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Brewster Academy girls take New England title


Bobcat soccer ladies cap undefeated season with title game win over Groton


November 30, 2009
BY MATT BUTCHER

Brewster girls' soccer coach

WOLFEBORO — The Brewster Academy's girls' soccer team earned its third New England title in six years on Sunday, Nov. 22, with a 2-1 win over top-seeded Groton School (Groton, Mass.) to win the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Class C title.

The undefeated Brewster team earned the third seed in the Class C NEPSAC Tournament. In the quarterfinal match, Brewster defeated sixth-ranked Pingree School (South Hamilton, Mass.) 2-0 on home turf Wednesday, Nov. 18. The Bobcats then met the second-seeded Wheeler School (Providence, R.I.) on Saturday, Nov. 21. The Bobcats earned their semifinal victory 4-3 in penalty kicks after ending regulation play tied at two. After overtime play didn't put either team on the board, the final outcome was decided in penalty kicks.

The Brewster team also earned the title of Lakes Region League Champions, a title they have defended for the past three years.

Quarterfinals: Brewster 2, Pingree 0

Pingree, who finished this year second in the EIL, entered the postseason off a couple of close losses against eventual class A champion Philips Andover Academy and EIL champion Newton Country Day School.

From the opening whistle, Brewster controlled the run of play and created numerous scoring chances; however, Pingree's goalie came up with several big saves, and many of the Brewster players, Courtney Piper (Wolfeboro) in particular, must have been wondering what it would take to get a ball in the net. The Bobcats kept working to get the ball behind the Pingree defense, and before the half Angie Cotherman's (Lake Forest, Ill.) angled through-pass found Sarah MacDonnell (Quispamsis, New Brunswick), who had slipped beyond her marker; it was a race between MacDonnell and the goalkeeper, and MacDonnell's pace allowed her to get the first touch and bundle one into the net.

In the second half, Pingree would attack with numbers and frequently pushed the ball deep into Brewster's defensive third. A Pingree midfielder made some excellent passes from her central position that the Bobcats had to work to defend. On the stretched pitch, chances became more numerous for both teams, and after Brewster won the ball deep in its own end, the Bobcats were able to get the ball to Louise Warren (Pembroke, Ontario) near the half, and Warren did the rest, turning on the jets and the jukes to move past Pingree's marking backs and sweeper before beating the goalie from near the penalty stripe with a controlled shot against the grain.

With Warren's game-sealing strike, Brewster held on for the win while their fans continued to cheer until long after the final whistle. Kiana Nauheim (Fairbanks, Alaska) and Sam Hillis (Alton) played exceptional games at center back as they helped to contain one of Pingree's tireless players.

Semifinals: Wheeler 2, Brewster 2, Brewster advances on PKs (4-3)

On Saturday, Nov. 21, Wheeler and Brewster met in the semifinals on the turf field at Thayer Academy. The match would prove to be the closest of the season for Brewster and Wheeler their best opponent, which perhaps wasn't much of a surprise in this battle of undefeated league champions. Brewster entered the match with a 14-0-0 record and the Lakes Region championship, while Wheeler claimed a 17-0-3 record and the Southeast New England (SENE) regular and post-season championships.

While both teams had posted similar achievements and records, the teams employed vastly different playing styles. Throughout the match, Wheeler looked to attack down the flanks and get behind the Brewster wingers and outside backs with quick combination play and brilliant off-ball runs, while the Bobcats looked to counter through the middle with more direct play than usual, and the girls seemed to struggle with the speed of the turf and the quality play of Wheeler's two central midfielders.

In this close and physical match, Brewster struck first when Kate Rendall (Gilmanton) intercepted a Wheeler goal kick and moved the ball quickly to Cotherman, who struck a powerful shot from 40 yards that found the far-post side netting as the Wheeler goalie struggled against both the speed of the shot and the sun's harsh glare. Just minutes later, Brewster had a great chance to go ahead two when Warren was fouled in the penalty area; however, the Wheeler goalkeeper made a good save of Warren's penalty kick to keep the game within reach for Wheeler. It looked like Brewster would take a 1-0 lead into the half, but in the final minute, Wheeler quickly countered after a Brewster corner, and after two or three deft passes and complimentary defensive miscues, Wheeler's defensive midfielder beat the onrushing Taylor Booth (Epping), who deflected but could not save the shot.

The match remained close in the second half, as Wheeler's back line did a great job of containing Brewster's forwards and forcing them away from their goalkeeper. The Bobcats found themselves resorting to long-range shots that did not trouble Wheeler very much; meanwhile, though Wheeler did not generate many scoring chances, they possessed well and the pace of their play began to wear down Brewster. Wheeler would capitalize with 10 minutes left in the match. A free kick was played from the half to the top-right corner of the penalty area, and a deft turn from a Wheeler forward caught two Bobcat defenders off-balance; the Wheeler forward dribbled in from the flank and curled a nice shot over the diving Booth and into the net.

