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Fight to the finish

Eagle soccer boys push past Knights for first win

by Joshua Spaulding
Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

KINGSWOOD KEEPER Trent Taylor makes an aggressive save on Kennett's Dominic Lentini as Kingswood's Jeff Madden provides support in action on Sept. 17 in North Conway. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
September 23, 2013
NORTH CONWAY — In previous years, the Kingswood boys' soccer team has been apprehensive about matching another team's physical play and it has cost the Knights, with numerous lopsided losses.

However, this year's team is a little different and the close scores and hard-fought battles are proof that the Knights have changed.

"This year, our guys are ready and prepared to play physical," Kingswood coach Mike Best said.

Kennett coach Dave Hart also noticed after his team's 2-1 win over the Eagles in North Conway on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

"We saw them in the preseason and it was obvious to us they had improved a lot," Hart said. "We knew coming in they would be tough and obviously, they were."

While Hart's squad did score the win in the end, the game featured 80 minutes of back-and-forth soccer and great scoring chances on both ends of the field.

Kennett had the best early chances, as Lee Dennis just missed connections with Zach Bradley, Domenic Lentini took a nice feed from Bradley for a good shot and James Gaudreault had a nice cross through the crease. However, Kingswood keeper Trent Taylor was up to the task and kept Kennett off the board.

Kingswood's best early chances came off the foot of Travis Drapeau, who had one journey into the zone turned away by strong defense from Shane Couture and another go wide off a feed from Luke O'Brien. O'Brien had his own scoring bid stuffed by the defense, with Luke Tinkham getting a key clear for the Eagles.

Jeff Madden and Bill Pelligrino had strong defensive plays for the Knights and a Madden boot up the field led to a great scoring opportunity for Drapeau, as he poked one by Kennett keeper Ryan Vajentic, but it bounced off the post and went wide.

The Kingswood defense stepped up, with Madden, Jake Woodard and Brendan Donahue turning away bids from the Eagles, while Taylor did his job between the pipes, keeping the ball out. Kieffer Bradley, Donovan Spaulding, Cam Clark and Lentini continued to pressure for the Eagles, but they weren't able to get anything through.

Drapeau had another great chance, as he managed to get by a charging Vajentic, but defensive pressure from Tinkham forced him to put the ball wide of the net. Nick Holt also had a couple of good chances for Kingswood, but he was denied by Vajentic.

Kherry Rober, Spaulding, Park Cawley, Bruce Taylor and Bo Yalenzian continued the attack for the Eagles, with the Knight defense standing strong. Brian Palumbo and Drapeau had offensive chances as well, but they were denied.

The Eagles were finally able to break through against Taylor, as Spaulding came in on the right side and fired a shot to the far post, just eluding Taylor's fingers for a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes to play in the half.

The two teams battled back and forth, with Drapeau, Mitch Tappan and Mark Chrysafidis getting chances for Kingswood and Asa Frankowski, Rober, Spaulding and Tim Avery all coming close in the offensive end for Kennett.

Taylor made a couple of huge saves, one coming on a shot by Lentini and another on the rebound by Avery. Clancy Mason turned away another Lentini look, while Vajentic made a nice save on a long direct kick by Madden. Taylor also stoned a Spaulding shot in the final minutes to send the game to halftime with Kennett up 1-0.

Kennett was able to double the lead seven minutes into the second half, as a good defensive play by Clark transitioned into good defense, with Lentini firing a shot low past Taylor for a 2-0 lead.

Kennett came close to adding to that lead moments later when Dennis headed a ball wide of the net on a corner kick. Lentini, Rober and the Eagle offense had a few more chance, but Kingswood began pushing up the offense a bit more, with Zach Ivey, Woodard and Lachlan Place all getting into the offensive zone as the Knights pressured. Drapeau also had a good look at the net.

The Knights were able to get on the board with 23 minutes gone in the half, as Palumbo delivered a corner kick in front of the net and Drapeau headed it home, cutting the lead to 2-1.

The two teams went back and forth after that, with Spaulding, Rober and Kieffer Bradley getting good looks for the Eagles and Palumbo, Holt and Chrysafidis getting in close for the Knights, but the two goalies held their ground, with Vajentic making a diving save of a Chrysafidis shot in the final minutes and Taylor making a leaping save of a Kieffer Bradley shot moments earlier.

However, nothing went in the net and the Eagles had their first win of the season.

"This was a real crucial game for us and our team," Hart said. "The first win does alleviate the pressure, but we have to go and do it again.

"It doesn't get any easier," he added.

Hart noted that there were some things to be worked on going forward as the Eagles look to continue to improve, noting his team was not strong in the defensive third, something the Eagles will have to improve on going forward.

"And we got lucky on a couple of early bounces," Hart added.

The second-year head coach also pointed out that the kids did follow the game plan, which was to pressure from the start.

"I felt like the energy and the intensity was definitely ramped up in the second half," Best said of his squad. "We felt like we were still in the game.

"It was a good, physical game," the Knight coach continued. "And I felt like we were pretty even offensively."

Best was also pleased that his team continues to be in games, losing the last three games by a total of three goals.

"At least we're in the games," he said. "We're right there."

Best also praised Taylor's work between the pipes.

"Trent had another great game," Best stated. "They had a couple of opportunities where he did not want to let that ball go over his head."

He also praised Kennett's Lentini for a strong game.

The Eagles will be hosting Plymouth on Friday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. and will be at Plymouth on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 4 p.m.

Additionally, the two teams will be meeting up again, this time in Wolfeboro on Monday, Sept. 30, at 4 p.m. That is the lone game of the week for the Knights.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or sportsgsn@salmonpress.com.

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