Gilford’s Cassidy Bartlett looks to beat Belmont’s Claire Spaulding to the ball during the Eagles’ 1-0 win on Sept. 29 in Belmont. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 01, 2012BELMONT – Two impressive streaks were on the line in Belmont on Sept. 29. Visiting Gilford High School put a stop to both of them with its best performance of the entire season.
On Homecoming at Belmont High School, Gilford scored the first goal of the season against the Red Raiders, handing Belmont its first defeat in the process in a 1-0 Division III girls' soccer victory.
"It's an incredible feeling," said Gilford senior goalkeeper Paige Laliberte of the win. "We worked so hard this week trying to adjust some things because (Belmont has) a really good team. We knew we had to do something different from last time and everyone played amazing."
It was a far different outcome than the week prior, when the Eagles dropped a 3-0 decision to Belmont at their Homecoming festivities.
"They deserved to win," said Belmont coach Amy Dutton of the Eagles. "They had tons of energy and they played hard from start to finish. Unfortunately we didn't. Paige and Molly (Dietrich) were the big difference makers. Molly was everywhere. I thought she beat us to every single ball. And I thought Gilford as a team beat us to most of those 50/50 balls."
After playing 10 straight games without giving up a goal to start the season, the Red Raiders finally conceded one in the 23rd minute. A scramble in front of the Belmont net saw the ball wind up on the foot of senior striker Sydney Strout. The left-footed Strout buried a shot into the open net, putting Gilford ahead 1-0. The impressive scoreless streak finally came to an end after 823 minutes for the Raiders.
"Let's just say I was in the perfect place at the perfect time," said the opportunistic Strout. "We had so many opportunities to score in this game and that was the one, thankfully. We needed that one."
Strout's goal got past Belmont keeper Kaitlyn Berry, who got the start in place of sophomore Amelia Kotusky. Kotusky was out of the lineup after suffering a head injury earlier in the week in a victory over Somersworth.
While the 1-0 lead held up into halftime, the Eagles continued to play well after intermission. Strout and Dietrich played a nice give and go into the box in the 47th minute, but Berry made a strong save to keep Belmont within striking distance.
The Raiders had perhaps their best scoring chance of the game in the 66th minute. Sophomore Chayleigh Cadarette's shot appeared destined for the back of the net, but Gilford defender Gabi Defregger managed to get in the way of the shot and deflect it away from the goal area.
"The defense played truly as a unit out there," Laliberte said. "We hustled to every ball and did whatever it took to get in the way of shots."
Belmont (10-1) struggled to keep the ball out of the hands of Laliberte, who came out of her net frequently to cut down long balls played into space.
"Paige did a great job playing that keeper/sweeper," Dutton said. "We didn't play our game today. Gilford took it to us but we didn't get the ball wide nearly enough. It was too down the middle and every time we tried to get something going, Paige was right there to squash it."
After the first meeting between the teams resulted in the 3-0 Belmont win, the Eagles tried to shift some things around to produce a better outcome.
"In the past couple of days we did some rethinking and did a couple of things differently," Laliberte explained. "We switched our formation because we knew if we were going to win this game, we couldn't just sit back and play defense. Our best defense was our offense at this point so we knew if we could take it to them and get them out of their comfort zone, we'd have a shot."
Gilford also played without two starters, as Abby Harris and Carlie Carson missed the game due to injury.
"We had a ton of girls step up to make up for having two starters out of the lineup," Strout said.
After playing such a long stretch of scoreless soccer, Dutton hopes her team can refocus with the stretch run of the regular season beginning to approach.
"It's a good test for us," the second-year coach said. "We need to know how we're going to respond and how we're going to play coming from behind. It took us a little while to overcome the shock of, 'Oh my god, we gave up a goal.' But the kids have worked hard. We've been steamrolling. To play a little over 800 minutes without giving up a goal, that's an improvement from last year. It's still a young team. We'll be okay. This is something we'll turn into a positive. The true test will be how we play from here on."
Gilford (7-3) now finds itself in the middle of a crowded top tier of the Division III standings. Entering this week, there were eight teams with three losses or less. Belmont dropped just behind Bow (9-0), the last undefeated team left, into second place.
"I do think it sends a message that we're not a team to be taken lightly," Laliberte said of the win. "On any given day, I think we can beat anybody if we're on our game."