Gilford girls play their way in
Golden Eagles best Kingswood to earn spot in tournament
Gilford’s Sydney Strout tries to keep the ball away from Kingswood’s Julia Miller during action Sunday, Oct. 23, in Wolfeboro. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 24, 2011WOLFEBORO — Gilford girls' soccer coach Becky Zumbach certainly knows that beating a team three times in one season can be a challenge.
So heading into Sunday's Division III play-in game at Kingswood, the Golden Eagle mentor was a little concerned.
Gilford beat Kingswood in early September by a 2-1 score and last week picked up a 4-0 win over the Knights, but she wasn't taking anything for granted with a playoff berth on the line.
"They're a quality team and that was one of the things that made us the most nervous today," Zumbach said. "But I was feeling a little better after the first half."
The Golden Eagles were the dominant force in the first half, scoring three goals to take a 3-0 lead by the break, but Kingswood didn't go quietly, controlling more of the play in the second half before bowing by a 3-1 score.
"I thought we had a lot of momentum in the first half and I thought Kingswood had momentum in the second half," Zumbach noted. "They had a couple girls up top who were really fast."
The Golden Eagles wasted little time getting on the board, as they scored less than three minutes into the game. Sydney Strout and Molly Dietrich had early chances for the visitors after Brittany Roy went right in on Gilford keeper Paige Laliberte right after the opening whistle.
Shelby Sawyer helped clear out an early Gilford chance, but the Golden Eagles came right back and Sarah Veazey stroked a long shot in just off the fingertips of Kingswood keeper Amber Carpenter for a 1-0 lead.
Gilford h ad more of the quality chances moving forward in the half, as Dietrich had a couple good chances, only to have Megen Pollini clear one look out and see the other go through the crease untouched. Carpenter also made another save for the Knights and Sawyer chipped in with more good defense.
Katie McKenzie and Pollini just missed connections on a scoring bid for Kingswood, but Gilford came right back with Katherine Rice and Strout teaming up for a couple of chances.
Just about 15 minutes in, the Golden Eagles struck again, as Strout fired home a shot off a throw-in for a 2-0 lead.
Strout had another good chance moments later when she charged in on goal and made contact with a sliding Carpenter. The ball got loose and headed toward the net, but Kingswood's Julia Miller swept in and booted it away. Strout sent another ball through the crease that Carpenter tracked down.
The visitors upped their lead to 3-0 with about 11 minutes to play in the first half, as Veazey sent a long shot on net. Carpenter made the save, but bobbled the ball and Rice pounced on the loose ball and drilled it home for a 3-0 lead. Carpenter was hurt on the play and Pollini stepped up to fill the goalie's jersey.
"That shows what a team player she is," Kingswood coach Paul Harvey said. "I know she was frustrated."
Gilford had a couple more good chances, with Megan Pleeter and Strout getting good looks, but Pollini held her ground. Kellie Lander, Rhianna Llewellyn, Miller and Sawyer all made strong defensive plays as the first half closed out with Gilford up by a 3-0 score.
Strout had a number of great chances early in the second half, but one sailed high and Sawyer cleared out another one.
Morgan Ekstrom made a great move in on Laliberte and in the process earned herself a penalty kick. Laliberte made a diving save of the shot, but Ekstrom followed up her shot and poked the rebound home to cut the lead to 3-1 about eight minutes into the second half.
Kingswood had some great chances after that, with Roy, Anna Fredrickson, Ekstrom, McKenzie and company all getting in on the action.
Gilford had a few second half chances as well, with Strout, Gabi Defregger and Pleeter all getting chances.
However, the pressure on either end wasn't enough and the balls stayed out of the net, giving Gilford the 3-1 win.
For Zumbach, scoring first was a huge step for her team.
"It's something we struggled with this year," she said. "There have been very few games when we've done that."
The win put the Golden Eagles in the Division III playoffs, where they earned a fight with Lakes Region rival Belmont, which occurred after deadline Wednesday. Zumbach expected a battle.
"It's going to be tough," she said. "It's going to be a challenge getting by them, but I think we can do it."
The Red Raiders won the first matchup between the two teams this season, but the squads tied the second time they played.
If the Golden Eagles were able to get by Belmont, the next round takes place on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m. at Prospect Mountain. The semifinals are Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126