Fitzpatrick Nets Winner as Franklin Edges Mansfield

Franklin girls soccer
Sophomore Riley Fitzpatrick (11) scored on a Rachel Hogan cross eight minutes before halftime to hand Franklin a 1-0 win against Mansfield. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


FRANKLIN, Mass. – In a game of few scoring chances, it took only one moment of skill, only one defensive lapse, to decide a winner in Friday night’s match at Pisini Stadium.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The only goal of the game arrived with eight minutes before the break, as sophomore Riley Fitzpatrick showed a deft touch to tap in Rachel Hogan’s cross on the edge of the six-yard-box and lift Franklin to a 1-0 victory over rival Mansfield.

“She’s awfully good athletically,” Franklin coach Tom Geysen said of Fitzpatrick. “She played far more aggressively than she has at any other point in the season and that makes a big difference. If you can put pressure up front on their backs, somebody’s going to make a mistake.”

Most of the game was played in the middle of the pitch, as the two teams did a good job of cancelling each other out and limiting the ability for either to get into the final third. When the teams did get the ball forward, both defenses stood tall to clear their lines and keep both goalies largely untroubled.

“Neither team,” said Mansfield coach Kevin Smith about the lack of clear scoring chances. He did note that the overall play had improved from the teams’ first meeting, adding, “We were both chatting about how we’ve been developing and both teams were passing, moving. The soccer is much better and both teams have grown.”

It took 18 minutes for the first shot in anger. A clearance by Franklin left back Anna Balkus popped out to Katie Miller and the sophomore had a go from 20 yards that was held by Breanna Atwood. A couple minutes later, Tarynn Smith had another chance for Mansfield, but freshman defender Norah Anderson forced the forward wide and made it an easier stop for Atwood.

Franklin needed half an hour to register its first shot on goal. It just happened to also find the back of the net.

Hogan battled to win the ball back on the right side of the Mansfield penalty area and she needed only a sliver of space to fire a cross to the edge of the six. Fitzpatrick made a late run towards the back post, cut across her marker, and side-footed a shot past Mansfield keeper Olivia Salisbury.

Fitzpatrick created Franklin’s other scoring opportunity of the first half when she won the ball in midfield and got it forward to senior Carly Alston. She cut inside on her right foot and fired a shot that was straight at the keeper.

Things opened up slightly at the start of the second half, as the Hornets created a scoring chance just a minute after the break. Smith played Avery Hawthorne down the left channel but her shot to the near post was grabbed by Atwood.

Eleven minutes later, Hawthorne hustled to pressure Franklin defender Sabrina Addi, blocking a clearance and getting free in the box only for Balkus to come flying across and block the goal-bound shot.

Fitzpatrick continued to be a menace for the Panthers. She created space for a cross from the right side that picked out Sydney St. Marie at the back stick but her volley was blocked by Megan Krone.

“We’ve been having that problem all season,” said Geysen. “We get a minimum number of shots. You have to score goals and we don’t. We have to play good defense and keep working our butts off to stay in the game.”

He added, “We need to be able to pressure the ball and get to it quickly. Not having Stella [Regan] (who is out with a broken leg) in the middle is a real kick in the butt because she’s so good moving the ball.”

With six minutes remaining in the game, Maria Sevastos had a free kick right on the edge of the box. The Franklin wall struggled to get itself set and gave Sevastos a look at the corner, but the shot skidded just wide.

The Hornets finished with a flurry, looking for an important equalizer that would get them one point closer to a playoff spot, but the Panthers held out and nearly doubled the lead when St. Marie couldn’t get full purchase on a volley off an Alston cross.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Smith about Mansfield’s chances of getting into the postseason. “We needed that [challenge]. We’re getting there. I love working with these kids, they’re great.”

Franklin (8-4-1, 7-4-1) will travel to Taunton on Tuesday, while Mansfield (5-5-4, 5-5-3) will begin its quest for four points from its remaining four games with a trip to Oliver Ames.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Girls Soccer: 2019 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2019 Kelley-Rex Girls Soccer Preview
Last fall, Mansfield won the league title for a third straight season but the rest of the loaded Kelley-Rex division will be aiming to take down the Hornets this year. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Kelley-Rex Girls Soccer Preview

Attleboro

2018 Record: 6-11-1
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Steve Santos
The Bombardiers have made great improvements over the last couple of seasons, jumping from eight goals scored as a team to 26 and then 24 in 2017 and 2018, and now head coach Steve Santos is looking for Attleboro to take the next step and make its first state tournament appearance since joining the Hockomock League. With an experienced corps and several talented newcomers, Santos hopes this will be the year to get a taste of the postseason.

The attack has been led by junior forward Isabella Salviati, who had half of the team’s goals last year and assisted on seven other goals. The forward play flows through her, but the Bombardiers will be hoping to get more contributions from junior Briley Harnois, who had a breakout sophomore campaign, and from midfielder Jessica Gates, who has the vision to find the key pass that will spring one of the forwards. Also helping out through midfield and into the attack with be seniors Ashley Dame and Julia Reyes.

There is also experience in the heart of the Attleboro defense with senior Sophia Salviati paired with classmate Emily Antonik. Junior Vanessa Laguerre makes the move up from JV this season and will be slotted into the back line as well. Goalie has been a position of strength for the Bombardiers for several seasons but this year it is in flux as senior Ashley Macia is slated to be the starter, but she is also capable in defense and saw a lot of time as an outfield player last year. Freshman Alexis Campbell could eventually step in between the posts. Junior Riley Sullivan could contribute right away and is capable of playing multiple positions and sophomore Emily Khang adds another player with ball skills.

“We have a lot of returning players,” said Santos, “and I think we have more depth so we won’t have to rely on the starters for as many minutes. We have a lot of players who can contribute and fill in the pieces. The key this season will be being consistent for 80 minutes and keeping our pace for the whole game.”

Franklin

2018 Record: 10-3-5
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Tom Geysen
Franklin lost only three games all of last season and had one of the league’s best defensive records, allowing only 10 goals in 18 games. That solidity in the defensive third will be hard to replicate, as the Panthers graduated three of last year’s back four, but there is also hope that the promising young attackers can take some of the pressure off by improving on the team’s 40 goals scored, which was seventh best in the Hock.

Senior Sabrina Addi is the lone returning defender for the Panthers, but she will get help from senior goalie Breanna Atwood to try and organize an inexperienced defense. Freshman Norah Anderson will jump into the center of the defense and looks ready for the physical challenge of Hock play. Senior Sam Powderly will drop back from midfield to help out as well.

