Photo: Carey Allard celebrates the winning goal vs. Winchester.
When Winchester forward Anna Carazza’s centering “pass” dropped into Belmont’s net with 12 minutes remaining in Saturday’s exciting battle of the unbeaten between Belmont and Winchester, it appeared the game’s momentum was about to turn in the Sachems’ favor.
But as Winchester – ranked 7th in the Boston Globe’s top 20 poll – celebrated, 60 meters down the pitch Belmont’s Carey Allard was preparing to enter the match, a substitution no one had expected.
Six days earlier, the four-year varsity starter suffered a high ankle sprain against Lexington ending up wearing a medical boot and on crutches. By game day, Allard was able to warm up with her teammates but told Belmont Head Coach Paul Graham she wasn’t fit enough to start against Winchester.
For 70 minutes, Allard sat on the Marauders bench, watching with more than 800 fans on “Soccer Night in Belmont.’
Then with 10 minutes to go, Graham approached his All-Star captain with a question.
“[Graham] asked if I thought I could play the final 10 minutes and I said, ‘Why not?'” Allard told the Belmontonian after the game.
A Division 1 commit heading to the University of North Carolina – Wilmington next fall, Allard has been the Sachem’s nemesis over the past four years including scoring a long-range stunner in last year’s first-round playoff game that ended in Belmont’s upset victory. With that in mind, Winchester junior Hannah Markham was assigned the task of playing Allard with a tight man-to-man coverage. After eight minutes, Allard had a few brief touches and nothing more.
Winchester’s focus on Allard opened the field to allow other Marauders the opportunity to attack the goal. Sophomore Marina Karalis came close to scoring twice 20 seconds apart; once striking the ball over the crossbar and barely missing the right post.
As the field clock fast approached the final two minutes and Winchester moving up the pitch, freshman forward Grace Kane – who took Allard’s place in the starting lineup – stepped in front of a pass and fed the senior co-captain who was nearly 25 meters to the left of Winchester’s goal.
One touch, a half turn, and Allard looked at Winchester’s net.
“I honestly said, ‘This is my chance,'” said Allard
The ball flew heading for the right top corner then curving inside the far post by Winchester’s senior goalkeeper Silvia Dowdell. 3-2 Belmont.
Allard’s wonder goal in the final two minutes put the exclamation mark on what was an early season classic pitting two undefeated teams playing at their best before a packed Harris Field in the opener of Belmont’s annual soccer celebration.
“Allard is a threat anytime she’s in that range,” said Graham, who saw his team improve to 5-0-0, tied with undefeated Woburn at the top of the Middlesex League Liberty division. The only blemish to the game’s result; despite defeating a top ten team and recording a perfect record, the Marauders have yet to break the Globe’s Top 20 poll.
It was a game that saw each team take control of the field, lead changes and physical plays with girls ending up on the turf throughout the contest.
Winchester had the better of Belmont early on, with their collective speed and quickness putting a damp on Belmont’s plans to set a more controlled pace to the game.
Winchester opened the scoring on a deep cross from finding a streaking senior captain Shelley Blumsack beating Belmont’s defender to put the ball into the upper net.
Winchester’s lead could have been two or three times what they had but for decisive defensive work by the backline anchored by senior captain Natalie Marcus-Bauer who made two sliding tackles deep in the penalty box on solo runs by Winchester wingers.
“I was just focused on containing [any challenge] and forcing them out to the side,” she said, knowing she could rely on the other defenders including juniors Megan Tan and Emily Dexter, while
Belmont tied the score 18 minutes into the first half on two consecutive free kicks, the second at the edge of the box after a Winchester push. Senior midfielder and co-captain Emma Sass curling shot hit the right post then came out for an onrushing senior forward Morgan Krauss – who was named the player of the match by members of the Soccer Night in Belmont – who headed the rebound inside the left frame.
After going into the half tied at one, Krauss doubled Belmont’s advantage midway through the second half, taking in a Kane pass and rifling it by Dowdell.
But ever so slightly, Winchester found a half step advantage and began pressing resulting in Carazza’s goal.
For Graham, the victory was a culmunation of switching this alignment – starting with a 3-4-3 and ending with a 4-4-2 and the knowledge that he could put in most of the players on the bench without a drop off in performance.
“I used 17 players including two freshmen and a number of seniors who don’t start and they all played well. That’s a luxury to have,’ said Graham.