MA freshman Dylan McLaughlin eyes a loose ball while keeping Profile's Eric Tholl on his back during the Panthers' 3-2 overtime loss in the Division IV quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
November 04, 2013MOULTONBOROUGH – Two years ago, the Moultonborough Academy boys' soccer team knocked off top-seeded Profile, on its home turf, to reach the Division IV Final Four. After a second consecutive appearance in the semifinals last year, the Panthers had to see the Patriots yet again if they wanted to make it three in a row.
Tenth-seeded Profile didn't forget that game. The squad referenced it in its postgame huddle on Sunday afternoon, just minutes after Jared Gunter sent the Patriots through to this year's Final Four with a stunning 3-2 overtime victory that ended an outstanding season for the second-seeded Panthers in the quarterfinal round.
"We knew they were more skilled than we were," admitted Profile coach Dave Robinson of MA. "They put pressure on us all game long but in the playoffs, oftentimes you win games with gutsy performances. And this was a gutsy win."
The game-winner came six minutes into the first sudden death overtime period. With goalkeeper TJ Marchand coming out of his net to track down a loose ball, the Panthers were unable to clear the zone. After a pair of deflections, Gunter managed to bang a shot that seemed to move in slow motion across the goal line while a helpless MA defense watched from across the penalty area. The tally set off a wild Profile celebration, as the Patriots piled on top of Gunter. The Panthers walked off the field in stunned silence.
"The way they scored in the end is very frustrating," MA coach Eric Porusta explained. "We've had some goals scored against us exactly that same way before and they always wind up hurting us."
The loss was especially difficult given that MA controlled play on the afternoon, especially in the second half. Three minutes into OT, a flurry of chances on the Profile net saw shots pinball around but no one was able to knock one through a crowd in front.
"In the second half, I'd be lying if we didn't control the ball for about 35 minutes," Porusta said. "We just couldn't finish or break through. It's unfortunate but that's the way it goes sometimes."
Profile jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute, when Bailey Johnson's free kick deflected off the MA wall and snuck past Marchand.
But the Panthers tied the game in the 23rd minute, as Tristan Price took a feed from Andrew Porusta and roofed it over the head of Baker to draw level at 1-1.
MA continued that momentum in the 35th minute, as Porusta put the hosts up 2-1 when he buried a shot to the far post thanks to a pass from Connor Porusta.
While the Panthers appeared destined to carry that lead into halftime, disaster struck in the 38th minute, when Profile was awarded a penalty kick after a foul in traffic was whistled in the box. Johnson converted the PK for his second goal of the day, and the teams instead went to intermission all square at 2-2.
The win sent Profile through to the Final Four where it is scheduled to meet third-seeded Derryfield this evening at Laconia High School.
"The North Country was wide open this year and we all beat up on each other," said Robinson. "Those games I felt like gave us the experience to be ready for this one. I told the guys before the playoffs that someone has to win four in a row. Why can't it be us?"
Robinson and the Patriots were especially focused on Price and Porusta up front, knowing the talented duo has scored in bunches all season long.
"We knew we had to shut those two guys down up top," the coach explained. "We don't have anyone on our team that has the ability to score like those two guys do. I thought our defense bent but we never broke, especially in the second half and overtime."
The loss marked the final game for MA seniors Aaron Davis, Miles Clarenbach, Dillon Sawyer and Connor O'Neil, with the Panthers lineup skewing very young overall.
"I'm disappointed for the seniors," said coach Porusta. "You never like to see your season end with a loss. I still think the best of Moultonborough soccer is still to come though."