NEWPORTâThe final varsity game of the Maniatty weekend saw the North Country (6-3-1) and U-32 (4-2-3) girls battle it out in front of a loud and supportive mix of Falcon Faithful and Raider Nation.
The weather would go from wet, to dry, from cold to warm, back to cold but try as they might, neither team could break the 1-1 deadlock, so after 100 minutes of action, the two teams were forced to settle for the tie.
"We had a good effort," said coach Peter Alexander. "There was a little too much kickball, but they played hard and it was a gutsy effort."
"We had spurts where we played really well, but we were better when the ball was on the ground and we weren't playing the long ball stuff," said U-32 coach Steve Towne.
North Country brought the pressure early and were led by their co-captain Anna Bingham.
The rugged senior was dominating the middle of the field, sending through balls, racing back into coverage and getting her head on anything that came within a five foot radius of her.
Said Alexander, "She wants the ball so hard, you can't fight her. She wins the ball ninety percent of the time and it is tough for the other team because they know she is going to get the ball."
U-32 got into the game around the six minute mark when they had an opportunity off of a corner, but the Falcons were still the better team overall.
U-32 was led by two people on Saturday, their tall goaltender Bailey Starr and their even bigger middi Emily George.
Starr was getting her hands on anything that was sent her way, including a fantastic shot by Crystal Moss in the 7th minute of the second that was earmarked for under the crossbar.
George was the focus of the offense, and what little offense the Raiders had on Saturday went through her.
The big number fifteen scored the Raiders' goal with 17:36 left to play in the first when she was able to turn wide around Elizabeth Maxwell (who besides this play, had an outstanding game for NCU) and fire a cross-net shot past Jenna Moss to stake U-32 to the 1-0 advantage.
The lead would last for over an hour as the Falcons continued to attack the Raider end.
U-32 played better after the tally, but North Country did not wilt away, they still came at the Raiders and as the game went on, they only got better.
In the second half the team was having trouble getting separation from the Raider defenders.
North Country won the 50/50âs picked off balls out of the air and sent passes up, but the speedy strikers just did not have the room to move like have in recent contests.
Devinnie Davis, Moss, Katie LeBlanc, Michaela Columbia nor Natalie Sykes could shake the ladies marking them and it seemed to create some frustration, but it did not deter their determination.
The middi and backs continued to do their job.
Maxwell, Lizzy Alexander, Lindsey Gaboriault, along with Chelsea Bianchi, Brooke Breault and Ashley Robishaw-Morin all played very well.
These six girls did their respective jobs in a business-like way that did not give away the fact that the team was still trailing and the contest's end was fast approaching.
It looked like the Falcons had finally broken through earlier in the half, but a beautiful play that had Davis as the benefactor of lovely set-up by LeBlanc was disallowed due to off-sides.
"It was heartbreaking to get the tying goal, and you think 'this is it' and then it's offsides, but that's the way it goes," lamented Alexander.
Finally Davis was able to find some space on the right side of the field in the forty-third minute of the second half.
The diminutive dynamo shed her mark and fired a low shot that Starr stopped.
But the rebound was back on Devinnie's foot and the Falcons' leading goal scorer added to her total, sending the ball over the Raider keeper and into the net.
Columbia almost ended it with about a minute left, but she missed connecting with a ball in front of U-32's cage and we were off to overtime.
The Falcons owned the extra time.
The Raiders had maybe a few minutes of the twenty played where they were in the driver's seat, but for the most part it was North Country time.
With the homecoming dance looming the Falcons tried to end in the first OT session, but their two chances, one off of a corner, the other a bomb from Maxwell, were both turned away.
In the final ten minutes they had another two cracks at the net, but Starr stood her ground and the teams were left with a tie to add to their record.
Said Alexander," We got some points, not as much as we wanted, but some points."
"It was amazing," said Bingham about North Country's resiliency on Saturday. "None of us gave up. People got hurt, but they kept going and I am proud of everyone."
The girls will head out on the road on Tuesday when the travel down I-91 to face St. Johnsbury at 4:00.