(Newburyport MA) Deirdre McElhinney had been practicing penalty kicks.
“We knew that if our ALS Cup game ended in a tie there would be penalty kicks,” said Deirdre afterwards.
Tonight’s game with Pentucket didn’t end in a tie but the need for a penalty kicker arrived late in the first half.
“I tried to act like I was at practice,” added Deirdre. “I was trying to read the goalie.”
The shot was taken and found the left corner of the net.
“Fantastic PK by Deirdre,” said Newburyport coach Kevin Sheridan. “She just crushed the ball to the back corner.”
And that was the only goal scored. It turned out to be enough to get Newburyport past Pentucket, 1-0, on a balmy Saturday night at James Stehlin Stadium.
Both teams came in 9-2-2. This was, indeed, a heavyweight match.
Newburyport was 5-0 at home while Pentucket was 5-0-1 on the road. Something had to give.
“A fair result would have been a tie,” said Pentucket coach Dan Millard.
Both teams had excellent scoring chances.
“I knew that I would have plenty of action today,” said Clippers’ goalie Gabby Loughran. “They had lots of open shots today. We got lucky.”
Coach Kevin Sheridan saw Gabby’s play in net as very important. “She was outstanding,” said Coach Sheridan. “Perhaps she was the player-of-the-game. She came off the line and didn’t give rebounds. She handled the crosses and the corners.”
This game featured plenty of physical action. Every 50/50 ball was heavily contested. Some serious collisions resulted, and medical attention and free kicks followed.
“It was so intense out there,” said Anna Affolter post-game. “Both teams wanted to win this one badly.”
The physicality cost Pentucket (9-3-2) late in the first half. Newburyport sophomore Brela Pavao had possession in Pentucket’s box and was knocked down by a Sachem defender.
“Credit to Brela for drawing the penalty kick,” said Deirdre. “That was huge.”
The Clippers (10-2-2) had several scoring chances early in the game.
The first one was set up by Anna Affolter who came in along the left endline. Anna crossed the ball in front to where Bella Rosa was located. There was plenty of net to shoot at (as the picture shows) but Bella lifted the shot over the net.
A few minutes later freshman Alexis Greenblott broke into the middle from the left and got off a pretty good shot. Junior goalkeeper Emma Breen was well positioned to make the save.
The constant threat for Pentucket was junior Sabrina Campbell. Likely the fastest runner on the field. Several times she found space down the wings.
“Sabrina’s a really tough competitor,” explained Izzy Kirby who spent some time trying to stay with her. “She’s really fast. Our game plan was to make sure we had marks on her and layers. If she got by one of us, we had others back to mark her.”
“Sabrina and Mollie (Cahalane) are really good,” added GK Gabby Loughran.
The visitors trailed, 1-0, at the half and seemed (to me) to elevate their intensity in the second half.
The Sachems had their best scoring chance with fourteen minutes left.
Sabrina broke down the right side and found sophomore Victoria Wilson cutting down the middle. GK Gabby Loughran dove out to get in front of Victoria’s shot attempt. Gabby’s dive not only blocked the shot but also took out teammate Caity Rooney. And so there the ball sat near the three of them and none of them could get it.
Fortunately for Newburyport, senior Katie Gallagher hustled over and cleared the ball out of danger.
“Their goalie came out strong and hard,” said Coach Millard of the play. “She cut down the angle and made it difficult to score. That would have been a nice one for us to tie the game on.”
“We played hard in the back,” explained Katie Gallagher. “Pentucket is tough.”
The Clippers took a 3-0 loss to Pentucket on September 13th at Pentucket. Newburyport has only allowed five goals all season and three of them came in that decisive loss.
“We didn’t have a good game that day,” recalled Gabby. “We took a red card halfway through the second half and they scored two more goals after that.”
Anna Affolter: “Deirdre finished like she always does in practice. It was revenge for the 3-0 loss.”
Katie Gallagher: “We stuck together through all eighty minutes of it. We went forward with speed.”
Coach Millard: “My girls gave 110%. We could have played better. Maybe we’ll see Newburyport again in the tournament.”
Coach Sheridan: “What a great game. Both teams had a bunch of chances. Pentucket played hard. They have good players.”
Molly Webster: “We have been building up to this game all year. This is such a great game whether you are on a team or not.”
Katie Gallagher: “The cup stays in Newburyport. I hope to play soccer next year. I’ve applied to all the schools I want to go to. I love the game. I want to keep playing.”
The crowd was impressive and so was the weather. Low 70’s at night on October 16th. Who saw that coming……….but I’ll take it!
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)