Once the Panthers get the ball back, there are plenty of familiar faces to try and get goals. Senior Anna Balkus can play a number of different positions, including in the heart of midfield, the wing, or in the attack. Sophomore Stella Regan is coming off a breakout rookie season and adds even more pace to the center of the pitch, while senior Carly Alston is a solid performer on both sides of the ball. In the attack, juniors Erin Quaile and Sydney St. Marie are looking to make the leap to add more consistent scoring.

“I know the kids with experience won’t back down,” said Franklin coach Tom Geysen, “but I need to see how the younger kids will react to this level. I need to see if they can physically cope with playing where I need them to play.”

King Philip

2018 Record: 12-5-2
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Gary Pichel
When you bring back players the caliber of seniors Avery Snead and Chloe Layne, the expectations will be very high for the upcoming season. King Philip enters 2019 as the favorite to bring home a league title but also with the goal of matching the run that the Warriors made in 2017, when they won the South title in double overtime and reached the state semifinal.

Layne, the 2017 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, and Snead, the 2017 HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and two-time league MVP, have been among the league’s leading scorers each of the last three years and will make one more run at a league title. They are joined up top by senior Ally Stanton. The trio was one of the league’s most dynamic attacking groups, combining for 50 goals and 33 assists last season

Senior Jenna Hitchen and juniors Emma Glaser and Jenny Montville will also contribute to pushing the Warriors forward, while freshman Ella Pisani is a newcomer to watch in the attack. A lot of attention will (rightfully) be paid to KP’s attack, but its defense is also experienced. Seniors Makayla Griffin and Olivia Berry and junior Paige Varvarigos return to the back line with a combined eight years on varsity. Junior Taryn Greenberg and freshman Grace Lawler will also contribute in defense in front of junior goalie Taylor Butler.

“I am very excited about the prospects for our team this year,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “That being said, we will remain laser-focused on not overlooking any team that we play. We will not look ahead but instead, will prepare for each team we have on our schedule with great intensity, one game at a time.




Mansfield

2018 Record: 15-3-4
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Kevin Smith
The Hornets have had an unprecedented level of success over the past three seasons, winning three straight Kelley-Rex division titles, and reaching last year’s Div. 1 South semifinal, but Mansfield enters the fall with an almost entirely new roster and having only one player on the team with more than one year of varsity experience.

Senior Erin Dooling is by far the most experienced player on the roster, but defender Maria Sevastos and midfielder Katie Miller both saw a lot of playing time as freshmen and impressed during their rookie campaigns. Senior midfielder Kerrin Sears and senior defender Megan Krone join Dooling as captains this season and will both need to provide leadership for a team with four freshmen on the roster.

Mansfield coach Kevin Smith said, “We are young and learning each day with an entire new starting lineup, four freshmen on the roster and 18 of 24 players new to the team. Erin is the lone player with more than one year of varsity experience while Maria and Katie earned a lot of minutes last year. All three will be leaned on to share their experience with the team.”

Oliver Ames

2018 Record: 11-5-3
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Britt Sellmayer
Oliver Ames continues to turn out competitive teams ready to challenge the best teams in the league and put themselves in the state tournament picture. This fall will be no different, as the Tigers have six returning starters and 14 players who saw varsity action last year. While there is still a relative lack of experience, the Tigers remain a team with high expectations.

Defense has also been a strength of the program and this year is no different with seniors Olivia Carroll, Abigail Hodges, and Leah Johnson providing a strong backbone for the team and will be a unit that is hard to break down. Junior goalie Emma O’Donnell is dealing with a preseason injury, so sophomore Emily Meyers will get the start for the season opener. Seniors Erin Holmberg and Abby Evin will lead the forward line, but there were strong rookie seasons from Camryn O’Connor and Allison Evin that give confidence for additional help in the final third.

“For OA to return to the tournament we will need some of our less experienced players to step up,” said Oliver Ames coach Britt Sellmayer.

Taunton

2018 Record: 3-16
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Joe Rocha
Former Taunton boys soccer coach Joe Rocha takes over the girls program this fall and will continue a rebuilding effort to try and get the Tigers off the foot of the division standings, which is a difficult task in the loaded Kelley-Rex division. Rocha knows it will be a process with a relatively young roster and is looking for improvements over the course of the season.

Senior Grace Pimenta will be back in goal for the Tigers this season, after missing part of last year with an injury. Pimenta will add leadership to the defensive unit that features senior Emma Silvia and sophomore Isabella Anslow in the middle. Keeping things solid in the center will be the key and Taunton will hope that the forwards can stay active and put pressure on the opposing defenses. Seniors Paige Tolan, Allison Calderon, and Kerla Sylvestre, and juniors Emily O’Gara and Morgan Zakrewski will be counted on to step up and improve Taunton’s goal-scoring numbers (after scoring 16 goals as a team last season).

“We are a very young team and will have some growing pains,” Rocha said. “As a first-year coach, my players are learning a new system and once we all get on the same page, I feel that our play will improve.”

Hornets Drop Heartbreaker In Double Overtime

Mansfield girls soccer
Mansfield’s Sydney Mulkern fights for a loose ball against Newton South in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
PLYMOUTH, Mass. – Time after time, the Mansfield defense thwarted long throws and corners kicks from top-seeded Newton South.

In the first overtime period alone, the Hornets fended off five long throws from the Lions’ throw-in specialist Larissa Williams.

While the Hornets limited Newton South’s restarts in the offensive third in the second overtime, the Lions finally got a throw-in in the final minute and cashed in. Williams’ long throw-in was cleared back to her on the sideline, and she delivered a service into the area that Audrey Lavey headed into the net, giving Newton South a 3-2 win over Mansfield.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“We kept bending, bending, never breaking but the last one they finally find the free header,” said Mansfield head coach Kevin Smith. “Hats off to [Newton South], they are a fantastic team. The corners, the long throws….they were very dangerous and put us under pressure. We just couldn’t find that release pass. We had opportunities, we had a couple open nets we just couldn’t put it away.”

Mansfield had a pair of leads in the game, but the Lions had an answer each time, the second strike coming just seconds after the Hornets had regained the lead.

In the first overtime, the Lions applied the majority of the pressure with five long throw-ins, but the back line of Emily Vigeant, Mikaela Maughn, Erin Daniel, and Kerina Geminiani did an admirable job of handling it in front of keeper Caty DeMassi.

Newton South also had a pair of corner kicks in the first 10-minute span of golden goal, which is how the Lions tied the game in the second half, but Mansfield’s defense did its job.

While playing compact in the back, Mansfield’s best chances came on the counter attack. In the 86th minute, Sydney Mulkern nearly played Steph Kemp in behind but a nice play by the Newton South keeper cleared it away.

In the second overtime, Kemp made a nice run to the outside, got a touch around her defender and delivered a tempting ball into the area but there weren’t any Hornets in the vicinity.

