By Jean DePlacido
---- — PEABODY — Both the Bishop Fenwick and Austin Prep girls soccer teams came into yesterday’s matchup with unbeaten records — and when the contest was over, nothing had changed.
The host Crusaders battled Austin Prep to a 0-0 tie as defense dominated for both squads.
“It was all about defense today,” said Fenwick coach Karen Guillemette, her team now 3-0-1. “We dominated play and had our chances, but couldn’t get anything in the back of the net.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game because Austin Prep has come a long way in the last few years.”
The Crusaders totally controlled play in the first half and had some chances to get on the scoreboard, but couldn’t finish. Cougar senior goalie Olivia Zizza made five saves while more Fenwick shots went just wide or over the net by inches.
The visitors didn’t get many shots on net, but nearly scored 15 minutes into the contest when sophomore Ellen Fantozzi raced over to kick the ball out of the crease after sophomore goalie Merry Harrington found herself out of position following Kristin Randolph’s cross from the right sideline.
“Randolph is one of our senior captains and is an outstanding player,” said Austin Prep coach Jessica Chiachio (4-0-1). “This was a good game (where) both defenses determined the outcome. It was tricky with that crosswind taking the ball all over the place.”
A strong wind blew across the field for most of the game, dying down only in the final five minutes. The wind took the ball in strange directions and made it hard for players on both teams to judge.
“You had to know where each punt was going because the wind changed the direction,” said Fenwick junior Jenny Nasser, who had a strong game on defense. “We did everything we could trying not to have the ball go in our net, but I wish we could have put one in theirs.”
Austin Prep put a lot more pressure on the defense in the second half, and Harrington had to come up with a few big stops to keep the game scoreless. Seven minutes into the half she made a diving save on Randolph, who drilled a low shot from the right sideline.
Randolph had another strong bid with 10 minutes left when she put a rising shot on Harrington, who caught the ball but couldn’t hold onto it. Fenwick junior midfielder Emma Harrington raced in to boot the ball away.
“Merry’s older sister bailed her out on that one,” said Guillemette. “Emma kicked it out of there; that was a very big play. Both Harrington sisters played well. I was also pleased with Nasser, Fantozzi, Mary Difilippo and Jackie Edgett.”
Annette Ruggiero, a senior forward for the Crusaders, used her speed to make some nice runs, and Edgett had a shot that was just over the net in the second half.
But it was Harrington at the other end who made sure her team came away with a point. She made two big stops in the last four minutes of the game, grabbing a hard shot by Caroline Benson and denying Meghan Braciska after Randolph made a perfect cross to the middle.
“Randolph is very fast,” said Nasser. “I told my defense to give her a little space because if you don’t she is going to blow by you. Once we did that, we were able to contain her better.”