CHS soccer teams impress at Gillette Stadium

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The CHS boys soccer team poses for a photo on the field at Gillette. (Jason Kaplan photo)

Playing in the biggest sports stadium in New England in front of hundreds of cheering fans, both Canton High varsity soccer teams delivered impressive performances last Wednesday against their counterparts from Mansfield, highlighted by the lady Bulldogs’ thrilling 2-1 victory in the nightcap.

The memorable regular season event, held at Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium on October 7, pitted two of the league’s traditional powers in a special boys/girls doubleheader format.

In the boys matchup, the Bulldogs, with their young and unproven roster, went up against a powerful Hornets team that had lost just once all year and managed to hold them scoreless all game in an eventual 0-0 draw.

While Mansfield controlled the action throughout much of the first half, Canton stepped up in the second half and had several quality scoring chances late in the game. Sophomore goalie Abe Garber also did his part in net for the Bulldogs, earning his first career shutout.

After the game, head coach Danny Erickson said the final score was a good indicator of how the two teams played. “I thought that was a fair result,” he said. “We played a pretty mediocre first half but then an excellent second half. We were all over them late in the game, but we just couldn’t get a goal.”

The excitement then continued on the girls’ side at Gillette as the lady Bulldogs out-dueled the Hornets in a closely fought battle between second-place teams.

“We put the ball down and played the best game we have all season,” noted head coach Kate Howarth afterwards. “We possessed better than we have all year.”

Coming off a disappointing loss to Attleboro just two days earlier, the Bulldogs got off to a fast start Wednesday night, dominating play in the first half and opening a 1-0 lead on a goal by Hannah Link at the 31:49 mark, assisted by Tessa Cudmore.

Early in the second half, Canton scored again on a penalty shot by sophomore Sarah Connolly to take a 2-0 lead, but the Hornets made some adjustments and managed to regain some of the momentum, eventually scoring on a loose ball in front of the net with 14 minutes left to play. Mansfield then continued to press, but the Bulldog defense stood tall, led by goalie Kathryn Doody, who made several big saves late in the game to preserve the win.

“She’s been solid all year and she has come up big when we needed her to,” said Howarth of her junior goalie. “She’s been consistently solid back there.”

After the game, two of the senior captains said this year’s team has the potential to be special with great teamwork and “connection.” Sarah MacQuarrie said the Wednesday night game was a “great opportunity for us to show what we could do.” She said the players shrugged off the loss to Attleboro and played a great game of soccer Wednesday night. Cudmore said the team is strong and has a great future, adding “We came in as professionals. We reset quickly.”

As for the experience of playing at Gillette, Erickson said it was both fun and memorable for all involved — players, coaches, and fans.

“It was a great night,” he said. “It was warm and sunny. It felt like the whole community was there, and we had two great performances. We were real lucky to have such a supportive community to allow us to sell that many tickets and play in such an important venue.”

Unfortunately for both Canton squads, the week did not end on a high note as they both fell to Franklin 2-0 on Friday — the girls at home and the boys on the road. The Franklin girls team has been particularly dominant this year, having not allowed a single goal through 10 games.

In the early game last week against Attleboro, it was the girls who were upset 2-1 while the boys pulled out the win by the same final score. Sammy Papakonstantino led the way for the Bulldogs, scoring both of Canton’s goals in the victory.

Entering play this week, the Canton girls remain in second place in the Davenport Division at 6-3 overall, while the boys are currently in fifth at 2-6-3. Both teams were due to play Taunton on Tuesday and Foxboro on Friday, and the girls were also scheduled to face Sharon on Wednesday.

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