WORCESTER — The Groton-Dunstable girls soccer team went toe-to-toe with Holy Name in the opening round of the Central Mass. Division 2 Tournament, but Ana Bowden’s goal 5:59 into the second half proved to be the difference as the Naps posted a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
“We had some chances in the game but we didn’t finish,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Sue Hilbrunner. “We played hard and I’m proud of what we accomplished this season.”
Groton-Dunstable had an edge in play over the first half, which ended scoreless. The Lady Crusaders owned a 4-1 advantage in shots on goal over the first 40 minutes.
Holy Name had the first scoring threat of the contest five minutes in when Melissa Andersen stole the ball on right wing, cut in toward the net and fired a shot that sailed over the cross bar.
Three minutes later, Groton-Dunstable forward Sarah Hilton fired a shot from outside the right post that was stopped by Holy Name goaltender Corrie Derosier.
At the 14-minute mark, Hilton sent a well-placed cross from the right corner to Kiley Hardy, who fired a shot just wide of the left post.
Holy Name called a timeout at 14:17, but the Naps still struggled to get untracked offensively. Groton-Dunstable’s Cate Cullen did an outstanding job at stopper with aggressive play, which kept the Naps from penetrating close to the goal.
The Naps received strong throw-ins from Bridget O’Sullivan, which provided some anxious moments in front of the Groton-Dunstable goal.
With 12 minutes left in the first half, Groton-Dunstable’s Dani Kenney sent a perfect corner kick to the far post, but Derosier punched the ball out of danger.
Holy Name received outstanding defensive play from sweeper Kelli Breeden, who complemented a quick burst of speed with solid anticipation to break up a number of Groton-Dunstable forays into the offensive zone. Numerous times throughout the contest, Breeden diffused Lady Crusader chances with a steal or a well-timed tackle.
The Naps took the lead early in the second half when Taylor-Victoria Boucher fired a hard shot from traffic in front of the net. Groton-Dunstable goaltender Kailyn Rekos made the initial save, but Bowden pounced on the rebound and netted a shot from close range.
The Lady Crusaaders appeared to score the equalizer at 14 minutes, but the goal was disallowed. Meredith Shea sent a pin-point diagonal free kick to the left post and the ball was deflected inside the left post, but the play was whistled off because of a hand ball.
Holy Name did a solid job of controlling play most of the remainder of the game, and the Naps just missed adding a crucial insurance goal with 11 minutes remaining. Bowden ripped a hard 18-yard shot that was turned away by a diving Rekos at the left post to keep the Lady Crusaders within striking distance.
“Cate Cullen played an outstanding game today and has really come on late in the season,” said Hilbrunner. “She does a great job of going through the ball.”