Little bit of luck helps Orioles beat Cougars

  • ConVal’s Nikki Bell is sandwiched by Conant’s Delaney Beaven, left, and Hannah Harvey, as goalie Taylor Banish moves in for the save. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • ConVal senior captain Izzy Wilder tries to get past the defense of Conant’s Delaney Beaven. Staff photos by Ben Conant

  • ABOVE: The Conant girls' soccer team beat ConVal on Wednesday.

  • LEFT: Conant’s Delaney Beaven goes up for a header during the Orioles’ game against ConVal Wednesday.

  • Conant goaltender Taylor Banish comes out of the net to make a deep pass.

  • The Conant girls' soccer team beat ConVal on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, September 04, 2017 6:32PM

Push, push, push as they might, the ConVal girls couldn’t break through at the end. Conant got a pair of goals off 50-yard passes and held off freshman star Nikki Bell, while ConVal hit a pair of posts as the Orioles came away with a win over the rival Cougars Wednesday.

For first-year ConVal coach Curt Martens, it’s all about attitude.

“Part of it is how you feel when it hits the post,” Martens said. “Is that post going to be there all day? Does the post get bigger? Or does the net get bigger? Now with a couple losses behind us, it seems like the posts are getting bigger.”

The right post behind Conant’s Taylor Banish loomed large in the final two minutes of the game, with ConVal keeping up a furious offensive pressure as they tried to even the 2-1 score. Bell, who’d already scored earlier in the half, dribbling to the 18-yard mark and firing a one-hopper under an outstretched Banish, was on the attack. She launched from the left hash at the top of the box and beat Banish, but the ball caught the inside of the post, ricocheted, and took a breathless roll all the way back across the goal mouth and out of harm’s way.

“I checked my heartbeat,” said Conant coach Carlos Fuertes, clutching his chest. “But, we needed a little bit of luck. We needed some luck and we had it there.”

The Orioles got good all-around play, with each level providing a spark for the next. Banish played well in the net and her willingness to come out of the box with aggression and attack the ball was not met with any warning shots from the ConVal forwards. That allowed her to set up Conant’s first goal, when she ranged out into the midfield, played a ball and arced it deep over the defense to her sister Jordan Banish, who got position, turned with the ball and streaked up the left side before beating Cougar tender Sarah Dauphinais on the ground with her left foot. 

The Conant defense was porous at times, but pesky; Jasmine Marshall, Hannah Harvey, and Hayley Drew kept Izzy Wilder and Natasha Kipka relatively at bay despite the Cougars’ dominating possession in the offensive zone, and Delaney Beaven found herself bumping with Bell and surveying the field from a sweeper-like position. Beaven’s poise (she’d take instruction from her goalie and catch a forward offside) allowed the O’s to push up and control the midfield, which fed the forwards brilliantly for the eventual winning goal with about 25 minutes to go.

Mo Hill bombed one ahead to Skyler Tenney who possessed as Megan Graff cut away and drew a defender, opening up the middle for Jillian Patria, who took Tenney’s dime, trapped it and banged it home past second-half goalie Lindsey Carey.

“They understand the philosophy and they’re starting to believe it,” said Fuertes. “That’s a big factor.”

Martens took away plenty of positives for his ConVal team.

“We had more opportunities. We were holding the ball in their end of the field and pressing more than we were running back,” Martens said. Their biggest weakness was the defense-to-offense transition time, but, he thought, with a bit more conditioning and work in practice, they’ll be where they need to be.