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NEWPORTâ€“The first match of the year between the UCA and Craftsbury Academy girls went down to the wire as it took 89:26 of play before Craftsbury's Meghan Brown was able to get one past UCA's Lydia Saaman in overtime to give the Chargers the win.
"I was really happy when the ball crossed the line and we won," said an enthusiastic Brown after the game. "I thought our team worked really well together and we moved to the ball a lot better today."
"It could have gone either way," said Craftsbury coach Ashley Maxfield. "It was just dumb luck that the ball went in for us first."
Match play started out on a very even foot.
Both teams traded chances in the opening minutes, starting with UCA's tall eighth grader Amy DeLaBruere firing off a direct kick that did not make it in, followed by a flurry of activity where Craftsbury almost caught Saaman out of net to take the lead.
The Chargers came attacking again later on in the half as Meghan Pennock found Sarah Dunbar, but that chance went wide.
The Academy really started to step up their play as the opening forty progressed, but time and again Saaman and the UCA defense were their to make the needed stops.
"Lydia did unbelievably well for us, she's so strong and you can always count on her" said UCA coach Molly Smith.
Late in the half, senior Olivia Foster had an opportunity at the net when she was left wide open, but again the Crusaders left the Charger 18 empty handed.
Going the other way after the Foster chance, Brown bore down on the UCA net, but again it was Saaman making the save.
"I felt pretty confident about our defense today," said Saaman. "I felt I could really depend on them and I didn't have to come out too often."
While she was playing out last season, Saaman has previous experience between the pipes, which she said aided her play on Saturday.
"Last year every once in a while I would help out in nets so I guess that experience came back (to me)."
After forty minutes, the scoreboard, if there was one, would have read zeros.
If you thought Craftsbury was playing well in the first half, that paled in comparison to how much pressure they brought to the Crusader defenders.
Wave after wave of offense came crashing down on UCA's defense, but while they did bend, they refused to break, and managed to hold the Academy to just one shot in the second half.
Said Smith about her defenders, "Amy DeLaBruere, our sweeper, was their when we needed her and the rest of our defense did well. We were trying to pull up, which is a new thing for us, and they did well."
The Chargers for their part were even more stingy on D, allowing the Crusaders to get deep only once, where they managed their only shot of the half.
Much like at the end of the first, there was still no score and we headed to "golden goal" time.
Ten minutes were put on the referee's clock and the Chargers would need just about all of it to find their way to a victory.
In the extra session, UCA had their chances to win it.
All they needed was a through-ball to either Laura Libby or Moriah "Gary" Lafoe, and either one of them would have been home free.
(Editors note: I asked Lydia where the Gary nickname came from, and I believe she said it is a SpongeBob Squarepants reference.)
But whenever presented with the chance to send one of their strikers deep, Craftsbury closed ranks and thwarted the attempts.
"We played our small ball and controlled (play)," said Maxwell.
Coach Smith agreed with her counterpart, "Their defense played well, they just wanted the ball and they got it."
Finally the Chargers would catch a break.
Melanie Sergiev broke free down the left side of the net and fired a ball in front where Saaman looked to have control, but the ball was loose, and as any good attacker does, Brown went hard to the net and knocked it home for the win.
"We had gotten by the defense, and Melanie had the ball. I thought she was going to cross it in, so I went on a run and she happened to get it right where I needed it," said Brown, describing how the play went down.
Said Saaman on the play, "That was frustrating, but I am really proud of my team and how they played."
This well fought battle will set the stage for the remaining two contests between the school, something that Maxfield enthusiastically awaits.
"I can't wait to play UCA again and am excited to see how the other two games go," she said.
Saaman had 10 saves in the contest for UCA while Aysha Hodgdon had 3 saves for Craftsbury.
0-4 UCA hits the road this Thursday when they will travel to take on Concord at 3:15 while 1-1 Craftsbury will visit Concord two days earlier for a 5:00 match.