With seven minutes gone in the second half of Belmont High School’s Girls’ Soccer game with Woburn High at Harris Field on Monday, Sept. 22, a Belmont defender shanked an attempted clearance that flew backwards falling at the feet of a Tanner forward with no one between her and Marauder senior goalkeeper Linda Herlihy.
The player took four steps then hit a low, hard shot from 16 meters towards the open right side of the Belmont net. A goal would bring Woburn back from a 2-0 hole and provide a critical lift for the Tanners in the match.
But for the fifth time in the game – and not the last – Herlihy stood up to pressure, lunging to her left to block the drive and preserve the shutout.
“You just have to go for it, honestly,” Herlihy told the Belmontonian about the save. “Part of it’s luck. I just do what I can.”
“[Assistant Head] Coach [Stacie] Marino says you go for it fully or you stay off; you can’t hesitate. So I went full out and it worked,” said Herlihy.
In a career performance, Herlihy stonewalled six open shots, including two breakaway attempts, to earn her fourth clean sheet of the season and propel Belmont to the 2-0 victory over Woburn.
The win gives Belmont a 5-1-0 record, its only loss a 4-1 defeat to host Arlington at the beginning of the three game stretch.
“It was one of my best games but I had a lot of help from everyone else especially our defense. It’s nice since we’re all veterans in the back,” said Herlihy.
“There was a cast of thousands that were stars tonight,” said Paul Graham, Belmont’s longtime head coach.
“It started with [Herlihy], she was spectacular. Then there was the made-up midfield of [freshman] Emma Sass and [senior] Alexandra Dionne who went after the ball and were relentless,” said Graham.
For the second game, the play was particularly physical – Belmont earned a pair of yellow cards for rough actions – in which the opposing coach told Graham the game was won “because you muscled us off the ball.”
Belmont first goal was typical of the match’s hurly-burly nature as senior midfielder Sophia Eisenbach-Smith reached a long pass from Katrina Rokosz just ahead of Woburn goalkeeper Olivia Carbone. Rather than step aside or set up a pass, Eisenbach-Smith slammed the ball off Carbone, and saw it float into the back of the net within the final 7 minutes of the first half.
Before the half ended, Herlihy would make a spectacular save off a sharp shot from her right as the ball hit the post and stayed out.
Belmont started fast in the second half, pressing Woburn which set up the Marauders’ second goal when Kristin Gay’s kick in the 36th minute was redirected off a Woburn defender past Carbone for an own-goal.
Then it was up to Herlihy to save the points for her team; coming out to stuff a breakaway on the left, parrying away a tight angle shot on the right, the aforementioned spectacular save and finally reaching back to save a certain goal off a shot from a Woburn corner kick in the final minutes. (see photo sequence of the save in the photo gallery below)
“What can you say,” said Graham. “Linda was great.”