SOUTH EASTON, Mass. – The Canton girls soccer team might have just made it into the state tournament, but the trials and tribulations of the Hockomock League schedule have the Bulldogs prepared for anything this postseason.
That tournament run started on Tuesday afternoon with the 14th-seeded Bulldogs earning a dominant 8-0 win in the rain on the road against third-seeded Southeastern.
While the Hawks entered with just two losses in 14 games played, their schedule paled in comparison to the vigorous slate of 18 games that Canton played throughout the 2019 season. Of the eight losses the Dogs had this year, six came to playoff teams and the other two to two teams who missed the tournament by one game each.
“When you look at the games we play throughout the season, we play really good Division 1 schools the entire season,” said Canton head coach Kate Howarth. “A lot of those games, like the OA and Milford games, we were in it until the end but let in a late goal, those were the things we really had to tighten up and make sure we correct those because that’s how you lose games in tournaments but I think the fact that we’ve had those games and experienced those adverse moments, now we know we can’t do that again.
“I know our seed wasn’t great because of games like that but I think it prepared us for this. Moving forward, I think we’re in a good spot. All the good teams we see throughout the year prepare us for when we come into the tournament.”
Canton had eight different players find the back of the net, with six coming in the opening 40 minutes to seize a commanding lead of the match.
After testing the Southeastern keeper just once in the opening 10 minutes, the Dogs flipped a switch and peppered the net with 11 shots over the final 30 minutes, with six chances finding the back of the net.
The goal parade began in the 11th minute after junior Mia Gilmore won a battle at the top of the box, took a touch towards goal and blasted a low shot to the far post for a 1-0 lead.
It took just four minutes for the Bulldogs to add to the tally. Sophomore Gabby Herivaux took advantage of space in front of her and ripped a shot from distance that sailed over the keeper’s head in the 15th minute.
Junior Elisa Diletizia jumped onto a perfectly played through ball in behind the defense in the 20th minute, going in alone on the keeper and sliding a shot past her for a 3-0 lead.
After over 10 minutes without adding to its tally, Canton found the back of the net three times in the final 10 minutes of the half to take complete control.
In the 34th minute, junior Olivia Rodman showed off her speed by racing past a pair of defenders down the right wing, cutting into the area and blasting a shot that forced a corner kick. On the ensuing corner, Gilmore put a service into the area and Rodman was there to clean it up to make it 4-0.
A minute after the goal, freshman Emily McCabe connected with junior Paige Drury at the top of the box. After a touch to get some space, Drury’s low strike snuck past the keeper for a 5-0 advantage. And then just before halftime, senior Lauren McCabe fired a shot from the right side of the box that found the back of the net to make it 6-0.
“It took us a minute to get going and I think the first 15 minutes or so we’re shaky,” Howarth said. “We had to tighten things up and play more disciplined. Once we did that, we started to get the goals. We started to play balls in and put shots on frame. Once we do that, we’re a pretty dangerous team. As far as scoring, we have a lot of weapons but it’s all about staying organized from front to back and playing an entire 80 minutes.”
The Hawks had a pair of chances in the opening 40 minutes but couldn’t find the back of the net. Senior forward Katie Micale raced onto a ball in behind the defense in the 23rd minute but Canton keeper Elyse Broderick came charging off her line and forced the shot wide. Broderick also denied Micale with a save two minutes later.
With a large lead, Howarth was able to rest her starters for the entire second half.
Canton added to its lead in the 51st minute when Drury made a nice run to force a poor clearance from the Hawks’ defense. The ball ended up on the foot of junior Jenna Parrella, and she looped a high shot just under the bar for a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs capped the scoring in the 78th minute as Han Hong played a perfectly weighted ball between defenders to sophomore Fay Gallery, and Gallery made no mistake with a blast into the back of the net.
“It can carry over from here,” Howarth said. “We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had a lot of kids score, we aren’t relying on just one or two players. We have five girls that are around 10 goals. We have a solid team environment where everybody contributes all the time. It doesn’t always happen but when it does it’s really beneficial for a team.”
Canton girls soccer (11-8-0) advances to the D2 South Quarterfinal and will travel to play #6 Somerset-Berkley (13-5-1) on Thursday at 6:00.