Previously undefeated Tide girls’ soccer drops its first game to defending champs Exeter

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  • Concord High right back Caley Nault, right, can only watch as Exeter forward Taylor Seaman heads the ball for Exeter’s fourth goal during the second half of Saturday’s game at Memorial Field. Exeter won, 4-1, to hand the Tide its first loss of the season. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord High defender Chole Morgan goes for a header off a corner kick as it sails in front of the Exeter goal during the second half of Saturday’s game at Memorial Field. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Exeter players celebrate their second goal in the first half of Saturday’s game at Memorial Field. Exeter went on to win 4-1 to hand Concord its first loss of the season. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord High senior goalie Lily Hillsgrove makes a save in the first half against Exeter on Saturday at Memorial Field.

  • Concord High midfielder Whitney Vaillant battles for the ball against Exeter on Saturday at Memorial Field. Vaillant scored the Tide’s only goal in a 4-1 loss. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/12/2021 12:22:41 PM

The Concord girls’ soccer team’s defense had been nearly impenetrable until Saturday and it took the defending Division I champions to finally break it down.

Exeter scored two goals in each half and the Tide struggled to finish off opportunities in the attacking third as the 2020 champion Blue Hawks handed Concord its first loss of the season with a 4-1 defeat on Saturday at Memorial Field.

The previously undefeated Tide (3-1) had only allowed one goal through its first three matches.

Defense is a strength of this year’s squad with senior right back Caley Nault, senior central defenders Kelsey Mayer and Chloe Morgan, and junior left back Sarah Potter forming an experience back line, and the unit held Exeter off the scoreboard despite facing immense pressure early on.

The Blue Hawks (4-1) had two corner kicks within the first five minutes of the match and hit the crossbar off one of those set pieces in the second minute.

“They’ve been stellar so far, but when you come up against a good team like Exeter, they’ll eventually break you down,” said Concord head coach Andrew Mattarazzo, who is in his first year with the Tide. “It could’ve been more (goals allowed) in the first half. (Concord’s defense) played strong and they played well. That was good to see against a competitive team.”

Exeter finally broke through in the 26th minute when midfield Anna Lodico collected a long clearance deep in Tide territory and poked a through ball to Emma Smith in the middle of the box who struck it home for a 1-0 lead.

The Blue Hawks doubled the lead in the 36th minute when Maggie Hall struck a beautifully placed left-footed ball past Concord senior keeper Lily Hillsgrove (two saves).

The Tide caught a break two minutes later when Exeter’s central defense failed to settle a long clearance from Concord’s end of the pitch and sophomore midfielder Whitney Vaillant slotted it home to make the score 2-1 at halftime.

Smith intercepted a goal kick intended for a Tide player and found Exeter forward Taylor Seaman for another Blue Hawk goal in the 44th minute and the same combination found each other again in the 59th – this time with Seaman heading the ball home – to wrap up the scoring.

Junior midfielder/forward Avery Fitcher had Concord’s best chances in the second half, beating two defenders and taking a point-blank shot from close range that was saved by keeper Kristen Bickford (two saves) in the 56th minute and narrowly sending a penalty kick wide past the lower right corner of the net in the 67th.

Vaillant and Fitcher lead the team with three goals each through the first four matches, and Potter and also tallied a pair so far, but those are the only three players who have found the back of the net.

“Exeter is a good team. I thought we played well, battled them hard in the first half, created our chance that we had, and finished it, but we couldn’t finish our chances in the second half,” Mattarazzo said. “That’s the game of soccer, you’ve got to score to win. That’s something that we’re definitely going to work on. I think we can compete (with the top teams), we just need to work on our finishing.”

Exeter was Concord’s biggest test so far in this young season, and the Tide have another one on Tuesday when the club travels to Derry to play the Pinkerton Astros (3-1-1).

Pinkerton is the only team to beat Exeter so far.

But the Tide is excited to be able to play the top teams in D-I again, after last year’s regionalized cohort schedule.

Concord went 7-0-1 in the regular season without facing the best D-I had to offer and lost in round of the tournament – the Tide’s only loss of the season – after being paired with powerhouse Hanover in the random draw.

Having a normal 16-game schedule means the Tide get to play Exeter, Pinkerton and Bedford – three of the top four teams on Mattarazzo’s radar. Mattarazzo also expects Bishop Guertin to be in the mix at the top of the standings.

“I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen,” Mattarazzo said. “The effort from the girls and the talent and ability that we have, I’m very excited for the rest of the season. You just have to have a short memory this year. With games being Tuesdays and Thursdays there isn’t a lot of time to dwell on the past, you’ve just got to move on. I think our girls have the right mindset going forward, I’m excited to see what they can do the rest of the way.”

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