Falcons oust Timber Wolves in semifinals
NICOLE DWYER pushes the ball around a couple of Bow defenders during action on Wednesday in Exeter. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
November 07, 2011ALTON — The first time the Prospect Mountain and Bow soccer girls met, it was late August and both teams were playing in their first games of the season. Bow dominated Prospect by a 9-1 score.
The two teams renewed acquaintances on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Exeter High School's Bill Ball Stadium in the Division III semifinals and nobody expected the same type of game as the two teams were involved in earlier in the season.
The Timber Wolves certainly didn't roll over in the face of the top-seeded Falcons, but when all was said and done, the Prospect girls had losses to Bow to bookend their season as the Falcons recorded a 4-1 win.
The Falcons, who just a few days later would pick up their first-ever girls' soccer title, got the scoring going early, as they pushed through the Prospect defense 2:13 into the game and poked one past Timber Wolf keeper Shannon Meyer for a 1-0 lead.
Prospect almost answered just moments later, as Kirby Beranger sent a nice ball in to Kelly Jones, who made a great cross in the direction of Britney Therrien, but the ball just missed Therrien's foot and the Timber Wolves were still scoreless.
Monica Buffum stepped up with a nice defensive clear following a Bow direct kick attempt and then the Timber Wolf defense did a nice job of clearing the ball out on a Bow corner kick.
Nicole Dwyer sent a nice ball in to Mikayla Cauler, but she sent the ball wide for Prospect's second solid chance of the game.
The Falcons came right back and capitalized moments later, as Meyer made a great save on a shot but the rebound was poked home and Bow had a 2-0 lead.
After the second goal, Prospect coach Matt Locke switched up his defense a bit. He had started Sahara Brown at the midfield, but moved her back to the defensive unit and moved Ella Montminy up to the midfield.
Brown had found success in earlier weeks in the midfield, but against Bow's speedy forwards, the matchup in the backfield was in favor of the Falcons.
"They were very aggressive and we couldn't match their speed on the flanks," Locke said. "We were playing a little bit too tight early. He were back and forth between a 4-5-1 and the 3-5-2 and we settled on the 3-5-2 thinking we could cover the middle and flanks.
"But they got a couple over the top," the Prospect coach added.
Prospect tried to get back in the game, with Therrien, Brown, Kelly Jones and Beranger making great bids in the offensive zone, but Bow countered with plenty of chances as well, as they had a couple of corner kicks that the Timber Wolves cleared out. Meyer also made a couple of solid saves to keep her team in the game. Brown also made a nice defensive stop on a breakaway by the Falcons. Bow also hit the crossbar on another chance.
The Timber Wolves got on the board just more than midway through the first half, as Jones made a nice play by passing the ball around a defender. She then chased the ball down on the right side and drilled it off the goalie's fingers to cut the lead to 2-1 with 18:51 to play in the half.
Beranger, Jones and Dwyer had chances as well as the half continued on but couldn't convert. Jones had a nice direct kick chance from about 24 yards out but the shot sailed wide.
The two teams exchanged chances over the final few minutes, but the score was still 2-1 when the halftime horn sounded.
Bow came out and dominated the early portion of the second half, forcing Meyer to make a number of big saves. The Falcons also sent a number of balls through the crease to no avail.
The Falcons finally converted on their chances with almost 11 minutes gone in the second half, as they sent in a direct kick from about five yards out. Meyer got a hand on the ball but it hit off the crossbar and bounced in for the 3-1 lead.
Bow kept pressuring, with Brown and Angela Tidd making solid defensive plays in the back field. Therrien just missed connecting with Jones for a scoring chance.
Bow upped the lead to 4-1 with 19:35 to play in the game, as they converted a turnover in the defensive zone into a goal on a gorgeous header of a pass that was barely a foot or so off the ground.
Jones, Therrien and company had a few more chances and Meyer had a couple more solid saves on Bow chances, but the game ended with the Falcons taking the 4-1 win and earning the trip to the finals.
For Locke and his troop, a third trip to the Final Four in three years was certainly nothing to scoff at, particularly with the way the season started at Bow back in August.
"Going to the Final Four three years in a row is an accomplishment," Locke said. "But it's their team, I'm just the facilitator.
"They're resilient, they'll get over it, but you hope as a coach that you gave them some good memories," Locke continued.
He admitted that losing in the semifinals was not what his team was looking for, but he credited Bow for a great effort.
"It's not what we wanted, but they're a good team," he said. "They're skilled and he's got waves of players he throws at us and all of them are just as skilled as the first wave."
He noted that he was frustrated early, but he credited his girls for playing hard and not giving up despite the early deficit.
"From the start of the season, we've come a long way," Locke said. "But I think if we get that tying goal early in the second half, maybe we could've changed the momentum."
The Timber Wolves finished the regular season at 12-3-1 and were the fourth seed in the Division III playoffs. They bested Belmont in an overtime thriller in the quarterfinals to earn the bid to the semifinals.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126