NORTH ADAMS -- The McCann Tech girls’ soccer team played solid defense for more than 80 minutes on Tuesday afternoon. The Hornets had one lapse that lasted 1 minute, 11 seconds.
Gateway took full advantage, scoring both of its goals in a 2-0 win over McCann to advance to the Western Massachusetts Division III semifinals.
"We tried. We can’t get mad at them, they’re a really good team," senior Mary Nguyen said. "It was tough, but we tried our hardest. We just got to accept it."
The Gators used greater team speed to deny the Hornets time and space at every chance. Whenever a McCann player touched the ball, if there wasn’t already a girl ready to challenge, there was one just a few steps away.
That sustained pressure made it nearly impossible for the Hornets to string any number of passes together and break out of their own half.
"We weren’t really there, though, with each other," sweeper C.J. Schleich said. "We needed to really communicate a lot more. I think it would have been a lot easier.
"We’ve played teams like that before and done just fine. We just had a little bit of an off-chance. We did have good plays."
Schleich and the rest of the defense were on their heels for nearly the whole game. Time and again they needed to clear balls out of the box or hope no one was making the back-door run and let the ball sail out of bounds.
But neither gave the Hornets much rest. The Gators were winning nearly every 50-50 ball and maintaining their offensive presence.
With so much pressure, Nguyen, a striker, found herself coming back to help in the midfield in an attempt to get the ball across midfield.
"I had to a lot more than I usually do," she said. "That makes it harder for me to, once I get the ball, it’s like I got to get by so many people. So it’s easier they weren’t up so much."
When the ball did make its way into Gateway’s half, it didn’t stay long. The long balls that Nguyen so frequently runs onto and uses her speed to leave the defense behind weren’t connecting. A strong sweeper back in Jessie Walton negated much of Nguyen’s offensive threat.
Mary did manage to get behind her once with 4:23 left in the opening half. But when she sent the cross into the box, the Hornets were whistled offside and the chance came to a screeching halt.
Gateway broke the 0-0 tie with 16:55 left in the first half. Jamie Pease found Kendall Rooney at the top of the box. Rooney took the open space and beat keeper Alex Wood with a high shot into the left side of the net. Just 71 seconds later Pease set up Joanna Arkoette for a goal, and the hole was twice as deep for McCann.
"That was tough," Dowling said. "Took a little wind out of their sails. I called a time out, try to get a good last 10 minutes of the first half. We needed to sustain some kind of a pressure inside and we didn’t."
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