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Lady Eagles can't break through in prelim loss to Belmont

Gilford holds Belmont to just one goal but can't get the equalizer in 1-0 loss

Gilford senior Sidney Stevens (right) battles with Belmont’s Mikaela Guertin during first half action on Oct. 26. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
November 01, 2011
BELMONT – If defense wins in the postseason, the Belmont High School girls' soccer team had the right formula on Oct. 26.

Behind an impressive effort by a defensive unit led by seniors Sam Phelps and Kim Allen, the fifth-seeded Lady Raiders took good care of freshman goalie Amelia Kotusky in a 1-0 win over Lakes Region rival Gilford High School in a Division III preliminary round game.

"We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game," said Phelps, the team's sweeper. "It's hard to see a team three times in one year but I thought we did a great job defensively. (Gilford) didn't get any really good scoring chances."

While the Belmont defense was hard at work keeping the 13th-seeded Golden Eagles (6-8-4) off the scoreboard, junior sniper McKenzie Phelps scored the game's lone goal in the 30th minute. Senior Mikaela Guertin blasted a free kick from 35 yards out on frame, and Gilford goalie Paige Laliberte managed to get a piece of the ball and deflect it off the crossbar. McKenzie Phelps was right there for the rebound however, as she headed the deflection into the corner of the net to give Belmont the 1-0 lead heading into halftime.

"It was pretty amazing that Paige was even able to get a finger on the initial shot," said Gilford coach Becky Zumbach. "But on a play like that there can be a lot of confusion in the box. There wasn't anything we did that was terribly wrong, but sometimes on a deflection like that, players lose track of their marks for just a second and that's when a goal can happen."

With the way the Belmont defense was playing, one goal seemed like a tough mountain to climb.

"We always talk about pressuring the goalie and we were finally able to get something past her," said Allen, who had a nose for the ball all afternoon from her stopper position. "Then it was a matter of continuing to play hard on defense. We have a tough defense, that's what we're about."

Gilford picked up its offensive pressure after intermission, as senior Katherine Rice made several chances happen along the right side. Midfielder Molly Dietrich found Rice on a nice feed early in the second half, but Rice's cross through the box wasn't tracked down by anyone and rolled out of harm's way.

"Gilford's a good team, they play everyone tough," said Belmont coach Amy Dutton. "So it was a good time to have one of our better defensive games of the year."

With Belmont's Kayli Ennis settling things in the midfield, Gilford managed few offensive rushes. The Eagles went all in with 10 minutes to go however, sliding sweeper Megan Pleeter up front and dropping Lisa Osborne back on defense. Dietrich had Gilford's best, and final, chance of the game in the final seconds, as she took a pass from Rice just inside the box and hit a shot with her left foot aimed at the far corner. The space was there for the equalizer, but her shot went just wide and out of bounds for a goal kick. The referee blew the whistle to end the game just seconds later.

"That was our chance, probably the best one we had of tying it," said Zumbach. "We definitely turned it on in the last 10 minutes but it's too bad we didn't create more of those opportunities a little bit sooner. All I asked though was that they make this a game they were proud of, win or lose, and I think they all were able to accomplish that."

Sidney Stevens played well on the outside for Gilford in her final game as a senior, while Pleeter and Ali Daigle paced a defense that didn't break after the Belmont tally.

"It wasn't a bad game to finish the season off with," said Zumbach.

Belmont (11-4-2) got solid play from juniors Claire Spaulding and Elizabeth Yelle at the outside fullback slots, while freshman Zoe Zeller more than made her presence felt as a marking back.

"I was pleased with the effort, especially defensively because (Gilford) didn't get a ton of chances offensively," said Duton. "Toughness has been our theme for the postseason. And we've been trying to make all the little plays count. We did that today."

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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