NEWPORTâAfter getting up 2-0 on goals by Betsy Dooley, the Harwood Highlanders were able to hold of a late surge by the Falcons to secure the 2-1 win in girl's soccer play on Wednesday.
"We were playing a division champ who can possess the ball better than we can, and I told the girls that you can get behind two to nothing and hope to comeback, as it was (we) came pretty close, but you can't give away forty minutes of a lot of 'kick-ball,' not against a possession team like them," said coach Peter Alexander.
Newport traffic claimed another victim prior to the start of the game as one of the officials was held up getting to the game.
However one of the JV refs came over to hold down the fort until his arrival, and after a brief delay, the game was underway.
North Country came out screaming, and Crystal Moss fired off an early shot on Harwood keeper Peyton Burr to get things rolling.
But after about five minutes of Falcon furry, the Highlanders got the bearings and started to use their possession game to control the action.
Some strong play outside the NCU eighteen led to Dooley's first goal fifteen minutes into the first half.
Harwood worked the ball off of the sideline, and Dooley eventually carried the ball across the front of the box and lofted a gorgeous shot over a wall of players into the upper right hand corner of the net.
"We talked about her striking the ball when she got close to the eighteen and she did," said Highlander coach Kurt Nielsen, "The goaltender was in perfect position, she jumped, but it was a perfect shot."
Harwood kept up the pressure, eventually putting a total of five shots on net in the first, but Falcon goalie Jenna Moss was able to turn all but the one away.
For the Falcons, their second good chance of the half came let as Devinnie Davis got her first of several cracks at the Highlander net, but the shot went high and it was 1-0 Harwood after forty minutes of play.
In the second the visitors kept up the heat, but the Falcons were starting to find some cracks in the Highlander armor.
Davis, using her excellent speed, teamed up with fellow roadrunner Moss to create three great opportunities in the opening ten minutes, but the shots either went wide or were stopped by Burr.
With 26:50 left to play in the second, Dooley pretty much replicated her earlier goal, shooting from almost the exact same place of the field, once again sending the ball into the upper right hand corner of the cage.
Then North Country got serious.
The Falcon defense did not let another shot on net for the remainder of the game.
Lizzy Alexander, Lindsey Gaboriault, Mykayla Tanguay along with Baylee Jacobs and the ever dangerous Anna Bingham were excellent in their work, denying the Highlanders while quickly turning the ball up field to the offense.
"For the final twenty-two minutes we really came at them and they weren't getting any opportunities," said coach Alexander.
Along with Moss and Davis, Katie LeBlanc and Ahsley Robishaw-Morin made their presence felt around the Harwood net, but still Burr stayed strong.
Finally North Country got to her.
With the ball swirling around the outside of the 18, Davis headed a ball into a streaking Moss, where she chipped the ball under the cross bar to cut the lead to one.
"This is the fifth game they have played together, so it is all new to them," said Alexander. "They have the skill and they are very dangerous, which was nice to see against a team like this."
Moss was humble when speaking about her tally, saying, "It was good to finish one, but I wish I could have finished more. I would rather have her (Davis) finish as I am more of a playmaker."
The girls in white kept buzzing around the goal, which led to some high drama in the game's final seconds.
North Country was awarded a direct kick right outside of the box with about twenty seconds left on the clock.
The team hurried, but didn't rush to set up the kick.
With everyone in place Bingham raised her arm, trotted in and fired a bullet over the wall and....
Off the crossbar.
As soon as the ball bounced off the bar, the horn sounded and the Highlanders escaped with the victory.
"I am at a lost for words," said coach Nielsen. "North Country didn't give up, they played very hard, they counter-attacked well, and I feel very relieved."
Jenna Moss had four saves for the Falcons while Burr stopped six for Harwood.
Though the undefeated streak was over, Alexander relayed the benefits of the loss.
"It is a lesson," he said. "We got the shut-outs off our back, we got the loss of our back, and this is a quality team, so lesson learned and we go from there."
Not a team to sit and mope, rest assured that the now 4-1 Falcons will be ready to take on the Solons when they travel to Montpelier for a Friday night contest under the lights.
Match starts at 6:00.