WRENTHAM, Mass. – Makayla Griffin tried to play a ball forward in the attacking third with only seconds to play in Saturday afternoon’s match-up with Bishop Feehan at Macktaz Field. The ball took an unfortunate bounce off the heel of Rachel Hogan as she made a run into space and caromed to a Feehan player.
The King Philip defense tried to race back into position, but the Shamrocks countered with pace and created a chance for leading scorer Enisa Amedio. The forward sped into the box and fired a low shot only to be denied by KP goalie Emma Durant, who slid out to block the shot with her legs.
That save preserved a 2-2 draw for the Warriors in game that they controlled for large portions against a Feehan team that is considered among the top 10 in the state. KP avenged a 1-0 loss to Feehan in the first meeting and moved one point closer to qualifying for the state tournament.
“I thought we carried the play for most of the game,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “When you play a quality team like that and you give it your best and they give it their best and you come out with a tie…I’m happy with that.”
The Shamrocks got off to the perfect start, scoring inside the first two minutes of the game. Bailey Conti kneed in a corner from Olivia Bishop to give Feehan the very early lead.
KP answered right back with a set piece of its own. Junior defender Emma Corcoran played an angled free kick from 35 yards on the left side that eluded everyone in the box except for freshman Avery Snead, who prodded the ball into the net at the back post to tie the game.
In the 18th minute, Corcoran passed on a chance to put a free kick into the box and squared the ball to Sarah Fleck on her right. Fleck took a dipping shot from almost 40 yards that the Feehan keeper stood no chance of reaching but that smacked off the crossbar. Just seconds later, the visitors earned a corner and Katie McCarthy nodded Feehan in front.
Other than the two corners, KP was pressing the play and putting the Shamrocks on their heels. The combination of Fleck and Griffin was opening up the Feehan midfield and Snead and classmate Chloe Layne had the Shamrocks defense twisting and turning.
Layne nearly tied the game just three minutes after Feehan took the lead with a series of feints and step-overs that split the right back and central defender. The chance was smothered by the Feehan goalie but was just a preview of the issues that Layne would cause running the left channel.
Feehan almost doubled the lead in the 33rd minute but Durant was quickly off her line and threw out a quick left hand to deny Shealyn Quinn. Seven minutes later, with halftime looming, Layne pulled KP level. Griffin sent in a cross from the left that Layne settled with one touch and created space just inside the box before depositing a shot under the bar to make it 2-2.
“Those two freshmen are my leading scorers,” said Pichel of Snead and Layne. “Chloe does some stuff with her feet that…she’ll juggle right in front of you and then she’ll bring it up to her head and push it right over the top and go around you.”
Just four minutes into the second half, Feehan had a rare opportunity from open play when a through ball split the defenders and gave Amedio a chance to run at the keeper, but Durant came flying out and got a hand to the ball to stop the chance.
In the 50th minute, Corcoran lined up a 25-yard free kick and for the second time in the game, a KP player fired a shot off the bar. Durant (five saves) came up huge off another Feehan corner 15 minutes later to not only stop the initial header but also to stuff the follow up from point-blank range.
That aggressiveness paid off in the final minute of the game, as Durant came out quickly and blocked an Amedio shot with her legs that kept it at 2-2.
“That was a nail-biter right there,” said Pichel of the heart-in-mouth moment that the Warriors had at the end. “I thought, ‘oh no, after all this work.’ [Emma] came up huge.
“I had a little one-on-one with her and said that we need to stop being conservative in net. We need to be super aggressive in games like this, going forward all the way.”
Durant had plenty of help in front of her, including Corcoran and freshman Olivia Berry. The central defensive pairing was effective in compressing the space for the forwards and covering for each other when one decided to step forward, either to prevent an attack or to start one.
“Olivia walked on and immediately showed that she can play with the best of them,” said Pichel. “She looked like Emma [Corcoran] did as a freshman.”
He added, “When we got beat by the Franklins and Mansfields, the middle was wide open, so I decided to mix up my five backs in a jagged shape to stop the through balls.”
At the final whistle, KP felt a mixture of relief and disappointment because snagging a point from Feehan is a positive but the overall play had the Warriors believing that they were the team on top. That gives the Warriors confidence as they get back into league play this week.
“We’ve been improving steadily since those losses to the top teams in the Hock,” Pichel explained. “I like our chances. I really do. We may not win the division, but we’ll be close.”
King Philip (8-3, 9-5-1) will try to get the one point left to ensure a return to the state tournament against Attleboro on Monday.