Since the 2017 Girls Division 1 Soccer Championship Final, this game has been hyped up since the beginning of the soccer season: Bedford versus Central. Last year, Bedford and Central, playing defensively for nearly two hours had played a scoreless game until double overtime. The game finally elapsed to tie-breaking penalty kicks, where Central took home the trophy.
But another year has come and gone, and our Bedford girls have bounced back, hungry for a win. The game against Central, while it would not knock either team out of a playoff spot, still would prove to be a close, decisive game between two of the top teams. Central was primed by the Union Leader to win another state championship this year, but the Bulldogs are determined to dethrone them.
Led by senior captains Brianna CoCo, Shayna Salis, and Jess O’Brien, the team entered the game at Gill Stadium with a positive attitude, despite knowing the strength of the Little Green Team. This team stands out as one of the most formidable in Division 1, with Emily Greenwood and Sabrynna Pearson as standouts on defense. Their offense is just as powerful too, if not more so, with the dynamic duo of Paige LaBerge and Erin Flurey.
Although Bedford came out strong at the start of the game, Central did as well, and the first half ended 0-2, in Central’s favor. Although Bedford was scoreless, they did a great job creating opportunities with a stacked offense consisting of Mackenzie Maceachern, Hannah Mikol, Ashley Bobotas, Taryn Naftali, Paige Muir, and Riley Chou, rotating in and out of the striker and winger positions. Meanwhile, Erin Flurey proved to be a difficult player to defend, as she strong-armed her way through Bedford’s usually impenetrable defense, eventually contributing to Central’s two-nil lead at the half.
After halftime, Bedford re-entered the game with fire. Starting with the ball, the Bulldogs embarked on a flawless passing sequence up the midfield and the left side of the field, and twenty seconds into the half, Mackenzie MacEachern had slid a low shot past Central’s keeper, Jess Lewis, making the score 1-2. The Bedford girls were elated, however, unprepared for Central’s powerful counterattack. Within the next play, the ball wound up in the opposite net, thanks to Central’s infamous offensive duo.
The score remained at 1-3 in Central’s favor for the next thirty-three minutes. In those thirty-three minutes, no goals were scored, but some great plays were made. In the back, Jess O’Brien, Gabbi Forte, Rachael Rohe, Anna Kim, and Brianna CoCo all played their hearts out, defending their goal against the seemingly irrepressible Central forwards. (Honorable mention to Brianna CoCo for taking not one, but two shots straight to the stomach.) Katelyn Hirnak stood out in goal with some show-stopping saves. And in the midfield, Shayna Salis, Ellie Flynn, Olivia Toolin and Gabby DeAngelis created opportunity after opportunity for the forwards to take shot after shot, through none ended up in Central’s net.
Finally, with about five minutes left on the clock, one of Central’s many shots finally broke through the Bedford defense to make the score 1-4. In those last five minutes, the Bedford girls played harder than ever before, but to no avail; the score was to end in Central’s favor.
The Bulldogs left Gill Stadium that night battered, beaten, and bruised, but not defeated; their loss to Central was only their second loss of the season, and their playoff spot was still in hand. While this game may not be one the girls want to revisit, there stands a strong possibility that they will have to face Central again in the coming weeks. But nothing’s for certain; last year, Bedford beat Central in the regular season game only to lose to them later that season. Maybe since we lost to Central in the regular season game this year, a win is in the cards for the Bulldogs later in the season. Only time will tell!