WILMINGTON — It was the type of goal that crushes a team’s will and gets momentum rolling downhill.
There couldn’t have been more than 15 seconds remaining on the official’s watch when Danvers junior forward Shannon Pohle broke through the Wilmington defense to tie the score and send the Falcons’ Division 2 North girls soccer quarterfinal matchup into overtime.
But somehow, the Wildcats survived Pohle’s tally and the ensuing pressure Danvers put on in the first overtime, defeating the visitors 2-1 on a Cassie Grasso goal with 3:40 to go in double overtime.
“I was freaking out at first because of that whole overtime situation,” Grasso said just moments after scoring her third goal of the year. “I thought we had it in the bag.”
Top-seeded Wilmington advances to the North semifinals against the winner of tonight’s Salem-Arlington contest. Danvers, meanwhile, concludes its season at 12-7-1.
Through the first 79 minutes last night, Danvers coach Jimmy Hinchion knew there was something his offense could exploit against Wilmington. They were just unable to do it.
Then, fresh off a timeout in the final minute, Pohle broke through after senior midfielder Stephanie Kowalski sent a ball down the middle of the field. Pohle split two defenders, beat the Wilmington goalie to the ball and deposited it into the lower right corner.
“We were just looking to play as direct as we could. The whole game their defense was playing way up and we just couldn’t get a through ball,” Hinchion said. “We were saying every time their defense is playing high, all it takes is one through ball and we’d spring a very good forward. We couldn’t do it.
“We were looking all game and it happened in that last minute; it was pretty unbelievable. But we should have been able to take advantage of that a lot sooner.”
The Falcons looked like a different team in the first overtime. Danvers controlled possession for long spells during regulation without creating scoring chances, but the Falcons started attacking consistently in the first overtime.
Senior Courtney Arnoldy sent a cross from the deep left corner to the opposite post that found classmate Delaney Zecha with just over three minutes to go in the first OT. Zecha’s shot slipped past the far post, however.
“We started to play well (and) they looked really tired,” Hinchion said. “I think they were probably a little beat down after we got that goal. We had some chances really early on (in OT) and we didn’t put them away. It’s a game of momentum. The momentum turned and they were in our end for a bit. Obviously, that last one was really tough.”
Just like Danvers had pushed forward in the first overtime, Wilmington started doing the same in the second overtime. The Wildcats had several good opportunities before Grasso got the winner.
Grasso’s goal came off a scramble out front. Danvers goalie Leah Ciamp made the initial save, but the rebound found Grasso, who put the ball home.
“We were dominating in that half, so I knew that I had to keep crashing (the net) because I wanted it more than anything,” Grasso said. “This is my senior year and I wanted to win so bad. Finally, I just happened to be there at the right time.”
Hinchion praised Ciampa for her play in goal, as well as the overall effort of the defense.
Losing 10 seniors will be tough for the Falcons.
“It’s hardest for them, obviously. To make that kind of miraculous comeback, but we’ve done it so many times the last couple of weeks, it wears you out a little,” Hinchion said. “It’s great when you come from behind, but it does take its toll. If we could have held on for four more minutes, we felt very good about penalty kicks because we’re very solid at those.”