“That’s the only thing you can do,” Smith said of the counter attack. “We couldn’t find a way to release the pressure in the midfield. When we got the ball up front, we were trying to make the pass too quickly and we weren’t there because it’s a 60 yard run with tired legs.”

The Lions nearly had the game-winner in the 94th minute when Cassie Lee snuck in behind the defense but DeMassi was quick off her line to thwart the opportunity.

Mansfield had a bright start to the match, having the majority of possession and keeping the ball in its attacking half. In the 12th minute, Daniel nearly opened the scoring with a well-taken one-timer from 30 yards out but the ball smacked off the cross bar, and Katie Garvin’s header on the rebound was saved.

The pressure paid off in the 28th minute as the Hornets Tok the lead. Cassidy McMahon delivered a corner kick to the far post and Melissa Reef rose up and headed the ball back across the goal inside the post for a 1-0 lead.

But the lead only lasted four minutes, as the Lions took advantage of a Mansfield miscue. In the defensive third, a miscommunication allowed Lee to get in between the defender and the keeper, blocking the clearance. The loose ball popped back to Lee’s foot and she buried her chance, sending the teams into half tied 1-1.

Mansfield regained the lead just over 10 minutes into the second half. Bryn Anderson settled a throw from Geminiani and gained just enough space to launch a high cross to the far post. McMahon skied into air and headed the service under the bar and into the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.

Similar to the first lead, it didn’t last long. Newton South quickly marched up field and earned a corner kick, and Lucy Jenks nodded in a cross from Maia Madison to make it 2-2 in the 52nd minute.

In the 67th minute, DeMassi made a terrific play off her line to deny the Lions of a partial breakaway.

In the 70th minute, Mansfield nearly went ahead again. Kemp played McMahon wide, and she centered her pass but Anderson couldn’t get her foot on the cross in front and Mulkern saw her chance for over the bar at the far post.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

And in the 75th minute, the Hornets had a free kick from straight away from 20 yards out but couldn’t get the shot on frame.

“After their first goal, you could tell we were deflated and they had some momentum going for them,” Smith said. “We just couldn’t find our energy. We got it back at halftime and scored the goal to go up. I didn’t think we dropped after their second goal, I thought we still had opportunities, we just couldn’t find it. Their keeper made some nice plays, their defense was smothering. Our defense played great too. But they found that last one.”

Mansfield girls soccer (15-3-4) graduates 19 seniors from this year’s team, a group that made its mark on the program. The Hornets won three straight Kelley-Rex division titles, the first three in program history. In their four years, the varsity team went 54-12-12.

“It’s a special group, I’ve known most since they were 5 or 6 years old, since they were little kids,” Smith said. “They are like my daughters.”

Hornets Finish Off KP to Advance Past First Round

Mansfield girls soccer
Mansfield senior Bryn Anderson (5) drives forward with KP junior Faye Veilleux (21) in close pursuit during Saturday’s D1 South first round matchup. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield won its third straight league title this fall, and its first outright championship in program history, so the Hornets are no stranger to regular season success. But, in the state tournament, Mansfield has been knocked out in the first round each of the past two seasons.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

This group of seniors (of which there are 19 on this year’s roster) had not seen the second round since they were freshman year and they were hungry to add a playoff run to their league accomplishments. That hunger was intensified by Saturday evening’s opponent in the Div. 1 South opener at Alumni Field, as King Philip upset the Hornets in overtime two seasons ago.

The Hornets scored twice against the wind in the first half (and arguably against the run of play) and held on with a typically stout defensive performance to shutout the Warriors 2-0 and advance to the South quarterfinal.

“We definitely wanted to win,” said Mansfield senior Steph Kemp. “We weren’t willing to leave this field without a win. All of us seniors, the whole team, everyone worked together. We didn’t want this to be our last game and it showed.”

King Philip (12-5-2) opened the game with the wind at its back and the Warriors used it to put the hosts on their heels early on.

Inside the opening 10 minutes, Abby Baker had the first chance of the game for KP. A throw in from the left side went off the shoulder of Mansfield defender Mikaela Maughn and Baker forced keeper Lauren Whitman into the first of her six saves. Just two minutes later, Avery Snead threaded a pass to Ally Stanton, who laid it into the path of Chloe Layne but the shot lacked power and Whitman saved.

“We had some great chances, but didn’t finish,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “That’s the tale of this game. I thought we dominated in the first half and didn’t get anything from it and they had two shots and put them in. That’s the difference in the game.”

Despite the pressure from the Warriors over the opening half hour, it was Mansfield that got the game’s first goal with its first shot on target. Kemp battled KP defender Olivia Berry on the right side of the box and managed to squeeze it loose into the middle where Cassidy McMahon ran onto it and was able to side-foot it past keeper Taylor Butler.

The Warriors came right back with a series of chances. Snead rose highest to head a long free kick from Makayla Griffin but Whitman was there for the save, then right back Lauren Anderson fired a long pass up top to Layne, who flicked it into the path of Jenna Hitchen on the left side but again it was saved. In the 37th minute, KP’s forwards combined again – Stanton to Snead to Layne, but the junior’s finish was just wide.

Two minutes later and the lead was doubled. A throw in from the left side was flicked by Sydney Mulkern to Melissa Reef at the corner of the box. The senior midfielder spun past her marker and onto her right foot before curling an unstoppable shot into the top corner for a 2-0 advantage.

“That’s a goal that she’s been staying after practice for a whole week just to work on,” Mansfield coach Kevin Smith explained. “She says that she gets so many of them and to see her hard work pay off is really cool.”

Mansfield got the wind in the second half and it almost paid immediate dividends when Bryn Anderson got to the end line and cut it back for Kemp, who blazed over the bar.

Even into the wind, the Warriors looked dangerous in attack. Baker touched one on to Layne, who fired over and then she had a second chance with a half-volley from a Faye Veilleux throw in but couldn’t get enough power on it to beat Mansfield’s second half keeper, Caty DeMassi. Hitchen set up Snead in the middle but she also sent her shot over the bar.

In the 62nd minute, Anderson drove forward from midfield but her shot from the edge of the box was inches over the crossbar.

In the final 20 minutes, Mansfield locked down on the defensive side. Maughn and fellow center back Emily Vigeant were keeping a constant eye on Snead in the middle of the field, while freshman Katie Miller was tasked with following Layne as closely as possible. Reef added to the defensive shape from midfield and outside backs Mulkern and Kerina Geminiani were always on the cover.

“Wow,” Smith said about the complete defensive performance of his team. “We had to be very organized.” Pichel added, “The wind was against us [in the second half] and they did a great job defending. It was a hard hole to climb out of.”

Both coaches raved about the play of their opponents and both admitted that Saturday did not feel like a first round game. “Two giants went at it and one is left standing,” said Pichel. Smith said, “It felt like a sectional final.”

