HINGHAM, Mass. – The game seemed to be going the same way as most of the 21 that preceded it. King Philip was hoarding the ball, putting consistent pressure on the opposing defense, creating scoring chances, and looking comfortable at the back after a switch to a 4-5-1 formation at halftime.
Suddenly, with little warning, everything changed in Saturday’s Div. 1 South final at Hingham High. A penalty given, a tying goal scored, and all the momentum (as well as the wind) suddenly at Bishop Feehan’s back.
In a battle of unbeaten top seeds, Feehan rallied with two second half goals in the span of four minutes to secure a contentious 2-1 victory and claim its first sectional title. The Warriors (21-1) lost for the first time this season and fell just short of a second South title in three seasons.
KP coach Gary Pichel was left fuming and frustrated at the final whistle, believing calls that went against his team in the second half, particularly the penalty, changed a game that his team was otherwise controlling.
“We were in control,” he said, “except for the momentum-breaking calls out on the field that sent the ball the other way. We completely owned the field. The effort was there, the motivation was there.”
Frustration aside, he also praised Feehan for its fight back in the second half. “They worked just as hard as we did and the breaks went their way, so they’re the champs. I give all the credit to them for hanging in there and working as hard as they did.”
The Warriors came out with the wind at their backs in search of an opening goal. Chloe Layne, the league MVP who was recently selected as an All-American, had the first chance on a short goal kick. She got onto her left foot and sent a cross into the middle, but Ashley Kelly just got across to clear.
Feehan’s best chances in the opening half all came off set pieces. An Annie Pearl free kick was headed at the back post but Olivia Berry blocked it on the line and cleared for KP. In the 25th minute a free kick from Hailey Goodman was redirected on target but comfortably saved by KP keeper Taylor Butler.
KP dominated the majority of the half, taking advantage of the wind. Avery Snead cut across the edge of the box and sent in a left-footed shot that had to be saved at full stretch by Madison Breckner. Makayla Griffin sent Snead into space a few minutes later but her shot on the run was saved by the keeper.
In the 35th minute, the pressure finally paid off. Griffin whipped in a corner from the far sideline and Snead was there to nod it home from just a few yards out, putting KP deservedly ahead 1-0.
Jenny Montville had a chance to double the lead just before the break, but her shot from 20 yards sailed over the bar.
At the start of the second half, KP had several chances to add to its lead. Snead fed Layne, who in turn played Montville into the right channel but her chip over the onrushing keeper went just past the bar. In the 53rd minute, Snead slipped Kiera Lindmark down the left side and she hit a perfect cross into Layne unmarked in the center, but her volley was too high.
“I thought that was going in for sure,” said Pichel. “That was a perfect ball and [Chloe’s] usually adept at volleying it into the net. If that went in, then it would have been lights out I think.”
Despite the misses, KP looked largely untroubled. The defense, which had allowed only three goals during the regular season was keeping Feehan at arm’s length. Butler had to make a save at the near post when Goodman cut in on her left, but the combination of Griffin, Berry, Paige Varvarigos, and freshman Grace Lawler limited Feehan’s chances.
Lawler in particular stood out because she was matched up against Feehan junior striker Francesca Yanchuk, who has already amassed more than 100 goals in her career. Lawler met the physical battle and gave Yanchuk no good looks at goal for 60-plus minutes.
In the 63rd minute, a penalty was given when a Feehan player went down in the box. The KP defense and bench argued that there was no contact from the defender, who was shepherding the attacker away from goal. The official pointed to the spot and Yanchuk put enough power to give Butler no chance.
After tying the game, Feehan took control of the match and went in search of a winner. Moments after a collision between Yanchuk and Butler forced the trainer to take a look at the KP keeper, Sydney Kofton lofted a pass behind the KP defense for Yanchuk to chase and the forward beat Butler to the spot before deftly slipping the ball past the keeper and inside the post.
KP would create a couple of chances to equalize in the closing minutes. Jenna Hitchen set up Montville for a shot that was saved and then Layne hit a shot off the bounce with two minutes to play, but her shot went straight at the keeper.
It was not the ending that this KP senior class was looking for after a record-setting career. Layne and Snead both broke the existing program scoring record, with Layne finishing as the new top scorer. The Warriors won a pair of Kelley-Rex division championships and went to two South finals, winning the title in 2017. The 21 wins that the Warriors amassed this season was a program best.
“Im very proud of the kids. I’m super proud of them,” Pichel said. “They’re champs in my eyes, in the eyes of their fans, and their families and friends. I’m going to be sad to see these kids go. Had them for four years, the senior class is like, the best I ever had. You hate to see them go.”
“There’s been a ton of accomplishments. Final touches were going to be to win this and give it a great shot at states, but …”
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