By Matt Jenkins Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — LYNN — Weston High School needed only 25 seconds to find the net against Ipswich in the Division 3 North girls soccer final yesterday morning at Manning Field.
The Tigers were well aware of Weston’s scoring ability, yet that goal — which served as the springboard to a 2-0 Wildcats’ victory — seemed to surprise them.
The fact that Weston senior captains Hannah Graves and Maddie Linde helped set up freshman Katie Marlow-Benedick’s tally seemed normal. The manner in which they did it — quick, methodical and against a stiff, game-changing breeze — caught the Tigers off-guard.
“It was obviously just deadly to give up that first goal in the first 25 seconds,” Ipswich coach Nancy Waddell said. “It was everything we needed to look out for. The speed of No. 14 (Graves), she turned the corner and laid the ball off. She’s their playmaker and she played it off perfect. I think it went to No. 20 (Linde), who got the ball in.
“It was just everything that they’re dangerous at doing, they did in that 25 seconds.”
Weston’s quick strike shifted all the pressure on Ipswich (11-5-7), a team that struggled to find goals during the season.
The 14th-seeded Tigers responded to a degree, controlling play for the remainder of the first half, but doing so without creating any great scoring threats.
“I thought we fought back, (like) ‘OK, we’re ready to go now’,” Waddell said about the team’s approach after falling behind. “It’s just a hard hole to dig out of.”
In some ways, Marlow-Benedick’s goal was a wake-up call. But, unlike other sports, soccer can be unforgiving.
“As quick as it happened, yes, we were surprised. We did know that they had a really strong offense. Weston has always been a great team, so no surprise after (the goal), but definitely right in the moment that it happened we were like, ‘Wow, we really gotta step everything up,’” Ipswich senior defender Courtney Long said.
“I feel like that’s kind of how we’ve played for a while; we wait for something to react to. And unfortunately that happened to be the goal today.”
The 17th-seeded Wildcats, who came into the playoffs with a losing record (6-7-4), saw immediate dividends from their early goal. It allowed head coach Rich Daelstrela to shift formations to keep Ipswich from attacking the net.
“We ended up dropping to a 4-5-1 (defensive alignment) to be able to control the middle a little bit more, because in the beginning we were not winning any of the 50-50 balls,” Daelstrela said. “I wanted to make sure that we took over that middle.”
By the time the game reached halftime, Ipswich’s task of charging through Weston — and the wind — became far more difficult. That breeze, which had been at their backs, was now directly in the Tigers’ face.
“I obviously knew the wind was impacting the game a lot, but I didn’t know how much,” Waddell said. “Obviously, it was impacting it completely. They got through a couple times early, then I felt like the ball was in this end both halves.
“It was great to see that we were able to play with them, but sometimes it’s frustrating. They were able to control the play a lot more so it didn’t affect them as much into the wind, but obviously it affected us a tremendous amount.”
Still, Ipswich nearly broke through just 1:30 into the second half.
Much the same way Weston (11-7-4) struck in the first half, the Tigers got behind the defense for an opportunity. Weston attempted to clear the ball, but Ipswich’s Brigid O’Flynn sent a shot back in that Wildcat goalie Alissa Duffey was able to corral.
Linde provided the insurance goal for Weston when she headed in a corner kick from Graves with just under 25 minutes to play.
“We were confident that we would be able to get a tying goal because we know we have a lot of skill on this team. And we know that everyone wanted it so bad,” Long said. “Everyone put their heart and soul into it.”