The Hornets allowed a league-low eight goals this season and that defensive strength was evident as they closed out the game and protected a two-goal cushion. At the final whistle, the whole team raced to the far end of the field to celebrate the win.

“It’s definitely relieving and it’s exciting,” Kemp said. “We haven’t been in this position since freshman year and even then not a lot of girls were on the field, so it’s our first time being through this all 19 of us senior together. We’re excited to just go on and see what it feels like to be in the rest of the tournament.”

She added, “I was tired from coming off the field but I managed to make that sprint all the way to Cat.”

Mansfield (14-2-4) will travel to face No. 4 seed Bridgewater-Raynham on Monday in the sectional quarterfinal.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Warriors Regain Confidence With Win at Mansfield

King Philip girls soccer
King Philip junior Avery Snead (9) scored a pair of goals on Monday night to lead the Warriors to a 2-1 win at Mansfield. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


MANSFIELD, Mass. – Last season, King Philip and Mansfield shared the Kelley-Rex division trophy. Earlier this year it looked like both teams were in line to repeat before the two teams met for the first time. The Hornets won that game 4-1 and are now on the verge of a third straight title, while KP went into a tailspin, losing four straight.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

On Monday night at Alumni Field, the two teams met again. Behind a pair of goals from Avery Snead, the Warriors beat Mansfield 2-1 to force the Hornets to wait a few days before clinching the title and to regain some of their confidence with the state tournament looming.

“It’s nice to be back on track again,” admitted King Philip coach Gary Pichel. “We lost our way for four games, had some bad luck, but you’ve got to keep marching forward to get ready for the playoffs. Our record isn’t stellar but we may surprise a couple people along the way.”

KP has been trying out a number of different lineups and formations in the last couple of weeks to try and find a set up that would work best. On Monday, Pichel pushed Snead up top as the lone forward and moved Chloe Layne into a central midfield role to give her more touches and allow her to create.

“The four games we lost, I was experimenting where is Chloe best served and she showed it against Taunton in the center spot,” Pichel explained. “She just became old Chloe again. Now she’s back and thank God. When you separate them like that then it creates chances for Chloe coming from [midfield] and Avery if she gets chances then she’ll make the most of it.”

The formation shift nearly worked right from the opening whistle, as Layne squeezed between a couple of Mansfield defenders and created space on the left side of the box. Her cross flashed across the goal and was knocked out. On the ensuing corner, Faye Veilleux’s header from a few yards out went narrowly wide.

While it was a good start for the Warriors, Mansfield started to bypass the middle of the field and use its speed on the wings. The Hornets hit long diagonal passes in behind the KP fullbacks and were able to create a number of chances.

Katie Garvin slid a pass through to Sydney Mulkern down the right channel in the eighth minute and the winger was able to pick out Steph Kemp alone in front. KP goalie Taylor Butler (six saves) needed to be out quickly to smother the shot. It was a sign of things to come in the first half.

A cross from the right side by Erin Daniel found Melissa Reef in space on the far side of the box, but she was unable to keep her header down. In the 21st minute, Kemp dropped in to pick up the ball and she slipped Cassidy McMahon in behind the defense only for the junior winger’s shot to come back off the far post.

McMahon was causing havoc on the right side. She cut back onto her left foot and forced a diving save from Butler and she also set up freshman Katie Miller for a chance from 20 yards that went over.

“We had lots of opportunities,” Mansfield coach Kevin Smith said. “Their game plan was great, to condense the space in the middle, so we had to do that. We couldn’t play through the middle. We found space on the outside, but we couldn’t find that final pass, that final score.”

The Hornets profligacy in front of goal, gave KP the chance to grab the lead against the run of play. A long ball forward bounced around and Abby Baker was able to head the ball between a pair of Hornets defenders. Snead chased after it and was able to use her long reach to just get a touch on the ball in front of Kerina Geminiani and with Mansfield goalie Lauren Whitman stranded.

The lead was very short-lived. Only a minute later and the Hornets were right back in it. Again it was McMahon that created the chance, cutting in from the right. She picked out Kemp in the middle, a good turn to free her right foot and the senior found an angle to slide her shot past Butler to make it 1-1.

“Just under a minute,” Smith said of the quick turnaround by his team. “Always keep it in mind that we can score when we’re down. And we had opportunities in the second half too.”

In the second half, the Warriors were more cognizant of the diagonal pass attacking the fullbacks to try and slow down the Hornets attack. Mansfield still had chances to take the lead, including a cross from McMahon on the left that nearly got to Mulkern on the back post if not for an intervention by Paige Varvarigos.

A throw-in from Daniel then found Kemp in space and she hit a low cross to McMahon, who had made a long run unmarked down the left, but her shot went over the bar.

KP started to come into the game after that chance and create scoring opportunities of its own. Snead picked the right pass to find Ally Stanton in space, but her shot was saved by Mansfield keeper Caty DeMassi.

In the 63rd minute, the Warriors were back out in front. Layne got free on the left side of the box, in a rare foray forward, and she hit a cross/shot that went through the six-yard-box and nearly snuck inside the far post. The ball caromed off the post and straight to the foot of Snead, who made no mistake with the empty net.

“You cross your fingers and hold your breath trying to beat Mansfield because it’s hard and we were just hoping that Avery could tuck a couple in and she did,” Pichel said. “Avery came through.”

McMahon had another chance racing in at the far post, but her shot went over the bar, and Emily Vigeant’s corner with three minutes to play found the head of Reef but Butler was able to save comfortably.

Smith said, “We got the pressure on them, we had corner kicks, we had shots, but we just couldn’t find that last little touch.”

With Snead moved back to the center of defense alongside Makayla Griffin and Olivia Berry, the Warriors packed it in and largely held Mansfield at bay for the closing stretch of the game. KP nearly put the game away on the break when Jaida Caruso freed Jenna Hitchen for a run at goal, but the shot went over.

It was the big win that KP had been waiting for and Pichel thinks it can be the result that will propel the defending Div. 1 South champs on another tournament run. “Huge amount of confidence, believe me,” he said. “This is just the medicine that the doctor ordered for us. It really is.”

King Philip (10-4-2, 10-4-1) will try to keep the momentum going on Thursday at Oliver Ames. Mansfield (11-2-3, 10-2-2) can move closer to clinching the league title when it visits Stoughton on Wednesday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Defenses On Top As Mansfield and North End in Draw

North Attleboro Girls Soccer
Mansfield keeper Lauren Whitman rises above a crowd and punches away a North Attleboro corner in a scoreless draw. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports,com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


MANSFIELD, Mass. – It was a game that felt like a preview of the Div. 1 South tournament, with both teams defending in numbers and chances at a premium. Mansfield and North Attleboro, both defending division champions, demonstrated tough team defense and got timely goalkeeping in a fast-paced, scoreless draw on Wednesday night at Alumni Field.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“That was a good game,” said Mansfield coach Kevin Smith. “It was a state tournament-level game. It was physical, it was fast, and every mistake was punished by both teams.”

