Devan McClain’s (‘19) two breakaway goals were the difference for the Oyster River girls’ soccer team on Thursday in their preliminary playoff game at home against Goffstown. The fifth-seeded Bobcats won the back-and-forth affair 2-0, and they will move on to the quarterfinal round where they will play at fourth-seeded Hanover on Sunday.
McClain’s first goal came within the first six minutes of the game, slotting home a through ball from Aliyah Murphy (‘18) to put Oyster River in early control.
Goffstown, who entered the game as the 12th seed at 8-8-1, had a golden opportunity to score an equalizer in the 15th minute, when an angled ball into the box slipped through OR goalkeeper Ella Gianino’s (‘21) hands and rolled into a favorable position in front of a seemingly open goal for Goffstown. However, a Goffstown striker running in on the ball mishit it, and it trickled wide of the goal.
“I think we started the game off really strong and kept up the pressure for the first few minutes,” said Oyster River forward, Charlotte Clarke (‘18). “But towards the end of the first half, we all felt like we weren’t doing our best.”
Both teams had opportunities to score as the half continued, and neither could maintain possession in their attacking half for an extended amount of time. In the 23rd minute, a creative wide play from OR lead to a pacy angled shot from Shealyn Paré (‘18), but it was well-saved by Goffstown’s keeper.
Goffstown was eventually able to chain together a few series of passes towards the end of the first half, but all of them resulted in through balls that were dealt with by Gianino and center-back Calla Tucker (‘21).
“I felt more pressure to win and do well in the game,” said Tucker on the playoff atmosphere. “However, I also felt confident in my teammates and their ability to play well against Goffstown.”
The clean sheet was well earned by the Bobcats, as Goffstown continued to create their fair share of chances in the second half. Within the first minute, Goffstown came close on an opportunity from a corner kick, which was knocked to the back post and then flicked on into a dangerous spot in front of goal where it was headed wide. Goffstown later had two more set-piece opportunities from similar spots 40 yards out from goal, but both were claimed by Gianino. “I think Ella [Gianino] did a great job as the goalie and made many incredible saves,” noted Tucker.
Oyster River was able to posses in the midfield in spurts throughout a majority of the second half, which led to a number of chances created by Lydia Hoffman (‘18) and Amelia Concannon (‘19), including a beautiful piece of combination play with a series of one-touch passes in the 54th minute, which resulted in a threatening ball across the box that was smothered by the Goffstown keeper. “We’ll take what we did this game and hopefully make it better and win [against Hanover],” said Clarke. “We really want to make sure we keep up the intensity and pressure throughout the whole game.”
The Bobcats settled in midway through the half and began to dominate possession, and although Goffstown was able to put some pressure on the OR back-line with a couple of counter-attacks against the run of play, OR was able to double their lead in the 71st minute when Clarke sent a through ball in from width that McClain calmly tucked home for her second goal of the game. “We had been working on through balls the whole week so it paid off,” said Clarke. “It was a really exciting moment for me and I’m glad that I could be a part of winning the game.”
Gianino made a handful of late saves to help Oyster River hang on to the shutout and the win, including a tremendous diving double-save in the 75th minute and a through ball clearance in the final minute to clinch a quarterfinal spot for her team.
Oyster River’s (13-3-1) game at Hanover (12-2-2) on Sunday is scheduled for 2 pm. The Bobcats fell 1-0 at home to Hanover when the two teams met last week in the regular season.
-Written by Zach Leichtman