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Pembroke girls’ soccer stamps ticket to final with 1-0 win over Coe-Brown

  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Christen Gallant goes up to head a ball against Pembroke Academy's Peyton Plante in the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Christen Gallant goes up to head a ball against Pembroke Academy's Peyton Plante in the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Christen Gallant goes up to head a ball against Pembroke Academy's Peyton Plante in the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Christen Gallant goes up to head a ball against Pembroke Academy's Peyton Plante in the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Christen Gallant charges upfield while being defended by Pembroke Academy's Madbury Bardier during the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Christen Gallant charges upfield while being defended by Pembroke Academy's Madbury Bardier during the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

  • Pembroke Academy's Keerstyn Allen and Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Audra Jenkins fight for possession of the ball during the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Pembroke Academy's Keerstyn Allen and Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Audra Jenkins fight for possession of the ball during the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Christen Gallant goes up to head a ball against Pembroke Academy's Peyton Plante in the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Christen Gallant goes up to head a ball against Pembroke Academy's Peyton Plante in the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Christen Gallant charges upfield while being defended by Pembroke Academy's Madbury Bardier during the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Pembroke Academy's Keerstyn Allen and Coe-Brown Northwood Academy's Audra Jenkins fight for possession of the ball during the girls' division 2 semifinals on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

EXETER – It was a familiar situation for the Pembroke and Coe-Brown girls’ soccer teams in last night’s Division II tournament semifinal. Each team pulled off a 1-0 defeat of the other in two tight regular-season games, and the trend continued in the rubber match between the No. 9 Spartans (13-6) and the No. 5 Bears (12-5-2).

With the game deadlocked after the first half, it looked like any scoring chance could be decisive, and that proved to be exactly the case, as Brianna Douglas’s goal four minutes into the second half was the only score of the match to put Pembroke in the final with a 1-0 victory.

Pembroke will take on No. 3 Souhegan, a 3-2 winner over Hanover in penalty kicks in the early semifinal, on Saturday.

The low-scoring affair didn’t surprise either coach.

“It’s always competitive with them,” Spartans Coach Jess Croft said. “It’s a physical matchup. Both teams are tenacious, stingy and have good keepers.”

“The teams have two different styles,” Coe-Brown Coach Josh Hils said. “Pembroke plays a physical game, and we like to play with speed and finesse. It makes for complementary soccer.”

It looked like the teams’ two styles canceled each other out somewhat during the first half, particularly in the first 15 minutes, as each team made headway into their opponent’s defensive end on the wings but couldn’t connect for any scoring opportunities.

The Spartans started to string passes together midway through the half, with forwards Emilee Harlow and Celia Sartwell linking up well. Keerstyn Allen and Kaity Morency helped to keep the ball in midfield and push the play forward.

Coe-Brown was able to soak up the pressure and get more time on the ball during the final 10 minutes of the half. Kianna Daudelin made a number of hard-working runs down the wing, while the Bears started to get some attacking play going through Ariel Clachar, Christen Gallant and Jelasa Nelson.

Pembroke was still pushing the envelope at the other end, and the best opportunity of the half came late from Morency, who hit a well-placed shot toward the far post only for goalie Alley Savioli to extend and make a nice save. The chance put an exclamation mark on Pembroke’s slightly more adventurous play during the opening 40 minutes, but both defenses were still in control when the whistle blew for halftime, leaving both coaches trying to make adjustments to get some offense going.

“We weren’t aggressive enough,” Hils said. “Pembroke was working a little bit harder than us.”

“We needed to capitalize on our chances,” Croft said. “Our forwards were getting two or three defenders on them, so we tried to look for open players.”

The game’s lone goal came early in the second half, and it was fitting that the score came from an assist on the wing. Harlow had the ball on the right side of the 18-yard box and was able to send a good cross into the center. With multiple players for each team scrambling to get a foot on the ball, Douglas was the quickest to react and hit a hard shot past the goalie, giving Pembroke the precious first goal just under four minutes into the half.

“We could finally breathe (after the goal),” Croft said. “We like to get on top early, so the goal gave us some confidence.”

The momentum seemed to swing definitively in the Spartans’ direction, with Harlow and Sartwell continuing to look dangerous up front as Pembroke pushed for a second in the 10-plus minutes following Douglas’s score.

Sartwell put a threatening ball across the box that no Pembroke player connected with, and Maddie Bardier nearly scored a beautiful goal with an attempted chip over Savioli in net.

The Bears were not going to give up without making a run, and Coe-Brown turned up the pressure considerably in the final 15 minutes of the game, with Daudelin on the right wing and Audra Jenkins on the left starting to get a lot of time on the ball. Clachar was putting in a lot of hard work in the middle of the field, as well, but the key adjustment for the Bears was out wide.

“We tried to get the ball into the corners, but we didn’t do it enough,” Hils said. “When we did, we pressured them.”

The defining moment of all of Coe-Brown’s late pressure came with about eight minutes left, again from the wings. Daudelin sent in a fast cross from the right side that whizzed through the box, all the way to Jenkins, who was free out on the left side. Her subsequent cross came even closer to connecting with Coe-Brown forwards in the box, but the Spartans were able to scramble the ball clear. The play wasn’t all that different from the build-up to Pembroke’s goal and looked like it could have been the breakthrough for the Bears.

More set pieces for Coe-Brown in the closing stages were dealt with expertly by Pembroke keeper Kristin Kezar, who caught a corner kick and a late direct kick to close out the win.

“It was getting hairy at the end. We had some miscommunication and missed clearances,” Croft said. “We just tried to get the ball to the corners and clear it out.”

In the end, the Spartans’ back line of sweeper Molly Hamilton and defenders Peyton Plante, Emma Foss and Skylar Carter passed all the tests that came their way. With help from the versatile Lexi Duclos and the fierce aerial play of Morency, it was a shutout well-earned for Pembroke.

Not going unnoticed was the defensive play of the Bears, led by the consistency of sweeper Sarah Curtin.

“It came down to one team making a mistake and the other team taking its chance,” Hils said.

With only four seniors leaving the Coe-Brown squad, Hils is looking forward to being back in the late stages of the tournament next year.

For the Spartans, it’s on to the final and No. 3 Souhegan (15-3-1). The Sabers won a 2-1 home game over Pembroke in each teams’ second match of the regular season.

“We’re a much different and better team since (our first meeting with Souhegan),” Croft said. “It should be a great game.”

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