Posted: 10/28/2021 11:49:02 AM
LACONIA – 33 days.
These have only been victories for Concord for 33 days. The Crimson Tide have played some of their best football games this season. They entered the tournament with an eight-game winning streak, a top-4 seed and realistic championship aspirations.
The number stops at 33, however, as the No.4 tide was reversed by No.13 Dover in the first round of the Division I tournament on Wednesday.
From the opening whistle, Concord’s defense was active and alert, and it had to be. The Green Wave took it upon themselves to quickly lose their thirteenth seed and lift them to the top seed early and often in the game. Junior defender Sarah Potter was tasked with clearing the ball from the depths of Tide’s territory as Dover continuously directed the ball to the right side of the pitch.
A string of passes that started with Potter or his fellow defender Caley Nault went to wingers and all the way to forwards is Tide’s usual formula, but the wave was quick to disrupt that string with aggressive forwards on a press. .
The Dover formula paid off with several corners in the first 22 minutes of the match. Concord in an unbroken turn, finally let a goal go by in the 24th minute in a skirmish in front of the net.
It only took Tide five minutes after the start of the second half to get back on track. After the pass to center from junior midfielder Avery Fitcher made a back turn, Nault of about 20 yards played the rebound perfectly.
Without hesitation, the senior sent the ball to the upper left corner which must have ricocheted from the adjacent post before it fell to the back of the net.
“One of those occasions where we had to test the goalkeeper and get something on goal,” said coach Andrew Mattarazzo. “It changed the momentum for us in the second half and it was something we just needed.”
Cheers erupted from the crowd, the bench and the pitch. And those cheers were part of an offensive stretch that lasted nearly 10 minutes of quality chance.
Caroline Quirk made a pass going from right to left that awaited Fitcher but her shot was off target. Fitcher had another chance with a center pass, this one on the mark, to rookie Willa Marino. Marino was too far into the field and returned the pass to Whitney Vaillant whose point blank shot was blocked.
“I thought it was a great preparation and unfortunately it just didn’t come to fruition,” said Mattarazzo. “The girls have gained confidence throughout the year and I give them the freedom to play, I tell them to just go play soccer.”
Tide forced plenty of free kick and corner opportunities throughout the second half. But their slippage ultimately turned out to be too big to come back.
With Dover’s offense in the midst of a second-half resurgence, a handball called against Concord awarded the wave a penalty shot. Concord goaltender Lily Hillsgrove narrowly missed the shot as he curved into the back of the net.
“It was a nice penalty and difficult to save,” said Mattarazzo. “Lily played it brilliantly, but the ball was right in front of her.”
Concord had more chances at the end, including a penalty of its own, but ultimately couldn’t find an equalizer.
First day of a long offseason which will certainly be fueled by a painful and unexpected upheaval. First day to see missed opportunities. The first day to find a way back to the victory column.