Julia Hatfield battles for the ball during playoff action at Goffstown on Oct. 24. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 29, 2012GOFFSTOWN — Even as the Plymouth soccer girls got dismissed from school for their trip to Goffstown for the Division II playoff opener on Wednesday, Oct. 24, it was obvious that this was unlike any game before.
Waiting outside the school for the girls was not the usual big yellow school bus, but rather a luxurious coach bus.
It was arranged through Robertson Transportation, the school's bus company, for the girls to get their special coach bus for the trip south.
The coach bus is saved for special occasions and the first playoff berth in the history of the girls' soccer program was indeed a special occasion.
"They've proven that they're worthy of it," coach Chris Inman said of his girls. "They're special."
While things didn't exactly go the way the Bobcats would've liked in their first foray into the postseason, they emerged on the other side as a proud group of young ladies blazing a new trail for Plymouth girls' soccer.
"I had a year as a player that I'll never forget," Inman said. "So I know this is a season no one can forget."
The third-seeded Grizzlies did all the scoring on the afternoon, putting in three goals in the first half and two more in the second half for a 5-0 victory.
The Bobcats didn't back down in the face of immediate Goffstown pressure from the first whistle, as the defense stepped up, with Maddy Hansen and Julia Hatfield getting nice clears early and Kelsey Malm stepping up with strong defense as well.
The hosts had a couple of early corner kicks as well. One went wide and another was stopped by Macaela Wright before it could reach the net. On another corner, goalie Jessie McDonough did a nice job leaping through a crowd and punching the ball away.
Marykate Melanson and Anine Vingen combined for possibly Plymouth's best scoring chance of the day, as Melanson sent a nice ball into the box and Vingen headed it just wide of the net.
Plymouth got a couple of corner kick chances out of the pressure. Hansen had a shot stopped and the Grizzly defense stepped up as well. The hosts turned the ball quickly back up the field and had three corner kicks. Hatfield and Malm stepped up with good defense, McDonough made a save on another bid and the cross bar saved the Bobcats on another chance. Goffstown also sent one off the post a few minutes later.
Hailey Crowell just missed connecting with Vingen on a scoring chance as the Bobcats tried to get on the board first, but the Grizzlies finally broke the scoring drought with 15:18 to play for a 1-0 lead on a shot from about 15 yards out.
The Grizzlies struck again less than four minutes later on a direct kick chance that was originally stopped. However, the rebound bounced around in the box and the hosts put it home for a 2-0 lead.
After two unsuccessful corners late in the half, the hosts scored on a third try, as the ball slipped through McDonough's hands for a 3-0 lead in the final minutes of the half.
The Grizzlies controlled the flow of play in the early portion of the second half, but McDonough was solid in the net. Risa Mosenthal and Vingen had chances for the Bobcats in the offensive zone but they were unable to get the ball into the zone. Hansen, Melanson and Wright stepped up with strong defensive clears, but with 18:51 to play in the game, the Grizzlies scored on a corner kick for a 4-1 lead.
McDonough made her highlight save of the day moments later, diving to stop a ball destined for the net, but the Grizzlies didn't back down and added another tally with 7:51 to play, putting home a rebound after McDonough had made a couple of nice saves in close.
Melanson's direct kick went high in Plymouth's final solid chance of the afternoon and the Grizzlies took the 5-0 win.
"There was no domination," Inman said. "There was a couple of little mistakes that good teams take advantage of.
"We weren't the lesser team, we were just the team that didn't capitalize on any mistakes," he continued.
Inman expressed his pride in the hard work his girls put into the season and into making the program a success.
"The best part is the recognition the girls will get in the school and the community," Inman said. "Everything is progress."
The Bobcats finished the regular season at 7-9, setting a benchmark for the most wins in a season by a Plymouth girls' soccer team.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126