NEWPORT-The stage was set. A rested healthy North Country Falcons girlâ€™s soccer team was poised and ready to defend home turf in Division Oneâ€™s first round. With ten victories recorded during the fall campaign, this team was coming off seven straight wins. A seasoned group of Falcons girls had gone through the soccer wars together with the core dominated by proud seniors.
Rice Memorial had other ideas. The Green Knights struck for two goals in the games first 7 minutes and controlled play for large segments of the game winning the first round match 3-0.
The contests opening minutes were all Rice. The Green Knights sent three and four attackers into the Falcon end and applied pressure immediately. That surge paid off with a corner kick. Caroline Deluca launched a cross that bounced around in the Falcon goal crease before Riceâ€™s Hailee Barron headed in it at 38:24, just a minute and 36 seconds into the match.
With steady flow from their aggressive forwards Rice struck again at 32:53. Another corner was slammed just inside the left goal post by Rice co-captain Angie Krywanczyk stunning the NCU team that had a seven game win streak coming in.
The Falcons got their composure back and remembered what got them there as they countered with their own firepower.
Senior Katelyn Meunier unloaded a drive from 18 yards out that just skimmed over the crossbar. Cara Worth weaved her way thru two Rice defenders firing a low drive that Rice goalie Alayna Hauke smothered.
Noelle Pinard, the third of three stellar Falcon soccer players from her family, worked hard in the middle feeding the wings as NCU showed resolve. Avery Parson-Grayson was on the receiving end of those passes and got off two good crosses.
Falcon netminder Lindsey Geoffrey was a busy lady. She came out of the goal to beat onrushing Rice lineman to the ball and stopped Rice forward Ellen Boucher from point blank range at the 21:23 mark.
Tiffany Morin and running mate Anna Bingham took on the fleet Rice attackers staving off repeated runs to keep NCU in the game. Falcon co-coaches Joe Batista and Peter Alexander got good efforts out of seniors Jamie Kramer and Hillary Manning as the pair chased after every green jersey around them.
North Country continued to produce chances in the second half. Kramer had a golden opportunity from five yards out but the ball went just wide. Bingham got off a dead ball kick that curved towards the waiting goal but Hauke gloved it for Rice.
The Green Knights handled all Falcon frontal attacks and broke back. NCUâ€™s Geoffrey broke up a two on one with a kick save and later speared a long drive from Riceâ€™s Katie Kowalski that had goal written all over it.
The Green Knights iced the match with 10:07 remaining. Ellen Boucher laid the ball off for Gretchen Tarrent who calmly slid it into the goal for a 3-0 lead.
Rather than throw the towel in, the Falcons fought as Worth ran thru several green jerseys in her attempt to rally her team. It would not be North Countryâ€™s day however, as Rice salted away the win and will travel to Burr and Burton Saturday.
For the Falcons, it was a tough pill to swallow. Joe Batista said afterward,â€ť it hurts a little less when you lose to a good team and Rice is a good team, very skilled and very good with the ball. We got behind the eight ball early and they played better than we did. We made a good run in the season with a seven game win streak and thatâ€™s something the program can build on. We have to go back to the fundamentals.â€ť
The Falcons close the books with a very good 10-5 record. They lose eight fine student athletes. Hillary Manning, Jamie Kramer, Katelyn Meunier, Cara Worth, Avery Parsons-Grayson, Tiffany Morin, Noelle Pinard and Lindsey Geoffrey. All contributed greatly to the Falcon soccer program and all will be missed