For the first time since the first half of their second game of the season against St. Paul's School, the Bobcats found themselves losing. With just 10 minutes remaining in their season, the girls played with desperation and resolve. Jo Lawlor (Lexington, Mass.) moved from center back to forward, and the Bobcats played with three up top as they tried to create more pressure and scoring opportunities. This strategy left Brewster a bit exposed in the back, and for every Brewster rush forward, Wheeler was able to counter; on one, Wheeler just missed icing the game as a forward's shot glanced off the near post. Brewster continued to rush forward, and with under a minute to play won a throw-in deep in Wheeler's end. After receiving the throw, Lawlor crossed a ball deep into Wheeler's penalty area, and MacDonnell stretched her foot out to deflect the ball softly but surely inside the far post for the dramatic game-tying goal. The goal came at the death of added time, as the referee did not allow a restart, and the two sides moved directly into 20 minutes of extra time.

In the extra time, both teams played it close, though Warren had a chance to win it when she finally beat Wheeler's excellent collective defending, but she couldn't get her left-footed shot close enough to the far post to beat the goalkeeper. This closely-contested match would only be decided by penalties.

Booth gave the Bobcats a huge advantage when she saved Wheeler's first two penalty kicks, while Lawlor and Hillis struck surely with theirs. In the third round, a Wheeler player beat Booth, and Warren's kick was saved. In rounds four and five, Wheeler would score, but so would Cotherman and Megan Grass (Deering), and with Grass' powerful strike, the Bobcats earned the right to play in the NEPSAC Class C championship on Sunday, Nov. 22.

In this match between undefeated teams, neither deserved to lose, but the Bobcats were proud and grateful for the chance to play in the finals; there, they would face Groton, who defeated fifth seed St. Luke's School 2-0.

Championship Game: Brewster 2, Groton 1

On championship Sunday, Groton School and Brewster Academy met at Governor's Academy in Byfield, Mass. Over the past several years, the two sides had developed a playoff rivalry, with Brewster defeating Groton in overtime in 2007 and Brewster again defeating Groton in 2008, this time in penalties after 100 minutes of scoreless soccer.

For the first 10 minutes of the championship match, Groton displayed why they earned the top seed as they kept the ball in Brewster's half and put the Bobcats under considerable pressure.

As the half progressed, Brewster began to gain some ground and possession, and the Bobcats may have generated the best scoring opportunities of the half as twice Warren worked her way through the Groton defenders to fire off shots within the penalty area, but in both cases the shots missed their targets. MacDonnell had a great chance to score as well as she chased down a ball over the top, but the brave Groton keeper raced out to the top of the 18 to break up MacDonnell's shot. Throughout the match, the Groton keeper would come up huge on several corners and crosses, leaping high over all to claim challenging balls. Booth had to make some saves of her own to keep the game at zero at the half.

Ten minutes into the second half, Brewster found itself down 1-0 when a Groton shot from outside the penalty area deflected off the head of Bobcat defender Lawlor and looped past the suddenly out of position Booth. Finding themselves down for the second time in two days after a regular season of little experience with that feeling, the Bobcats immediately regrouped. Booth raced to get the ball out of the net, and the team collected around the unlucky Lawlor, who played an otherwise superb game and tournament; as the Bobcats prepared for the restart, it was clear they knew what they needed to do.

With 20 minutes remaining, Brewster drew level. Warren received the ball deep on the left sideline and worked the ball down the endline, holding off several defenders with excellent strength and technical skill, then centered a precise ball past the Groton keeper to the top of six, where Marlowe Appe (Charlotte, Vt.) one-timed home a shot into the open net for her first playoff goal in her four-year career. Shortly after, Warren scored what would prove to be the game winner when Rendall hit an insightful chip over Groton's defenders, who were holding a high line; as Warren raced past the Zebra backs, the Groton keeper raced forward once more, this time leaving her penalty area, but she could not beat Warren to the ball, and Warren one-timed a chip over the goalie, it bounced once in the goalie area before hitting the netting as the Brewster bench exploded in cheers.

For the final 15 minutes, Brewster defended frantically and passionately as they worked to hold off Groton. As the Bobcats lost some composure, Groton created a few good shooting opportunities and earned some corner kicks, but Booth and her defenders came up with some big saves and clearances to keep Groton off the board. When the final whistle blew, the players on the field and the bench raced toward each other to celebrate their incredible accomplishment: an undefeated season and a New England championship.

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