Cards hit the semifinals wall again in 1-0 loss to Exeter
EXETER – They were pretty much the best high school girls soccer team in the area.
The problem is, The Bishop Guertin Cardinals ran into arguably the best soccer team in the state.
The result on Thursday was a tough 1-0 loss at the hands of the Exeter Blue Hawks, a team that has now not lost in 32 straight games, at Bill Ball Stadium.
“They really competed well,” Cards coach Winston Haughton said of the unbeaten Blue Hawks. “They’ve got good qualities everywhere. Strong girls that basically stood in our way, you know? We were knocking and knocking, especially in that second half.
“But they stood firm.”
It was a battle of Division I heavyweights who didn’t see each other during the regular season thanks to the pandemic-related regional scheduling. Plus, BG and Exeter haven’t played anyway in the last few years.
“This for sure was the best team we’ve seen so far,” Exeter coach Megan Young said. “We were certainly tested, and we bent a little bit defensively but we were able to hold it together.
“So yeah, that’s an excellent team over there. To go 80 minutes and not let them on the scoreboard is a tribute to our defense all around.”
It’s Guertin’s (12-1) second straight year of bowing 1-0 in the semis, last year’s loss coming to Londonderry, whom Exeter beat in the finals, in the driving rain at Stellos Stadium. The Cards put a lot of pressure on, near, or around Exeter keeper Kailey Hall in the second half. Brooke Paquette had a shot from the right side tipped away, but BG’s best chance was a free kick by Hannah Lord with about a minute to go. It deflected into the crowd of players and then deflected away.
“Stuff like that,” Haughton said. “We definitely got into good situations in the second half. We wore them down. If we applied ourselves a little bit more in the first half, that second half would’ve been a bit more (successful).”
But the Cards were down 1-0 and scrambling, possibly because they didn’t see an advantage they may have had. About a dozen minutes in, they had a corner kick from the right wing side that would possibly have had Hall blinded by the sun with a kick into the box.
But instead they ran a play kicking it back on the ground, leading to a turnover that the Blue Hawks used to start what proved to be their game-winning play.
Eventually it led to Blue Hawks senior Neveah Petruzzi open on the left side and she fired a shot that Cards keeper Erin Morris (six saves) couldn’t reach at the 12:45 mark of the first half and the only goal of the game.
“In that situation, that was one of those where they got a break on us and it was a decisive moment,” Haughton said. “I don’t think we could’ve known that.”
But what the Cards did know was they needed a goal any way they could get one. It didn’t happen.
After that goal, it didn’t happen for either team. The 12-0 Blue Hawks, who will host Windham in Sunday’s finals, could’ve used one, too.
“It was touch and go there for a little bit in the second half,” Young said, “so it would’ve been nice to get one more. But we’ll take it.”
The Cards were challenged in the tournament by Merrimack, Nashua North, but especially Alvirne, which took them into overtime. But seeing Exeter was an adjustment – at first.
“Obviously they were a very good opponent,” Haughton said. “We made the adjustment at halftime and played a solid second half.
“But they’re (the Blue Hawks) a good team, no matter what. First game, last game, it would’ve been hard.”
“I think we defended a little too much in the second half,” Young said. “We were protecting that lead instead of playing our game. But you know it’s playoffs, and the nerves hit us a little bit.
“But we did a good job defending and we were able to protect it.”
The Cards lose some key seniors but not an abundance of them – notables like Sydney Driscoll, Grace Kelly, Sydney Thibault, to name a few. But the nucleus is there for whatever next fall brings.
“We just have to get back and go again, really,” Haughton said.