CANTON, Mass. – The pitch was slick from two days worth of rain, but the Canton defense showed no ill effects and zero slip-ups, as it corralled Sharon’s top two attacking threats, Alex Rabb and Ally Filipkowski, limiting the Eagles to only a couple clear scoring chances.
It was a major turnaround for the Bulldogs, who had allowed six goals last time out against Milford. The back four, with help from the midfield, held firm on Saturday morning at World War II Veterans Memorial Field and Canton pulled out a 2-0 victory that edges the Bulldogs closer to a spot in the state tournament.
“After the Milford game, I took the back line and we talked about some issues,” explained Canton coach Kate Howarth, “and there was a little bit of confusion I wasn’t aware of. We cleared everything up and you could see the back line was so solid today.”
Chances were at a premium for both teams in the first half. The Bulldogs has the first shot on goal when Tessa Cudmore’s shot was handled by Sharon keeper Natalie Gray. A corner three minutes later from Sarah Connolly had to be cleared off the line by Amanda Klayman and then Lauren McCabe had the rebound saved by Gray in the bottom corner.
The Bulldogs’ best scoring opportunities were coming from Connolly’s set piece deliveries. She fired in a long free kick that Gray caught cleanly and then in the 27th minute she was credited with the opening goal when her corner was deflected off the leg of a Sharon defender and just over the line.
The defensive effort for Canton started with the midfield trio of Julia Hamilton and freshmen cousins Lauren and Morgan McCabe, who bottled up Filipkowski by sending multiple players at the junior playmaker as often as possible. Even without Riley Duserick, who was out with an injury, the Bulldogs put the clamps on the Sharon midfield in the first half.
“She’s a good player and I think when you can shut her down they don’t really create a lot of chances,” said Howarth of Filipkowski. “[Julia] fought hard and I think she stood her ground with Ally.”
When the Eagles did get the ball forward, Rabb was regularly alone up top surrounded by Connolly and Carly Hutchinson. At halftime, the Eagles made an adjustment to try and get more runners out wide and it created Sharon’s best chance in the 46th minute.
Filipkowski managed to shrug off the attention of the Bulldogs and slid a pass into Victoria Zambello angling in from the right wing but Canton keeper Kathryn Doody was off her line quick to block the shot. Ally Steinberg also started to find space on the right side going one-on-one with Canton right back Sarah Collins and created a couple dangerous crosses that Doody and the defense managed to clear in front of Rabb.
“We made a formation change in the second half to try and isolate Ally [Steinberg] one-on-one out wide,” said first-year Sharon coach Brad Furnival. “We were able to create a few chances. Their keeper dealt well with some crosses, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough players in the box to score goals, which kind of killed us in the end.”
When asked about opponents focusing on Filipkowski to try and stunt the Eagles attack, Furnival replied, “I thought Filipkowski had a good game. I’d like her to get more shots off but even if teams put two or three players on Ally, she’s still going to create chances because she’s that kind of player.”
Canton had its chances to close out the victory. Cudmore was causing problems with her speed, running at the Sharon back line, and Lauren Fitzpatrick added some good minutes off the Bulldogs bench.
Cudmore nearly doubled the lead in the 48th minute when she chased down a deflected pass but it was saved by back-up keeper Isabella Berger and the follow-up by Hannah Link sailed over the bar. In the 52nd minute Cudmore had another good look but her curling effort from the edge of the box smacked off the bar.
“We had a couple other chances that would have been easy finishes,” said Howarth, “and we didn’t get them in and those are the ones that we talk about every week. If we put away some of the easy chances…we would be beating teams by a lot more than we are.”
In the 64th minute, Cudmore set up the goal that sealed the win. She hustled to keep a loose ball alive on the near side of the box and laid a pass into the path of Catherine Leonetti, who had just come into the game, and she hit it first time off the underside of the crossbar and across the line.
Howarth said, “Once we got that I think everybody calmed down a little bit. It took the pressure off and we could finish the game.”
With the win Canton (7-6-1, 7-5-1) moves back into second place in the Davenport, one point ahead of Foxboro, which the Bulldogs will face on Tuesday afternoon. Sharon (5-9-1, 4-9-1) will step out of the league on Monday for a trip to Norwood.