NORTH ADAMS — Soccer can be such a cruel sport.
Hosting Norfolk Aggie on Sunday in the semifinals of the Massachusetts Vocational Athletic Directors Association soccer tournament, the McCann Tech girls did just about everything right to get a positive decision.
But with one misplaced boot, the Hornets' dreams of a vocational title went right out the window.
With just over eight minutes to go, Norfolk's Gina Coote whipped in a low cross after taking a short corner, and her pass ended up slicing off the foot of a McCann defender and into the back of the net. In a game where neither side saw a ton of chances, Coote's goal stood up in a 1-0 decision.
"My whole defense played well," McCann coach Mike Dowling said. "I'm just disappointed that we didn't win. We did everything but win."
The twist of fate showed how close the two sides were throughout. Norfolk enjoyed more possession throughout the game and forced Alanza Quinones into eight saves in the game, but a majority of the shots came from outside the box. When Norfolk did get a clear-cut chance early in the second half, Quinones was there to scoop up a header from Shannon Nelligan.
Down the other end, Norfolk's Emily Robinson made just two saves as the Rams used a deep-lying sweeper and a man-marker on McCann striker Aimee Dowling to nullify the Hornets' attack.
McCann's best spell came late in the first half when Monique Martel put a free kick on frame which forced Robinson into action, then Julia Esoldi was able to skip past one defender in the 18-yard box and nearly got by another before the Rams cleared the danger.
"The end of the first half, that was our chance," coach Dowling said. "If we had cashed in on a couple of those I think it would have been a whole different ballgame."
Norfolk coach Brett Drake said after the game that his girls were lucky to walk out as winners.
"[McCann] are a great team," Drake said. "The credit goes to them, they played hard. They are one of our toughest teams all year, and they played a great game."
The win sends Norfolk back to the vocational title game, which the Rams won in 2014. That game will be played on Tuesday.
For McCann (13-4-1), the team now waits to find out its Western Mass. tournament seeding. Those seeds are being released on Monday morning.
N—Gina Coote (UA), 73:58.
Saves — M: Alanza Quinones 8. N: Emily Robinson 2.