by Ken Brown
photos by Vanessa Fournier
MANCHESTER – The Hazen Union girls’ soccer team rode a red-hot senior goalkeeper and goal scorer to a sixth straight win over Danville in the semifinals last week before pushing powerhouse Proctor to the limit in the state title game to claim runner-up honors in the Division IV playoffs.
Alleigh Gabaree did it all for the Lady Cats last Thursday, stopping 24 shots in net and converting a penalty kick of her own as Hazen outlasted Danville 0-0 (3-1 penalty kicks) on the road to advance to their first state title game since 1987.
Macy Molleur continued her torrid stretch through the postseason, connecting from twenty-five yards out in the first half to give Hazen a 1-0 advantage at the break. With thirteen minutes left in regulation, the Lady Indians finished off a scrum in the front of the net to tie it at 1-1, where it would stand through two overtime periods. The match would be decided by a penalty kick shootout and Gabaree wasted little time stepping up to the penalty line and burying a shot in the far left corner to give Hazen Union an early 1-0 lead. Macy Molleur gave the Lady Cats a 2-0 advantage before Danville finally beat Gabaree on their third chance to get within one. The stage was set for senior Madison Bartlett and she delivered with a rocket in the upper left-hand corner and the Lady Cats rushed the field. Colleen Flinn stopped six shots on the day for Danville in the loss as their season ended at 7-4.
“We had two really good matches with them this season already, so we didn’t make any major adjustments, we just tried to refine the execution of our game plan and the girls did a great job. They play a unique diamond defense that makes it tough to get scoring chances, but we did a nice job of working the ball through Macy and she distributed the ball to the outside really well. Alleigh was the difference maker on the back end and her long punts helped start a lot of our attacks,” said head coach Harry Besett.
Maggie McKearin tallied two goals to lead top seeded Proctor to 4-2 win over the Lady Cats on Saturday, putting the finishing touches on a perfect 13-0 season and claiming the Division IV state title at Applejack Stadium in Manchester. Proctor’s juggernaut soccer factory had outscored their opponents 77-3 this season, but Gabaree frustrated the Lady Phantoms with several outstanding stops in the first half to keep it 0-0 at the break.
“We had been scouting them for a couple of weeks and we knew they were a very good team, but we thought we could play with them. They created a lot of pressure, but Alleigh and the defense frustrated them early, had a couple nice scoring chances of our own, and heading into the break with both teams scoreless was a dream scenario for us,” said Besett.
Proctor had countless corner kicks throughout the match and the dam finally broke for the Hazen Union defense two minutes into the second half on an own goal inside the box to make it 1-0. McKearin would break lose three and half minutes later to make it 2-0 and the Lady Phantoms sensed the rout was on. Hazen Union and Molleur had other ideas, as the senior striker connected just two minutes later on a direct kick from 35 yards out that once again snuck under the crossbar. Gabaree stuffed a McKearin penalty kick try just sixty seconds later and Tessa Luther fed Alexis Christensen for the equalizer with just under thirty minutes left in regulation. Isabel Greb broke free from the Lady Cat defense two minutes later to beat Gabaree at point break range for what would be the game winner and McKearin beat four defenders to make it 4-2 with seventeen minutes left. McKearin ended the season with an eye popping 35 goals to lead Proctor to their second straight title and seventh in the last ten seasons.
“That was probably the worst way we could have started the second half, but the girls battled back like they have all season. I’m proud of how hard the girls fought and competed against a team like that. They are just so deep and athletic and fatigue set in on that big field down the stretch,” said Besett.
The Lady Cats improbable run began with them losing their first five matches of the season before ripping off six straight. Gabaree recorded 164 saves through 12 matches, many of the spectacular variety. Molleur also had a breakout senior campaign, tallying 16 goals, including seven in the playoffs. Natalie Geoffroy and Madison Bartlett will also be key leadership losses for Besett as he retools for next season.
“All of our seniors were so versatile this season and they provided leadership that made it possible for a very young team around them to become better players. We have all sophomores, freshmen, and eighth graders coming back, but they will have varsity playoff experience and that should provide some great building blocks for this program. All the girls should be proud of what they’ve accomplished and how they battled a team like that. It was an exciting ride,” said Besett.