North created early chances in the first half. Emma Gaulin was particularly active in the Rocketeeers midfield winning the ball back and pushing North into the attack. A give-and-go with her sister Ashlyn allowed her to run at Emily Vigeant but the Mansfield defender was able to get back in time.

Just a minute later, Lydia Santos lined up a 30-yard free kick that dropped right into the middle of the box but was punched away by Mansfield keeper Lauren Whitman. The rebound fell to Haley Ferrin but her effort went over the bar. Kayla Pasquel played Emma Gaulin in behind on the left side of the box but her shot was saved by a diving Whitman (four saves).

Mansfield also passed the ball well in the opening half and was finding some space behind the North fullbacks. Sydney Mulkern played a ball into Steph Kempon the left edge of the box and her cross bounced off a defender in the box and bounced to Katie Garvin, who hit the volley over the bar.

Kemp had a neat turn in the box to get space for a shot that was blocked on its way to goal by Olivia Bishop. On the ensuing corner, Vigeant nearly curled it directly in, but North goalie Emma Noreck was able to get a fingertip on it. Emma Gaulin nearly opened the scoring a few minutes later but Whitman made the kick save.

Just before halftime, Vigeant again came close from a set piece. This time it was a 50-yard free kick that she put just under the crossbar but Noreck was able to get up and tip it away.

“Emma Noreck had probably her best game,” North coach Bill Wallace said. “At halftime I wanted to pull her because she’s been under the weather all week, but she told me to leave her in.”

The second half was a much cagier 40 minutes, as both teams clamped down in the midfield. Melissa Reef helped out the Hornets back line in limiting the touches for Ashlyn Gaulin and the center back pairing of Mikaela Maughn and Vigeant kept just about everything in front of them. On the other side, Sam Hawkins, the only returning defensive player from last year, and Brieann Westcott were equally tough to beat.

“They just played their hearts out,” Wallace said. “Twice this year we’ve changed what we normally do for teams and the girls reacted great to it. That’s not normally how we play but boy they did it to a ’T’. The longer you keep them off the board, the smaller the goal seems, the more those passes tend to go longer, and that was our intent.”

Mansfield had a good opportunity six minutes after the break when Garvin played Cassidy McMahon into space but Noreck was able to save. Vigeant’s corner found Garvin at the back post but her header was blocked by a host of North defenders.

Alex Moulson had a chance off a North corner but her header went narrowly wide. Kemp reacted first to a loose ball and had a go from 20 yards, just missing the target at the near post.

The best chance to break the deadlock came with 10 minutes to play. Santos slipped Pasquel into space on the right and she crossed to Ashlyn Gaulin in the box but the league’s leading scorer couldn’t get full purchase on her shot and it was saved comfortably by Mansfield’s second keeper, Caty DeMassi.

Wallace remarked, “We’re really happy with the point and now we’re one away from the tournament…Both teams played really strong and that’s a great tournament warm up.”

Mansfield was playing for only the second time in nearly two weeks and there was an element of rust, which North was able to amplify. Smith explained, “Our first touch just wasn’t there. Whether it was the first touch on the pass or on the receive and go, it was just a little too far away from ourselves and their speed and pressure was real intense, so we couldn’t afford that.”

North Attleboro (7-2-3, 6-2-3) will host Stoughton on Friday afternoon. Mansfield (9-0-2, 8-0-2) travels to Attleboro on Friday and then hosts Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) on Saturday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Mansfield Hands KP First Loss In Convincing Fashion

Mansfield girls soccer
King Philip’s Chloe Layne (left) pressures Mansfield’s Mikaela Maughn in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
WRENTHAM, Mass. – The fireworks are typically saved for the end, but King Philip and Mansfield girls soccer wasted little game in getting things going in a highly anticipated matchup between two teams coming in undefeated.

Both teams scored inside the first five minutes of the game, and by the time 15 minutes elapsed, each side had another bid hit off the post. But in the end, it was a relentless attack from the visiting Hornets that was the story, resulting in a convincing 4-1 decision over the host Warriors.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Mansfield seized a 1-0 advantage in the fourth minute only for KP to tie the game just seconds later. However, the Hornets took the lead back in the 37th minute and cashed in twice in a second half that featured numerous chances to earn the two points.

“Avery [Snead] and Chloe [Layne] are fantastic, you have to give them all the credit, you have to respect them but you can’t over-respect them and just play defense, defense, defense,” said Mansfield head coach Kevin Smith. “That just feeds them more. You have to make [King Philip] play defense. With our speed on the wings, we wanted to make sure we could run onto the through balls. And that opened the space for our midfielders to do their job and they were fantastic at it.”

The pressure paid off early for Mansfield. Steph Kemp charged in on a through ball behind the defense, forcing KP keeper Taylor Butler off her line. Kemp was able to apply enough pressure and deflected the ball in behind. Freshman Maria Sevastos calmly tracked the loose ball down and tucked it into the open net for a 1-0 lead.

But the advantage lasted merely seconds. A punt from Mansfield keeper Lauren Whitman was brought down by Snead with a terrific first touch, and the junior didn’t hesitate before firing a shot from just over 35 yards out, catching the keeper off the line for a 1-1 scoreline.

Back on the other end, Kemp drew in the defense and then switched the ball over to Cassidy McMahon on the left side. The senior hit a one-time shot that looked destined for the back of the net but the bid clanked off the post and stayed out.

Snead found Ally Stanton in the area in the 14th minute, but a nice sliding stop from Whitman forced a corner. On that corner, Layne found Snead at the back post, but her header hit the post and stayed out. KP nearly cashed in on another corner in the 25th minute, but Snead’s header was blocked on the line by Mansfield defender Kerina Geminiani.

In the 28th minute, Layne drilled a 30-yard free kick off the crossbar.

For Mansfield, it was a big boost to not let the Warrior offense gain momentum after an opening strike. KP had scored at least three goals in its last five games.

“It starts with 19 seniors, five captains, five girls who have been varsity players for four years,” Smith said of not letting the early equalizer change the game. “You can’t feed on emotion, you have to just play. You have to do the right things, and the results will take care of themselves.”

Before the stroke of halftime, the Hornets were able to jump in front again. Bryn Anderson took possession and very intelligently switched fields in a quick manner. She found McMahon out on the left flank, and the senior centered for Kemp. Kemp calmly took a touch to control the cross and then deposited it in the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.

Holding a 2-1 lead, the second half continued to belong to the visiting Hornets.

King Philip’s best chances came in the 45th minute (Stanton’s chance at an open net blocked again by Geminiani) and in the 69th minute when Snead’s cross found Layne at the near post, but pressure from Mansfield keeper Caty DeMassi forced the one-timer high.

