Lee girls soccer team's remarkable season ends with loss to Ware
WARE — It was a fall to remember for the girls of Lee soccer.
And while Thursday night's 6-0 defeat at the hands of host Ware marked a somewhat forgettable ending, the Wildcats' run to a nine-win regular season and No. 5 seed in the Western Massachusetts Division IV tournament will certainly not be forgotten.
"This year has probably been the best year I've had. We grew so close as a team," said junior center back Carly McElroy. "We've won games and lost games, but it's all meant so much for us. It's an unforgettable year."
McElroy shined defensively for a Lee squad that grew from four wins a year ago into the product that coach Lauren Finnegan delivered to a quarterfinal appearance in the postseason.
"For the program, it was huge," said Finnegan. "It sets it forward, going from not being in it last year to a 5-seed, couple of big wins in the season, starting out 6-0.
"It gets the program back out there again. Gets people understanding that Wildcats soccer is back."
Playing on soaked foreign grass, the Wildcats (9-8-2) struggled to corral possession against No. 4 Ware (10-9-0), and thanks to a series of set plays, the Indians put their foes behind the 8-ball immediately.
Ware scored three times in the first half, all on corner kicks taken by Jacqueline Dugay. The first two connected with a charging Aidyn Welsh in the 12th and 26th minute. Dugay's encore boot was gotten to by goalkeeper Bella Lovato, but the ricochet off her gloves caught the inside of the post for a 3-0 Indians lead.
"Ware had such beautiful corners and they really threw themselves on the balls," said Finnegan. "I thought Bella did a great job, though."
Lee's offense was unable to gain any traction in the first half. The typical throughballs from midfielders like Lydia Simone were too slick and didn't seem to reach Caroline Maloney and Carina Brown in the final third.
"Mentally it just drains you, 2-0, 3-0, and then they start setting their mind on playing defense," said Finnegan. "We moved some people around to see if we could get some more offense going."
The two sides played scoreless soccer for the first 20 minutes of the second half, as Lee figured some things out and avoided giving up corner kicks.
Brown made a nice spin move off the left corner, but keeper Abigail Hayman gobbled up the try. Brown later delivered Maloney a nice opportunity, but the Lee marksman's left-footed shot drifted just wide of the inside post.
Lee forced Hayman to make five second-half saves, with Maeve Finnegan and Lena Simone testing her later, but the Indians put the match out of reach in the 64th minute.
Andrea Bell bent in a free kick for a 4-0 lead, and sapped any comeback thoughts from Lee's bench.
"6-0, I feel that wasn't reflective of the game. Four goals off set plays, I feel like we played fairly well the majority of the game," said Finnegan. "If we stopped giving them corner kicks, it's a whole different game."
The curtain came down on the Wildcats on Thursday, but only for now. Lee graduates senior captains Hailey Bartini and Brady Cook, but the rest of Finnegan's unit is back to build off a strong 2019.
That includes Maloney, who poured in 18 goals this fall alongside fellow attackers Brown and Lydia Smone. On the back end, McElroy returns in front of Lovato, who had a strong freshman campaign.
Lee 0 0 — 0
Ware 3 3 — 6
W — Aidyn Welsh (Jacqueline Dugay), 12:00; W — Welsh (Dugay), 25:37; W — Dugay (unassisted), 45:47.
W — Andrea Bell (UA), 63:16; W — Seraya Daukewich (UA), 71:59; W — Caitlin Hess (UA), 78:00.
Saves — L: Bella Lovato 8; W: Abigail Hayman 7, Cassandra Pendleton 0.
Mike Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
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