Oliver Ames entered its final league game of the year with a one point advantage over Mansfield, who still has a game to go. A win for either side would have clinched the Kelley-Rex division but the Tigers and Hornets finished 1-1 – their second draw of the season.
“They’re a great team, they’re a tough team,” Mansfield head coach Kevin Smith said. “It’s great to play against a great team. We’re happy with the point. It’s two great teams battling the heck out of each other. It was great defense all around, midfield play was strong. Any attacking was at a premium because the teams were both playing so hard. Both goalies made some good stops. It was just a great game all around, OA is a great team.”
Mansfield controls its own destiny with its last league game on Friday night against Canton at Gillette Stadium. A tie against the Bulldogs would mean a share of the title and a win would equal the division crown outright. Oliver Ames would earn a share of the title along with Mansfield if there is a tie and would win the title outright if the Bulldogs beat the Hornets.
“I was very pleased with how the team came back in the second half,” Oliver Ames head coach Britt Sellmayer said. “They showed a lot of composure, a lot of character. Mansfield is a great team, they’re well coached.”
Between the weather – wind and rain – and the high stakes of the game, neither side was able to get into a real groove in the opening half. Mansfield had the best two chances of the half, starting with Stephanie Kemp‘s shot in the seventh minute that was saved.
Four minutes later, Mansfield’s Hannah Reiter nearly opened the scoring, ripping a shot from just inside the area that looked destined to sneak under the crossbar. Instead, Oliver Ames junior keeper Regan Benton timed her jump perfectly, punching the shot over the bar.
On the other end, center backs Emily Vigeant and Emily Sullivan anchored the Hornets back line with Allison Verge, Mikaela Maughnand Kerina Geminianiall seeing time as outside backs in front of keeper Emily Gaumond.
Both teams settled down in the second half as the rain ramped up. It took the Hornets less than four minutes into the second stanza to find the opener.
Mansfield earned a free kick along the right sideline, just outside the area. Vigeant delivered the service to the near post where Reiter ran onto and latched onto it with a volley that found the far post for a 1-0 lead.
“Hannah Reiter’s a special player, it took her four years to get a goal on us,” Sellmayer said. “You can’t give [Mansfield] restarts near the box. Vigeant and [Reiter] have been a great combination all year long.”
“With her, you have a leader that’s been through some battles,” Smith said of Reiter. “Her club team has been #1 in the nation, she’s played in the finals. She knows what it’s like to play in big games. She’s just a field general out there, she’s calming people down. She actually called our timeout, she said we needed it because we were a little flustered and I trust her to make judgements like that.
“She calls the plays out there, she reads the game so well. She steps up in the big times. She scored against Franklin the first game, she scored here…she has so many game-winning goals in the big games, like King Philip the other day. She likes to pop up at the right times, it’s a joy to coach her.”
Oliver Ames was close to finding the equalizer in the 62nd minute when Chazan’s free kick from the wing hit off the crossbar and out. Two minutes later, Mansfield almost doubled the lead when Bryn Anderson connected with Kemp but her bid was over the bar.
A minute later, the Tigers did come through with the tying goal. Freeman, from her own half, delivered a perfect diagonal ball through Mansfield’s defense. Lauren Wright ran onto and slotted her shot past an oncoming Gaumond, the ball hitting the far post and going in to make it 1-1.
“We started to play with four forwards near the end because we were desperate,” Sellmayer said. “We played with three in the back, three in the middle and then sort of a diamond up top. Losing 2-0, 3-0 didn’t make a difference, we had to go for it and we did. We played better in the second half.”
The Hornets had a chance three minutes after OA’s equalizer with a pair of corner kicks. On the first, Vigeant’s service skipped through the area for a close chance but Freeman was in perfect position to block the shot.
With a lot of numbers pushed forward at the end, Oliver Ames had one final chance in the final seconds. After a partial clearance, OA’s Jess Robarge sent a ball back in that was deflected down. Junior Abby Reardon sprinted towards the ball but Gaumond came off her line and smothered the loose ball to preserve the tie.
Mansfield (14-0-3, 12-0-3) will look to earn the division title when they play Canton at Gillette Stadium on Friday at 8:00. Oliver Ames girls soccer (13-0-4, 12-0-4) will conclude the regular season with a trip to Brockton on Saturday at 1:00.