Other than that, it was constant pressure from the Hornets attacking group. Mansfield continued to find space between the defense and used its speed to run onto the through balls.

In the 51st minute, a simple lay off from Katie Garvin put Anderson in behind and she one-timed it past an oncoming Butler for a 3-1 lead.

“We’re getting better every game,” Smith said. “And now we’re finally scoring. It’s been one goal, one goal, one goal and then all of a sudden we get four today.

“They had the goal, the post, and the crossbar and other than that, not many chances. But our defense starts in the front. Our forwards have to pressure, that lets the mids do their job, and makes it easier on the defense.”

Kemp nearly made it 4-1 just two minutes later, chipping the keeper but KP defender Olivia Barry made a terrific hustle play, beating the ball to the line and keeping it out.

With just under five minutes to play, the Hornets put the game on ice. On the right flank, Mansfield senior Erin Daniel found Anderson with a central pass. Anderson took one touch and unleashed a low shot to make it 4-1, putting a cherry on top of what was an impressive showing from Mansfield.

“I thought we’d be able to come from the outside in against their defense, but that didn’t happen,” said KP head coach Gary Pichel. “Their defense shut everything down, and the opposite happened with our defense. They were much quicker than us and their through balls had much better touch than ours. They were able run through and connect with their speed, and they took us down. Our midfield play was not nearly as good as I had hoped for. That formation they had, it really did a good job against us, it broke us down in every aspect.

“But we’ve learned from our mistakes, and hopefully this makes us a better team. I give [Mansfield] all the credit in the world, they were outstanding today. They came to play. We’ve had some easy games so now this will open their eyes, and we’ll have to do something different now.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

On top of a great offensive performance, the Hornet back line of Daniel, Geminiani, and center backs Mikaela Maughn and Emily Vigeant was outstanding. Snead and Layne, two of the top players in the entire state, were virtually shadowed everywhere they went by the center backs. And Daniel and Geminiani provided the help when needed.

“We’re blessed to have those two in the middle,” Smith said. “And then Kerina and Erin pinched in the middle to help take away the gaps. So when either one of them got the ball, Emily or Mikaela was right there, and then we’d have a mid back to double team. We wanted to force them to play backward.”

Mansfield girls soccer (7-0-1 Hockomock, 8-0-1 overall) will attempt to keep its undefeated streak alive when it travels to Stoughton on Monday. King Philip (7-1-0, 7-1-1) will try to bounce back when it travels to North Attleboro on the same day.

McMahon Goal Gives Hornets Win in Battle at Franklin

Mansfield Girls Soccer
Mansfield senior defender Mikaela Maughn (9) battles with Franklin forward Sydney St. Marie during Monday’s divisional battle at Pisini Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


FRANKLIN, Mass. – In a game where chances are at a premium, with physical battles being waged all over the pitch, and with defenses largely coming out on top, finishing is the difference between taking home the points or leaving with none.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Mansfield had one great chance in the box and put it away. Franklin had two chances in the box and both went narrowly off target. So, on Monday night at Pisini Field, the Hornets walked away with a hard-fought 1-0 win and stayed unbeaten, while, for the second time in a week, the Panthers lost a close game with one of the two defending Kelley-Rex division champions.

“It’s such a tough opponent, such a tough place, a great coaching staff, so it’s a good win,” said Mansfield coach Kevin Smith.

The first scoring chance of the game fell to the Panthers. Junior Carly Alston sprung senior Hailey Toolin down the right wing and she crossed the ball into the six-yard-box. Junior Anna Balkus had made a late run from midfield and got free right in the center but she tried to redirect the ball with her right foot and could only touch it wide.

Mansfield took a while to get going in the game. Franklin’s pressing in the midfield was causing problems for the first 15 minutes, but eventually the Hornets started to string passes together and create looks on goal.

“They pinched their four midfielders together, so it was 4-on-3,” said Smith. “They went forward and brought more people up and then it was man-up or man-even and we were able to take advantage of that or finally go wide and then find a passing angle. Sometimes it takes a while to see what they’re doing and readjust.”

Melissa Reef had the first shot from distance but it was easily saved by Franklin goalie Breanna Atwood. Bryn Anderson nearly opened the scoring with a free kick from 18 yards out, just to the right of the box. Her shot to the near post was only a foot over the bar.

Franklin continued to worry the Mansfield defense with cutting passes in behind. Calen Frongillo was able to slide a pass through the right channel to again get Toolin, who just beat the offside trap, into space but she could only play a ball through the box that was in between a shot and a cross and that Balkus could not get on the end of.

Alston also freed up freshman Stella Regan to make a run at goal, but Mansfield defender Emily Vigeant showed off her pace (and long reach) to get a toe to the ball just before a shot could be taken. Franklin’s young forwards were giving the Hornets back line a fight, but Vigeant and fellow senior Mikaela Maughn were solid throughout.

“She’s so good. She’s been such an unsung player for us for years,” said Smith about Maughn. About Vigeant, he added, “She’s got great soccer IQ. If she has a lack of speed compared to what she’s up against, she reads it quicker than the other person and it makes her look even faster than she is.”

In the 24th minute, Mansfield struck. A giveaway at the back gifted possession to Steph Kemp in the attacking third and she quickly played the ball out to the left toCassidy McMahon. The duo played a quick give-and-go to isolate the last defender and get McMahon free on goal and the senior picked the bottom corner with a cool finish.

Mansfield had two chances to double the lead in the opening five minutes of the second half. Anderson sprayed a pass out to McMahon on the left wing and she squared the ball into Kemp inside the six, but the senior forward could not get the right contact and it was an easy save for Atwood. Anderson again played provider shortly after to set up Sydney Mulkern, but her chipped shot went over the bar.

Just two minutes later, Franklin had another golden opportunity to get on the board. Sophomore Sydney St. Marie got space to attack down the left wing and she played a perfect low cross into the middle to pick out Balkus, but her side-foot effort was again just inches wide of the bottom corner.

“It was the same thing against KP,” Franklin coach Tom Geysen explained. “I thought our kids handled the pressure pretty well, moved the ball pretty decent, made good choices up front, but when you have it wide open and can’t put it in the back of the net…”

Kemp nearly added a second for Mansfield in the 53rd minute only to be denied by Atwood. After making a tackle on the edge of the box, the forward found room to unleash a shot that looked destined for the top corner, but the keeper was able to get fingertips to it and tip it around the bar at full stretch.

Franklin continued to push until the final whistle, with the physicality from both teams ratcheting up as the seconds ticked down. In the end, Mansfield keeper Caty DeMassi made a couple of routine saves, but was well-protected by the defense in front of her and the Hornets headed home with the two points.

