CANTON, Mass. – Canton had a chance to cut North Attleboro’s lead in the Davenport division to just a single point last week, but a loss to the Rocketeers on Friday opened that lead back up to five points and made each of the remaining league games a must win if the Bulldogs were going to keep up the race for a title.
On Monday night, the Bulldogs bounced back with a strong overall performance in a 3-0 win against Milford, sparked by a pair of unassisted goals from freshman phenom Olivia Rodman and a composed defensive effort.
Milford started the game well, combining well in the midfield to create opportunities in the final third. Sophomores Ashleigh Starks, Juliana France, and Annie Flanagan passed their way through the Canton midfield in the opening few minutes and Maggie Boyle and Hannah Martin each forced saves out of Canton keeper Briana Murphy.
“They connect passes really well,” said Canton assistant coach Sarah Handman of Milford. “I think we weren’t winning the 50-50 balls in the first 15 minutes and from then on that’s what made the difference.
The Hawks only struggle was finding the right pass to turn half chances into goals. Milford coach Jay Mastaj said, “That’s been our struggle all season, we’re playing with everybody but then the ball gets into the final third and we’re missing that little extra. We had our chances.”
The Bulldogs started to get a foothold in the game and in the 19th minute Rodman changed the momentum completely. The freshman ran onto a ball down the far touchline and cut infield onto her right foot before unleashing a rocket just under the bar and out of the reach of freshman keeper Carly Ferreira.
The goal turned the game on its head and the confidence started flowing for the hosts, who took control. Three minutes after the goal, Riley Duserick saw a 25-yard free kick smack off the crossbar and out and then right back Leianna Brune intercepted a pass on the right and sent a perfect early cross to an unmarked Rodman on the edge of the six, but the shot went over the bar.
“That’s where we start,” said Handman. “We work on building on the outside from the back.” In addition to Brune down the right side, central defender Sarah Connolly and left back Sarah Collins frequently stepped forward in possession and created space for the midfielders and forwards to take advantage.
Milford’s best chance of the game arrived in the 25th minute when sophomore Madeline Boyle lined up a 35-yard free kick and forced a stretching save out of Murphy, who managed to catch the ball just under the bar.
Madeline Boyle showed off her defensive ability a few minutes later when she reacted first to a low cross from the left to deny Lilah Sullivan a chance at the back post and then Rachel LeBlanc stepped just in front of Rodman to deny a goal scoring opportunity.
The chances kept coming for Canton with freshman Elisa Diletizia showing her strength to shoulder aside her defender and run onto a through ball from Juliana Agnitti before sending in a hard cross that Rodman just missed getting a foot on.
Diletizia had chances to extend the lead either side of halftime but sent both shots wide. Sullivan had another shot when Rodman’s run deflected off a defender’s leg and fell to the senior inside the box but Ferreira came up with one of her seven saves (six in the second half alone).
“The defense has been playing great all year,” said Mastaj. “Carly is a freshman goalie and being a freshman and stepping up to varsity isn’t easy and I think she’s been good back there.”
In the 54th minute, Rodman sealed the win for the Bulldogs. Diletizia sent a through ball over the top and Rodman got fortunate as she raced to the ball with Ferreira, as the ball deflected off her leg and rolled the ball past the keeper. Rodman hustled to the end line to keep the play alive and was able to cut the ball back towards the goal from an acute angle and, with the help of a defender’s foot, into the net.
Canton nearly added a third in the 74th minute but Brianna Braza cleared a Morgan McCabe shot off the line at the near post and then got up to block a shot from Lauren Fitzpatrick as well. The third did finally arrive with the final kick of the game, as McCabe finished a breakaway with a well-taken shot on the run.
Handman said, “Our goalkeeper only had to make two or three saves in the second half and I think we could have scored three or four goals with our runs up top. We had really good chances.”
Canton (7-4-2) is three points behind league leader North Attleboro with three league games remaining. The Bulldogs will try to stay in the title race on Thursday when they travel to Sharon. Milford (4-8-2) needs eight points from its remaining four games to get into the state tournament and will start its closing stretch with a trip to Foxboro on Thursday.