Prior to cut the lead to 4-3 with 11:41 remaining.
“They played with really a lot of poise and they fought back,” said Bordieri. “They kept attacking the ball like I was telling them to, making concerted efforts to mark-up like we practiced, and shut down the middle as best we could.”
She added, “It was back-and-forth and I thought we played well; we just need to eliminate those small mistakes.”
Mansfield hung on for the one-goal victory that clinched the necessary 18 points to reach the state tournament and also kept the Hornets within one game of league leading Franklin with a rematch just 12 days away.
“If we’re really going to contend and go after Franklin then we need every point we can get,” said Nyhan. “So, the one point, the win instead of the tie, could be decisive.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.