Raiders overwhelm Renaissance 5-1
ATHOL - A new alignment and tactical approach provided the Athol High School girls’ soccer team with plenty of firepower in a 5-1 victory over No. 9 Renaissance, Thursday, in the opening round of the WMass Division III tournament.
“It’s a win we knew we should have and we came out and put a number on the board,” said Athol head coach Tim Cleveland.
Senior Emily Casella racked up two goals and an assist while Julia Carey, Lindsey Hamlett and Kaitlin Baptista also rippled the twine in the victory. Casella has emerged ,as the lead dog in the Lady Raiders new alignment that features a five-midfielder attack.
“We changed things up with a triangle approach,” said Cleveland. “We’re trying to push the ball through Julia and then up to Emily. Right now we have a lot of presence in the midfield which is helpful.”
Athol entered the contest as favorites against the Phoenix and Carey staked them to a 1-0 lead just nine minutes into the contest by knocking in a pass from Caley McLaughlin.
“We tried to spread them out and they weren’t very disciplined,” said Cleveland. “We had wide open space and tried to take advantage of that.”
The Raiders increased their lead with Casella’s first goal of the night in the 18th minute. Callie Jillson was credited with the assist.
Renaissance made things interesting with Desiree Craford’s tally in the 26th minute, but Casella answered back less than three minutes later with her second goal of the night. Carey recorded the assist.
Athol continued to pressure and Hamlett’s tally at the 39:03 mark gave the Raiders a commanding 4-1 lead. Casella was credited with the assist after she won control in the right corner and fired a pass across the front of the net to Hamlett for the goal.
Casella had an opportunity to add to her total early in the second half as she got behind the defense on a throw from Lindsey Hamlett in the 50th minute, but was turned aside by Haley Aponte.
Casella got a head on Carey’s cross in the 54th minute, but missed high.
Carey and Casella worked a combination in the 60th minute to get Carey behind the defense, but Aponte was up to the task once again.
Athol’s best opportunity of the second half may have come in the 63rd minute. A throw-in from Callie Jillson found Carey in the box. Carey turned and fired, but Aponte knocked it down. The rebound went back to Carey who knocked it over the top.
Baptista rounded out the scoring in the 66th minute. Casella was awarded a free-kick from 20 yards out. Her shot sailed towards the right post where a Renaissance defender jumped up and knocked it down. The rebound fell to the foot of Baptista who knocked it in.
In the 70th minute, Vanessa Baptista rocked the crossbar. The rebound came right back to her, but she rolled it back on net and Aponte dove on top of it.
Athol will be tasked with No. 1 Granby. The high-flying Rams have defeated the Lady Raiders twice this season and have yet to lose this fall.
“Speed of play is going to be a big factor,” said Cleveland. “They just have so much power and skill. We will try to maintain as much possession as we can and control the pace of the game. We will see what happens.”