WELLINGTON — In a classic big-school small-school battle, Amherst and Wellington fought to a scoreless tie Monday afternoon in a non-conference girls soccer thriller.
The plan that saw Division III Wellington pack in its defense and hope for a goal against the Division I Comets had a fair-sized and vocal crowd on its feet as the clock wound down.
Some who saw the match might have found it lacked enduring artistic merit.
In fact, Wellington coach Kevin Ziegler said: “It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t meant to be. We were playing to tie them. For us against a Division I team that tied (Division I, fourth-ranked) Magnificat and has only one loss, a tie is a win for us.”
Others might have thought Ziegler did a textbook job of orchestrating the tie. Amherst (9-1-3) could have reasonably been considered the favorite against the 8-2-2 Dukes.
One who praised the Dukes’ effort was Amherst coach Jim Fossie.
“They are extremely well-coached,” he said. “Their players did exactly what they were supposed to do. They tied a decent team and they’re going to have a great season. They’ve been having a great season. They did a great job.”
Amherst basically laid siege to midfield and dominated the statistics.
The Comets earned — count ’em — 15 corner kicks and allowed Wellington none. Amherst’s assertive offense forced the Dukes to take 17 goal kicks; the Comets took just two. The Comets were whistled offside four times, Wellington not once.
“We asked (the players) at halftime if maybe they could cut down the number of corner kicks just a bit,” Ziegler said. “The laws of physics say something bad is going to happen and one’s going to go in. Fortunately, it didn’t.”
Later, Ziegler explained his strategy.
“We knew from watching them and scouting them that they were faster than us at every position and probably more skilled at several positions,” Ziegler said. “So we had to keep the ball in front of us and play defense, hope we could lure them into going to sleep and get a counterattack goal. That’s what our objective was.
“We played a 5-4-1 (five defenders, four midfielders and a forward, in addition to goalkeeper Kayla Sparks). We marked their forwards and tried to keep the ball in front of us. We tried to never give them an open look at the goal or an easy shot. I know the shot total is going to look horrible, but the game played exactly the way we wanted it to play.”
Amherst outshot the Dukes 18-1, putting 10 on frame. Wellington’s lone shot, by Julia Marks in the 20th minute, was on target, but Comets goalkeeper Ashley Feguson handled it routinely.
Speaking of keepers, the Dukes’ Sparks was outstanding. She stopped all 10 of the Comets’ shots on frame and several were less than routine. She made a nice save on a shot by Tori Neal in the 36th minute and stopped a rocket off Breanna Shagovac’s foot in the 61st minute.
Sparks had to hustle to save Jessica Sabotka’s shot in the 74th minute after the Comets missed back-to-back shots wide left two minutes earlier.
“We just tried to keep the ball and all the green (Amherst) players in front of us,” said Wellington’s Grace Dooley, a senior defender and co-captain.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Anna Derrick, also a senior defender and co-captain, said. “I kept looking back at the time. I just wanted the game over with.”
Actually, Amherst appeared to score less than 30 seconds into the match when, incredibly, Shagovac netted a 40-yard free kick on the restart after a Wellington foul. But the foul resulted in an indirect kick — not a direct kick — and the goal was waved off.
The Comets’ Neal suffered an elbow injury in the 37th minute. While she walked off the field under her own power, she was taken away in an ambulance. It wasn’t immediately known how serious the injury was.
Wellington 0, Amherst 0
- SHOTS: Amherst 18, Wellington 1
- SHOTS ON FRAME: Amherst 10, Wellington 1
- SAVES: (A) Ashley Fegruson 1; (W) Kayla Sparks 10
- GOAL KICKS: Amherst 2, Wellington 17
- CORNER KICKS: Amherst 15
- OFFSIDE: Amherst 6
- FOULS: Amherst 8, Wellington 13
- CARDS: (W) Julia Marks, yellow, 9th minute
- HALFTIME: 0-0
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.