Photo: Ella Gagnon (21) scoring the equalizer vs. Wilmington.
It wasn’t the way freshman goalie Bridgette Martin wanted to start her first varsity game against Wilmington.
On the first ball that came her way, Martin – who admitted being nervous when the game got underway – hesitated for a second and saw it go behind her and tapped in by Jocelyn Palmer less than 30 seconds into the home opener on Saturday night, Sept. 8.
But that “oops” moment didn’t get the 9th grader down, just mad.
“I got pretty angry after the goal and that anger fueled my adrenaline. It kicked in and it got me going to the ball hard,” she said.
While her mistake put Belmont (2-0-0) behind the Wildcats (0-2-0) for nearly 70 minutes, Martin was superb the remaining 79 minutes, stopping three breakaway and a looping shot heading goalward to keep the match within one. That allowed the usual goal happy Marauder offense (it won its opener 11-0 over Burlington) to find a way by a disciplined Wilmington defense to score twice in the final 12 minutes to eek out a 2-1 victory at Harris Field.
“I really have to say Martin showed a heck of a lot of class,” said longtime Marauder Head Coach Paul Graham. And that effort was crucial, said Graham, “because despite dominating the game especially in the first half, we couldn’t find any way to score.”
Not that the Marauders didn’t come close, including hitting the crossbar and seeing two through balls miss everyone in the six-yard box. At the other end of the pitch, Martin heroics was highlighted in the 23rd minute when she made a reflex save off freshman Alyssa Granara from 10 meters out then hurried back to the goal line to snag the rebound that was floating just under the crossbar.
The second 40 minutes saw Wilmington play a much tighter game and began controlling the ball with better success. One area that Belmont continues to take advantage was its physical play, continuing to knock Wildcats off the ball or winning possession with their speed. Senior center forward Ella Gagnon was a constant threat but Wilmington’s goalie Alyssa Morrison, in only her second varsity start, made her share of reaction stops.
Just eight minutes into the second half saw Martin make the game-changing save as Wilmington’s Annie Wingate received a perfect pass to face the Belmont goalie alone eight meters from a wide-open goal. Closing the distance, Martin left arm got just enough of Wingate’s rocket shot to see it dribble pass the right post.
“We practice these shots in practice a lot. Normally I close the girl down and see what I can do,” said Martin.
With the margin still at one, Belmont finally broke through with less than 12 minutes to go when senior left wing Morgan Krauss stayed wide and squared a perfect centering pass that Gagnon tapped in from five meters out. And just after the nine-minute to go mark, sophomore Jenna Thomas looped a shot that beat Morrison who was well off her line. Gagnon had a hand in preserving the win. With seconds remaining in the match, she jumped as part of the defensive wall and deflected a shot by senior Thea Alberti that was heading into the upper right corner of the goal.
“Wilmington is a team that is always good and these are the teams that you have to beat if you want to go deep in the playoffs,” said Graham. “This win puts us on the map,” he said.