While disappointed to not come away with a result, Geysen was still pleased with the effort of the Panthers against one of the league title favorites.

He said, “I don’t think they (Mansfield) were expecting what they got from us after last year. When we played them the second time last year, we had nobody, but we’ve got kids that if we can just take one more step then we’ll score the goals to be competitive with everybody.”

Mansfield (4-0-1) will next travel to Milford on Friday afternoon, while Franklin (2-2-0) will travel to Stoughton.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Girls Soccer: 2018 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2018 Kelley-Rex Girls Soccer Preview
King Philip and Mansfield shared the league title last season and look like being favorites to make another run at the crown this fall. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2018 Kelley-Rex Girls Soccer Preview

Attleboro

2017 Record: 4-13-1
2017 Finish: Missed Playoffs.
Coach: Steve Santos

Attleboro improved last season, scoring 18 goals and showing signs of an improved passing game, which head coach Steve Santos has been trying to build over the past few years. An exciting group of younger players added speed to the Bombardiers and the team’s increased depth allowed them to be competitive against even the league’s best teams.

That group has continued to develop and sophomore forwards Isabella Salviati and Briley Harnois will be counted on to provide a consistent threat to the opposition defense. The midfield should be a strength for the Bombardiers this season with a group of versatile players that will set the foundation for the Attleboro passing game. Senior Sam Fasoldt will be joined by juniors Julia Reyes and Ashley Dame, who returns after missing 2017 with a knee injury, and sophomore Jessica Gates. Junior Sophia Salviati will help out in midfield and defense, where Attleboro returns just one starter from last year. Seniors Felicia Laguerre and Ashley Lauzier will be at the heart of the defense in front of goalies Taylor Drake (senior) or Ashley Macia (junior).

“The team looks good and is playing some good passing soccer,” said Santos about the Bombardiers in the preseason. “As a team, our speed is where we need it to be to keep teams on their heels and not let them dictate play.”

Franklin

2017 Record: 10-8-2
2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South first round.
Coach: Tom Geysen

Franklin battled injuries throughout the 2017 season and those injuries tested the Panthers depth, but heading into a new season head coach Tom Geysen is confident that this year’s squad can withstand the rigors of Hockomock play. The Panthers will be tested early, with King Philip, Mansfield, and Canton in the opening four games.

Versatility will be a key for the Panthers this season with players capable of slotting into different positions. One of those players is junior Anna Balkus, who can play up top or drop back into the midfield depending on the formation. Sophomore Sydney St. Marie will also play up top and Geysen said that she has shown real progress from last year. Junior Carly Alston will be in the heart of the midfield, while senior Halle Atkinson will give Franklin an outlet on one wing and sophomore Erin Qualie, fresh off an impressive rookie campaign, will be on the other. Defensively, Franklin will count on third-year center back Grace Gallo, fellow senior Maddie Stewart, and junior Sabrina Addi, who moved from the midfield to defense last fall. Athletic junior Breanna Atwood will jump into goal and continue Franklin’s run of strong goalkeepers.

“We have a good nucleus of kids coming back and kids moving around to new positions,” said Geysen. “There are a lot of freshmen with potential to develop into strong players. Everyone had a good attitude and has been working hard.”

King Philip

2017 Record: 20-2-2
2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 state semifinal.
Coach: Gary Pichel

King Philip put together a dominant season in 2017, winning a league title for the first time since 2002 and then winning the Div. 1 South title as well. The Warriors scored 18 more goals than any other team in the Hockomock last year and also allowed fewer goals than all but two teams. With a loaded roster back this fall, KP has its sights set on even more in 2018.

Expectations are sky high for the Warriors this season because of the return of junior forwards Chloe Layne and Avery Snead, the reigning league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year. Layne and Snead were the top two scorers in the Hock last season and they continue to develop and improve. KP wasn’t a two-player team and they will also count on senior Abby Baker in the midfield along with wingers Makayla Griffin and Ally Stanton to provide outlets when defenses crowd the forwards and close down the middle of the park. Junior Olivia Berry will be in the heart of the defense and look to provide the leadership and physical play of graduated defender Emma Corcoran. Junior Faye Veilleux also stepped in at the end of last season and showed her growth as a defensive presence in midfield.

KP coach Gary Pichel said, “The team’s strength’s lie in the ability of our offense to create a great deal of scoring opportunities. There is a relentless desire to push hard up top and keep it there through pressure on ball at all times. We are fortunate to have players that have the ability to do so on a consistent basis.”

Mansfield

2017 Record: 13-2-2
2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South first round.
Coach: Kevin Smith

While King Philip earned a lot of attention for their run to the state semifinal, Mansfield was equally as strong in the league last year. The Hornets matched the Warriors step for step and earned a share of their second straight Kelley-Rex division title. With a number of players back again this year, Mansfield looks ready to battle for a three-peat and make a deep tournament run.

The Hornets feature 13 seniors on this year’s roster, so experience won’t be an issue. Melissa Reef and Bryn Anderson headline the midfield group, with Reef providing cover for the back line and Anderson acting as the fulcrum that gets the offense in motion. The defense will be spearheaded by Emily Vigeant, who has been on the top defenders in the league for the past couple of seasons. She is joined by versatile and physical defenders like Mikaela Maughn, Kerina Geminiani, and Erin Daniel. Goalkeeper Lauren Whitman will be back between the sticks this season.

There will be plenty of depth in the Mansfield attack this fall with Stephanie Kemp, Sydney Mulkern, Amanda Mangano, Cassidy McMahon, and freshman Maria Sevastos all expected to contribute. “We will be hoping to spread out the offense amongst multiple attackers,” said Mansfield coach Kevin Smith.

Oliver Ames

2017 Record: 11-8-0
2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South first round.
Coach: Britt Sellmayer

Oliver Ames had a number of new faces last year, but the Tigers were still able to earn a postseason appearance and were the only team in the league to beat King Philip during the regular season. With another year of experience, OA should be ready for another postseason run.

Defense should be a strength for the Tigers this season with plenty of varsity experience on the back line, including seniors Gabriele McLaughlin, Maeve Hogan, and Brianna Gibson. The defensive unit will help sophomores Emma O’Donnell and Emily Meyers get comfortable in goal, as they try to replace EMass all-star Regan Benton. Junior Abby Hodges will be a key component in the OA midfield this season. Junior Erin Holmberg and senior Maggie Ault will be up front for the Tigers, who will hope to improve on the 31 goals they scored last year.

OA coach Britt Sellmayer said, “We have a good mix of experienced players and younger players that have potential to develop into a good team. The key will be replacing one of the best keepers in EMass in Regan Benton. We are counting on the seniors in the back line staying healthy and providing leadership.”

