The Lady Tigers ended the 2020 campaign as the hottest team in the Hockomock League, earning a pair of trophies including the Hockomock Challenge Cup with a 3-1 win over Davenport division champion Canton.
After defeating King Philip on Tuesday to win the Hockomock Cup, the Tigers avenged their only loss of the entire season by taking down the Bulldogs in the Challenge Cup. The Challenge Cup was created after Canton was forced to quarantine out of an abundance of caution after playing a team that had a positive COVID test. It gave the Bulldogs, the top seed out of the Davenport, a chance to play in the postseason after having to forfeit their first round of the Hockomock Cup.
“We’re a young team and it’s also about a coach learning who can do what,” said Oliver Ames head coach Britt Sellmayer of the turnaround from the start of the season. “We’re not playing the same positions that we were the first couple of games. COVID put everybody behind but for us, it was just a little bit more because we were younger. When you have experience, when you come back you get rolling a little bit sooner. We peaked at the right time, I’m very proud of the girls for how they played at the end of the year.
“Canton got a chance to play another game, they are a great, great team that I really feel like taking two weeks off didn’t help their cause. They were on a roll themselves when they were playing. They have some super players and the coach has done a great job in his first year. But it’s tough to sit out for two weeks and come out and play a team that’s hot, and we’re playing well, and we’ve been playing every three days for the past two weeks. I think that kind of hindered them a bit. I don’t want to take anything away from them being a great team.”
The Tigers started with four straight ties, finally breaking into the win column in their fifth game with a 2-0 decision over Sharon. Canton and OA tied in their first meeting of the season, and the Bulldogs handed the Tigers their only loss (3-1) in the second meeting.
OA caught fire after that loss, winning five straight to win the Hockomock Cup, and earned its sixth straight victory with the win on Thursday evening.
“We weren’t overly excited about [playing again] at first but then we looked at what it meant for Canton,” Sellmayer said. “And I said to my seniors ‘this is it, this is a chance to play one more game’ and we talked about playing for the seniors. We made sure all the seniors played.”
Although the result wasn’t what Canton, who had just one loss in the regular season, had hoped, the Bulldogs relished in the opportunity to get back on the field. The Bulldogs hadn’t played or practiced since the final week of the regular season, getting one training session in on Wednesday evening.
“It was amazing to least get out there to have one more chance to compete…a team that was having such a great season only to be cut short by, unfortunately, unforeseen events,” said first-year Canton head coach Idris Senyonjo. “Our seniors, especially, they needed this. Of course it didn’t end how we wanted it, but they needed to finish the season. They’ve worked so hard to be able to get there.
“A big layoff is such a big difference in this spot, it means everything. Even if you only take a couple of days, but you take 10 days …that’s a long time not kicking the ball. We practiced for the first time just last night out in the cold. [OA] had a gameplan, they stuck to it and they were the better team today, so you can’t take that away from them. You just hope we could have done better on a couple of chances in the first half but that’s how the game goes. If you don’t take your chances, the other team will.”
The Tigers scored in each the first and second quarters, and tacked on a key insurance goal in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs pulled one back in the final minutes.
Before Oliver Ames opened the scoring late in the first quarter, Canton had a pair of chances to take the lead. Just nine minutes in, Gabriella Herivaux played a through ball into the area for Olivia Rodman but her chance from in close was met with a terrific stop from OA keeper Emma O’Donnell. Minutes later, Rodman returned the favor for Herivaux but her bid skipped wide at the far post.
Off a kick-in in the attacking third, Katie Gibson knocked down a service into the area. Alexa Lane was the first to pounce on the loose ball, a quick touch past the keeper from in close to give the visitors a 1-0 lead going into the second quarter.
At the midway point of the second quarter, OA senior Emma Pereira took down a clearance and used her time and space to turn and fire a rocket inside the far post from 25 yards out to double the Tigers’ advantage.
Canton opened the second half with a pair of chances to get back into it but Mia Gilmore’s free kick a minute in was just off frame, and an intercepted pass by Elisa Diletizia led to a chance but her shot was over the bar.
COVID restrictions nearly led to a goal for the Tigers in the 50th minute when Pereira’s cross was met with a good take off Carly Gibson’s shoulder but it was right at the keeper.
Canton’s Allie McCabe came up with a big stop on the goal line to deny a shot from Lane to keep the score at 2-0 at the end of the third quarter, but the score didn’t stay that long at the start of the fourth.
Oliver Ames was quick to clear a Canton corner and sophomore Jenna Gilman latched into the loose ball and used her speed to race up the right wing. Her cross into the area was cleared away by a defender but only as far as Pereira, who brought it down and laid it off to junior Lauren Sellmayer. Sellmayer took a touch to put it on her left foot and fired a perfectly placed shot off the far post and in to make it 3-0.
“Emma had a great goal, Lauren had a great goal, and Alexa’s scored two games in a row coming off the bench for us, and her work and her speed has helped with pressure,” Britt Sellmayer said. “We’re not the most skilled team but I think we’ve outworked everybody the last four games. Our work rate in the midfield, contesting every 50-50 ball. They showed a lot of heart. Canton is definitely more skilled than us but I think we had a little more work rate today and maybe our team is a little bit deeper. But we’re also fresher, those two weeks off is huge. I tip my hat to [Canton], they are a great team, and congrats on being Hockomock champs.
“We definitely connected a lot more passes today than the first two times we played Canton. We started playing better as a team, the communication came together. Plus, finding the right role for everybody. Sometimes as a coach, it takes a while to put people in the right spot where they can be successful.”
Canton continued to fight back against OA’s back four of Sophia Byron, Mary Cross, Allison Evin, and Madeleine Taylor. After coming close on a couple of chances before, Gilmore blasted a free kick from 30 yards out just under the bar to get the Bulldogs on the board.
“It’s been a rollercoaster for us, having to start late and then cut the season short, only to go back again,” Senyonjo said. “The team had a new coaching staff so they had to adjust to the new system, the way we want to play. So kudos to them, it speaks volumes the kind of kids that are here. I’m definitely looking forward to going again next year.”
Oliver Ames girls soccer finishes the season at 8-1-5 and won both the Hockomock Cup and the Challenge Cup. Canton’s record finishes at 8-3-1, though one loss was via forfeit at the start of the Hockomock Cup.