CABOT — If you had told Bryant Lady Hornets soccer coach Julie Long her team would not[more] score in the second half of their match with Mount St. Mary Belles in the Class 7A State Tournament semifinals on Saturday, she admits she wouldn’t have believed you.
After a slow start during which they fell behind 2-0, by the end of the first half, the Lady Hornets had cut the lead to 2-1 on a goal by freshman Anna Lowery and appeared to have all the momentum.
But it was not to be as that halftime score held up for the final tally lifting the Belles into the State championship game this Friday, while leaving a broken-hearted Lady Hornets team a game short for the second time in the last four seasons.
“It was a heartbreaker to say the least,” Long stated. “We actually came out flat the first 20 minutes and it cost us because, after that, we seriously could not have played any better.
“We had a couple of breakdowns on defense,” she explained about the two early goals. “We knew that their wings were really strong and, when we came out flat, they scored those two goals on us.
“But the girls calmed down and just took it to them,” the coach said. “We had a lot of chances at the end of the first half. We actually had a goal that was called back. It was a shot by Anna that Morgan (Hawkins) followed up on the back side. They said she was offsides. She may or may not have been. But one goal, one call doesn’t necessarily change a game, I guess.”
Lowery’s goal came with just over a minute left in the half. It came off an assist from Bailey Gartrell.
“Bailey played her ball through and Anna actually beat two defenders and the keeper to score,” Long recounted.
“The momentum was already going our way over the last 23 minutes (of the first half),” she noted. “The second half, I would say we probably played 35 (of 40) minutes in their end of the field.
“I’m not taking away anything from Mount,” Long added. “Mount played hard but I could not ask the girls to finish any stronger. I’m really proud of them. They played until they had nothing left. Even in the last minute, we were creating chances. We probably had two chances in the last minute. That tells you much they were fighting. They did not stop until that last second went off.
“We couldn’t get one to fall and I hate it for them. I would’ve given this team the world if I could’ve. Other than us not winning the game, there’s nothing else I would’ve changed about that game. They did everything I asked them to do except that first 20 minutes.”
The Lady Hornets finish the season with a 19-3-1 record, the most wins in the history of the program. It marks the end of the BHS careers of Lexie Balisterri, Katie Barrington, Kaitlin Gaiser, Bailey and Shelby Gartrell and Hawkins, the first class to have played for Long all the way through, since they were freshmen.
“I’m going to miss these seniors,” the coach said. “They’ve been a huge part of this program’s great success. (Balisterri and Shelby Gartrell) have been starting for me since they were freshmen. I haven’t coached a game since I’ve been in Bryant without them. Bailey and Kaitlin (Gaiser) were for the last three years. Morgan and Katie have been awesome additions when they started playing as juniors.
“I’ve got a lot of players coming back,” she emphasized. “They’ve got some big shoes to fill but they’ve got a good road ahead of them as well.”