Taunton

2017 Record: 5-13-1
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs.
Coach: Edith Dixon

It has been a few seasons since Taunton made history with a trip to the postseason and a road playoff win at Wellesley, but the program is continuing to build and head coach Edith Dixon expects the Tigers to be an “interesting” team in 2018 with a mix of youth and experience.

Taunton will clearly miss leading scorer Sam Tichelaar and defensive stalwart Kayla Felix, who both graduated after last season, but there is a lot of talent for the Tigers to build around. Grace Pimenta will be back between the pipes and her aggressiveness off her line will help the Taunton defense. Maggie Sullivan will be counted on to be the field general in midfield and Dixon praised her “never-ending motor.” Up front, speed will be a strength for the Tigers, who are hoping to use it to create numerous chances in transition and being aggressive attacking the opposition goal.

Dixon said, “ The best part about this team is their amazing attitude as a group. Everyone has bought into the team concepts and wants to contribute everything they have towards the team goals. This is the first season I’ve had at Taunton where there are no superstars, just 11 players all working together with great synergy.”

Warriors and Hornets Stay Tied After Thrilling Draw

King Philip girls soccer
Mansfield’s Emily Vigeant (3) and Mikaela Maughn (32) keep an eye on King Philip striker Chloe Layne during a thrilling top of the table clash at Macktaz Field. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports,com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


WRENTHAM, Mass. – Not all scoreless draws are the same. The lack of a goal does not automatically mean that a game was stale or defensive or boring. It goes without saying that not many scoreless draws have enough incidents to fill a page in a notebook either.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Tuesday night’s rematch between Kelley-Rex division co-leaders King Philip and Mansfield at Macktaz Field was the latter. It was a game packed to the brim with excitement. The teams combined to hit the post three times, the goalies combined for 11 saves, two chances were blocked on the line, and the chances did not end until the final seconds of regulation.

It was a game that had just about everything, except for a goal and a winner.

King Philip and Mansfield lived up to the billing regardless of the 0-0 final score and it leaves the teams in a first place tie heading into the final game of the regular season, which means win the finale and win a championship.

“You’ve got the two best teams in the league and they go toe-to-toe and tie,” said Mansfield coach Kevin Smith. “They’re the best scoring offense, but in the league they have one more goal than we do. We have one less [goal allowed] than they do. So, you’re talking about the two best defenses, the two best offenses and unfortunately the offenses got nullified but, as a defensive person, I love that.”

KP coach Gary Pichel, whose program is just two years removed from an injury-riddled, two-win season, added, “It had great goaltending, great defense on both sides, very stingy tonight…King Philip has had a hard run for 15 years, so this is big for us. We’re enjoying every minute of it. I’m very proud of the kids; they played their heart out.”

The blustery conditions provided an additional element of drama to the game, as the wind swept across the pitch towards the school and played havoc with clearances, goalkeeper punts, and free kicks. Even shorter passes were affected by the wind whipping from end zone to end zone.


KP took the wind at its back to start the game and it helped the Warriors put the Hornets on their heels for the majority of the first half. It started just four minutes in when Jenna Midura chased down a long ball over the top and blocked the clearance by Mansfield keeper Lauren Whitman only to have the carom go just wide.

Sophomore attackers Chloe Layne and Avery Snead got into the game shortly after, with Layne able to drag a Snead pass past a defender to get off a shot on the edge of the box and then controlled another Snead through ball to get a low shot that drew a save from Whitman. KP goalie Emma Durant was tested soon after when Cassidy McMahon flicked a pass to Amanda Mangano, whose shot was partially blocked and saved at the near post.

In the 27th minute, Layne took a throw-in just inside the left side of the box and she found a sliver of space to squeeze the ball to Snead, who took a left-footed shot that looked destined for the far corner until Whitman flew across to make a two-handed save. Just seconds later and Bryn Anderson had a go from 20 yards for the Hornets but Durant was able to get a fingertip to the ball and knock it over the bar.

In the 30th minute, Layne showed off the skills that have made her one of the league’s top scorers when she used three touches to separate herself from three Mansfield defenders on the edge of the 18 and lined up a right-footed shot only to have it ricochet off the post.

Smith said, “Chloe and Avery are fantastic and we had to double them, we had to triple them, we had to cover, have backside marks on their other players because if you double them you leave people, so that’s why we didn’t have as much offense because we have to shove our forwards back to cover their extra players.”

Six minutes before the break, KP hit the post again. A corner landed in the middle of the box and the ball popped off the foot of Abby Baker but again stayed out thanks to the woodwork.

“We went with the wind at our back in the first half to try and put a few in,” said Pichel. “We hit two posts and an inch to the right on both of them and we would’ve been up 2-0 but give them credit they kept fighting back and I thought we did pretty good pressure-wise even against the wind.”

KP had its chances in the second half as well, although the Warriors were limited by playing into the gusting wind. Layne had an early chance after a slip by the Mansfield defense but put it wide and Makayla Griffin saw her opportunity from a Snead flicked header fly wide just a minute later.

Despite all the chances that both teams were managing to create, the defensive efforts were superb from both teams. The Mansfield back four of Kerina Geminiani, Emily Vigeant, Taylor Smith, and Mikaela Maughn were stretched by the dynamic KP attack, but held firm with help from midfielders Melissa Reef and Anderson.

“Kevin’s team is always prepared,” said Pichel. “Their back four is magnificent. They took care of business. The second half we knew was going to be tough with the wind.”

“It was the best defensive battle we’ve had all season,” said Smith. “It was fantastic.”

The Warriors back line, marshaled by Emma Corcoran and Olivia Berry in the middle with Hanna Balunos and Lauren Anderson on the outside, also put in a strong shift against a varied Mansfield attack. Pichel credited a change in formation for putting the pressure on the Hornets higher up the pitch, particularly Faye Veilleux creating havoc in the center of the field.

He added, “We had better success controlling the ball today. Our middle was exposed [last time]. Our midfield was so aggressive that it was hard for them to get back…so I had to put a stopper in there and [Faye] did a great job.”

Both teams had chances to win the game in the final 20 minutes. Snead had a header off a corner blocked on its way to goal and then Smith belted a perfect 45-yard free kick that smashed off the crossbar and was cleared. Stephanie Kemp had the ball fall to her off a corner only for Lauren Anderson to get a piece of the goal-bound shot and keep it out.

In the closing seconds, Kemp would have one more chance as she tried to get on the end of the long through ball but Durant got the angle and timing perfect to smother the ball at Kemp’s feet. Seconds later, the whistle put an end to a breathless top of the table clash.

King Philip (15-1-2, 12-1-2) will have the chance to win its first title since 2002 when it hosts Franklin on Friday afternoon. Mansfield (12-1-2, 12-1-2) can seal the program’s first back-to-back titles with a win at home against Oliver Ames on Thursday night.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.