Tournament victories over opponents from Keene High School and Londonderry High recently pushed coach Steve Gundrum and his fifth-seeded Pinkerton Academy girls’ soccer squad all the way to Division I semifinal-round play on the seacoast this week.
The Astro girls have their work ahead of them as they attempt to knock off a top-seeded and undefeated Exeter High squad – which has allowed only four goals in 17 games this fall – in their semifinal battle with the Lady Blue Hawks at Exeter High Thursday, Nov. 6, at 6 p.m.
In thinking ahead about their first-round tournament contest with the 12th-seeded Keene High Lady Blackbirds in Derry Oct. 30, the Lady Astros had every reason to be confident about what they could accomplish against Keene after hammering that opponent by a 7-0 tally when the two teams faced off at PA a bit more than a week earlier.
And in the even more important tourney contest, the PA team grabbed a 4-0 shutout to advance to their quarterfinal-round match with Londonderry’s Lady Lancers.
The Academy crew scored two goals in each of the halves of the Keene contest in ending the 5-11-1 Lady Blackbirds’ campaign.
The victorious and 13-4 Lady Astros got a big match from Julia Bousquet (two goals, one assist), who both set up and scored goals during the first half.
Bousquet bagged the assist on the Nicole Alves goal that came just 8:23 into the first period and gave the hosts the only tally they’d end up needing to take the important match.
And a little less than 20 minutes later Bousquet got a marker of her own, rapping home the rebound of a Nicole Gonya shot that the Keene keeper had stopped on a dive from left to right in the center of her crease.
The Lady Astros added another insurance goal 2:13 into the second half when a stinging kick off the foot of Mel Roberge zinged over the head of the Keene goalie, and it became a 4-0 match with 7:38 left when Bousquet was set up by Alves.
The Pinkerton crew peppered the Keene net with 16 shots, while PA goalie Sammy Mitchell contributed four saves to her team’s eighth shutout of the 2014 campaign.
And in the rematch of a 2014 Mack Plaque contest won by Londonderry by a 1-0 tally, the academy girls made excellent use of a bitterly cold southerly wind in gaining revenge and ending the host Lady Lancers’ season with a 3-1, quarterfinal-round tourney defeat at LHS Sunday, Nov. 2.
Using the whipping wind at its back to good effect several times, the Pinkerton squad raced out to a 3-0 halftime lead against a Londonderry contingent that allowed only six goals during the entire regular season.
Pinkerton bagged a 1-0 lead just seven minutes into the match when LHS goalie Jackie Luckhardt attempted to boot the ball out of her zone while standing on the left wing, outside of her goal-crease. The ball spun, aided by the wind, to Lady Astro Roberge in the middle of the field, and Roberge directed a kick at the open net. With the strong wind behind it, the ball zoomed into the empty Londonderry net as Luckhardt attempted in vain to get back into position.
The PA lead was pushed to 2-0 nine minutes later when Roberge set up teammate Reanna Romano on a wind-aided goal that soared into the upper-left corner of the Londonderry net.
The third and final PA tally came with 11:59 left in the half when Courtney Velho lofted a long kick from the right sideline – right in front of the Londonderry bench – ahead of a heavy gust and over the head of Luckhardt.
The Lady Lancers expected to benefit from having the wind at their back – and in Pinkerton’s face – during the second half. But the wind died down considerably and went from whipping from north to south to swirling instead during halftime, and it was much less of a factor during the much more evenly-played second half.
Londonderry potted its only goal in the second half on a penalty kick.