Hot start propels Wahconah girls soccer team past Palmer, into Western Massachusetts Division III quarterfinals
DALTON — Quick starts don't always guarantee anything on the soccer pitch. For the Wahconah girls, it beat the alternative.
The sixth-seeded Warriors struck twice for goals in the first 10 minutes of the match against 11th-seeded Palmer, weathered a small storm, and scored two in the second half en route to a 4-0 win Saturday night.
"Sometimes we come out slow and it's really hard for us to get back up. Getting those two goals really helped us build our confidence," Wahconah forward Arden McKnight said, "and really keep pushing forward throughout the game."
Wahconah (8-7-4) had entered the game having gone 3-2-3 over its last eight games. That quick start brought a smile to the face of the Warriors' head coach.
"They came out tonight with some fire," said coach Meg Smith. "I thought they played a [quality] string of minutes."
With the win, Wahconah will see an old rival up ahead. The Warriors will travel to Great Barrington for a game against third-seeded Monument Mountain. The Berkshire North champions eliminated No. 14 Putnam, 6-0, on Saturday afternoon. The game will be on Tuesday, although a kick-off time was not available at press deadline.
In the regular season, Monument scored 2-0 and 2-1 wins over Wahconah.
How quickly did Wahconah get started? Four minutes into the game, McKnight took the ball down the left wing and cut toward the goal. She then passed to Allison Washburn, who was in front of an empty Panther goal, but she fired the ball over the net. Washburn later made up for that with a goal off a shot from a bad angle that hit inside the left post.
Five minutes after the miss, freshman Noelle Furlong put the Warriors on the board for keeps. She ripped a shot from at least 25 yards out that eluded Panther keeper Sara Dresser to the upper left corner.
A minute later, Victoria Gamberoni converted Hannah Ronayne's cross into a goal, making it 2-0 before 10 minutes were gone.
The Panthers (7-9-2) didn't have nearly as many chances, but did have a couple of good ones late in the half. Maddie Theriault took a shot over the crossbar at the 20-minute mark. Seven minutes later, she had a shot bounce off the top of the crossbar.
"It was a surprising start" for Wahconah, Palmer coach Nick Marciano said. "We settled the ball, we settled our whole team. It's those chances that you should-have, could-have. We hit a cross bar, missed open nets. We could have been up 3-2 at halftime.
"[Wahconah is a] hell of a team. That's a great team."
In addition to Washburn's goal in the second half, McKnight got one with 13 minutes to play. She settled a pass from Izzy Viner and ripped a one-timer past Palmer's eighth-grade goalkeeper.
"We've learned that you can win a game in the first 20 seconds. The score could be 1-0, you're down and you lose," said McKnight. "Those two goals in the beginning really helped us push forward and definitely gave us the confidence to go throughout the rest of the game.
Palmer 0 0 — 0
Wahconah 2 2 — 4
W — Noelle Furlong (unassisted), 8:12. W — Victoria Gamberoni (Hannah Ronayne), 9:32.
W — Allison Washburn (Chloe Accardi), 53:34. W — Arden McKnight (Izzy Viner), 67:27.
Saves — P: Sara Dresser 3. W: Michaella Moncecchi 1.
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.
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