Hamlett boots Lady Raiders into 10th consecutive postseason
ORANGE — Senior midfielder Lindsey Hamlett provided the heroics and the Athol High School girls’ soccer team is headed to the postseason for a 10th consecutive fall.
Hamlett scored with 8:30 left to play as the Lady Raiders returned to the pitch for a 1-0 victory over rival Mahar on Saturday. The contest was a continuation from Friday night’s suspended game due to a power outage at the James S. Woodward Athletic Complex.
“We are very happy,” said Athol head coach Tim Cleveland whose team needed victories in each of its final two games to qualify for the tournament. “It shows Athol’s resilience and our commitment to playing to the final whistle.”
The Lady Senators dominated for the extent of the first half, Friday night, but came away scoreless thanks to spectacular play by Athol goalkeeper Payton Parker (14 saves). The teams came back to play the final 37:37, but Mahar failed to find the same intensity it displayed the night before.
“We are certainly disappointed about not getting the win,” said Mahar head coach Chad Softic. “We had a ton of opportunities in the first half that we just didn’t capitalize on. I thought we played outstanding soccer in the first half, but Athol was certainly the aggressor in the second half. Credit them for wanting and getting the win.”
Hamlett’s game-winner came on an assist from Amber Mahony. The play originated out of the midfield as Mahony worked a combination with Shelby Mailloux. Mahony took a couple of dribbles up the field and fired a cross to a sprinting Hamlett on the outside. Hamlett was able to corral the pass and slipped it past Mahar goalkeeper Elysha Bedard for the game’s only goal. It was a great moment for the senior captain who hadn’t scored since the season opener on Sept. 8.
“Lindsey has been under the radar all season from a scoring perspective, but she has been consistently involved,” said Cleveland. “It couldn’t have come at a better moment.”
The contest could have been deemed a tie following Friday night’s power outage as the rules stipulated only a half is required for a game to be official. Softic, Cleveland and athletic directors Jim Woodward (Mahar) and David King (Athol) quickly got together and all parties agreed to the game being continued on Saturday. The extra rest provided the Raiders with a new opportunity and they made the most of it.
Athol was without Mailloux and Ashley Bacigalupo due to injury on Friday night. An extra night’s rest helped both players heal enough to play Saturday morning. Athol spent much of Friday’s contest on the defensive while the Lady Senators were on the attack which seemed to cost Mahar on Saturday as they exerted much more energy than Athol the night before.
“We had fresh legs,” said Cleveland. “That certainly didn’t hurt us.”
Athol sweeper Kayla Robideau was a rock in the back. Robideau stymied any Mahar counter-attack by playing beautiful balls back into the offensive zone allowing her teammates to keep the pressure on.
The Raiders also revised their attack heading into Saturday’s contest and opted to use five players in the midfield. Julia Carey, Callie Jillson and Mahony played key roles.
Both Athol (8-8-2) and Mahar (9-7-2) will participate in the Division III tournament. Nine teams have qualified and there is a chance the two teams will meet in an opening round game on Thursday. Renaissance (13-4-1), which participates in the Tri-County League is the team most likely to draw the No. 9 seed and face either Athol or Mahar. Granby (16-0-2) and Wahconah (14-3-1) are the teams likely to earn the top seeds and thus host Athol/Mahar in the quarterfinal round.
Seeds will be announced today at 2 p.m. at Granby High School.