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By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
CANTON, Mass. – The ball seemed stuck in the King Philip defensive third. Canton was creating chance after chance but somehow between the post and Warriors keeper Maggie Hall (13 saves) the Bulldogs could not find the breakthrough.
Out of nowhere KP strung together a counter attack that had the potential to turn the game on its head.
With just 15 minutes left, the ball found its way to senior Kate Sexton on the left side and she beat her defender before sending in a low cross that picked out Maddie Smith in the box, but her first-time, point-blank shot was saved by Canton goalie Kathryn Doody, who had been little more than a spectator for most of the game.
It was a wake-up call for the Bulldogs that for all their possession the game was not yet won. Three minutes after the scare, Canton finally found the back of the net. Tessa Cudmore snuck a pass behind the right back to Sarah Collins whose shot was tipped onto the bar by Hall into the path of senior Meaghan Hunter for what turned out to be the game-winner.
Hannah Link added a second with just eight minutes left and Canton walked away with a 2-0 victory over KP on Wednesday night at World War II Veterans Memorial Field.
“They fight right to the last whistle and that’s why we got the result,” said Canton coach Kate Howarth. “Doesn’t matter if it was ugly or pretty, it’s a ‘W.’ We just have to work out a little bit of the first half.”
Cudmore nearly put the Bulldogs ahead in the third minute only to be robbed by a sliding Hall at the edge of the box. Two minutes later Rachel Hogan created a rare chance for the Warriors when her cutback found Victoria Ely but the freshman’s shot was stopped by Doody at full stretch.
Link had a chance in the 14th minute when she rolled her defender and had a breakaway but again Hall came to the Warriors’ rescue. In the 33rd minute, Hall was tested by a strong shot from Sarah Connolly but she was able to tip it over the bar. There was a scramble on the corner, but KP managed to clear.
“We had a chat before the game and I said that I need the old Maggie back and…she did,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “She came up big for us several times. It could’ve been 5-0 without Maggie there.”
The first half saw both teams pass the ball around in the midfield but after halftime it was almost entirely one-way traffic as the Bulldogs pressed KP back into its own third of the field. In the 50th minute, Hall had to be quick off her line to stop a Cudmore break and six minutes later Link beat Hall at her near post only to see the shot cannon off the post.
“In the second half, when we won all the 50-50 balls…we were in our attacking third almost the entire time and it changed the game,” explained Howarth.
“My kids were trying to defend for most of the game and that’s probably normal considering all the losses we’ve had,” said Pichel noting the six starters that he was missing due to injury. “I’m proud of them for keeping it a game until the last 10 minutes or so.”
It could have been a very different result when KP created its only chance. Doody managed to get her hands up, stay big, and block the shot from close range after great work down the left by Sexton.
“I thought that was going to go in,” said Pichel with a shake of the head. “That was a beautiful play and one of the few honest chances that we had. If that one goes in then it’s a different game.”
Howarth admitted that there was some frustration starting to set in for the Bulldogs after missing so many chances in the game. But, with 12 minutes left, Hunter found herself in the right place at the right time to tap in the goal that eased the tension.
“She’s that kid that works her butt off on the field and does whatever you ask,” said Howarth of the senior. “That’s what you need from your bench players is to go in and make a spark.”
After waiting so long for the first goal, the second seemed to follow right away. Link was first to a rebound after Hall made another smart save low to her left. The junior forward followed up and essentially wrapped up the win for the Bulldogs.
Howarth said, “She just goes hard for everything and that’s the kind of people you need up top. That’s how she scored the goal – she took a chance, followed up, and finished it.”
Not every win has to be pretty and Howarth shrugged and said simply, “It’s two points.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.