FALMOUTH – The Warriors girls soccer team’s undefeated season was put to the test Monday evening.
After playing a scoreless first half in which Nauset struggled to create scoring chances against a Falmouth team determined to pack its defensive zone, the visiting Warriors ultimately returned home to the Lower Cape with their unbeaten record still intact.
Sophomore Caroline Kennard ensured the result, netting the lone goal in Nauset’s 1-0 victory over Cape and Islands League Atlantic Division rival Falmouth. Kennard, a Chatham resident, bested the Clippers’ senior goalkeeper Ella Sieger with a low shot on a penalty kick in the 12th minute of the second half.
The goal — which came after Falmouth was called for a handball in its own 18-yard box following a Nauset corner kick – lifted the Warriors to a 5-0 (3-0 C&I) record.
“I was just really happy to score because it won us the game,” said Kennard. “We practice PKs all the time at practice, so I’m kind of used to it by now. I knew what I wanted to do.”
Kennard had played defense during the first half, though Nauset coach Tom Pollert brought the underclassman up to forward at the beginning of the second.
The decision was an effort to give the Warriors a little spark in the offensive zone as they were on the verge of being shutout for the first time this season after outscoring opponents 22-4 through their first four games.
It wasn’t that Falmouth’s strategy was unique — Nauset had seen other teams pack defenders in front of their goal to make life difficult for the Warriors — but Pollert acknowledges the Clippers (2-1) executed the approach better than any team this season.
“Everybody has played us the same way, but Falmouth did it better than everybody,” said Pollert.
It was clear Monday’s game was going to be different from the first few minutes. Soon after the opening kickoff, the Clippers advanced the ball deep into the Warriors’ territory for what was perhaps their best scoring opportunity of the game.
Falmouth senior co-captain McKenna Correia darted into Nauset’s 18-yard box and rifled a shot on goal that went straight into the chest of the Warriors’ senior goalkeeper, Brady Deschamps, who was able to safely corral the blast for her first save.
Deschamps, a Brewster resident, said giving up a golden opportunity like that early in the game alerted the team the Clippers had brought their A game.
“It kind of hits everybody that we need to play hard,” she said. “It tells us we’re not coming in to play a 10-0 game, we’re going to have to actually play to win. It kind of wakes everybody up, especially after a long bus drive.”
As exciting as Monday’s matchup with Falmouth was, it wasn’t really reflective of how this season has gone for Nauset. The Warriors have been dominant since opening their season with a 10-1 victory over Monomoy on Sept. 7; they netted four goals in each of their next three games.
“We’ve got a really deep team and they’ve been really aggressive,” said Pollert’s assistant coach, Sarah Dowcett. “They want to win and they come out hard every time. It doesn’t matter who they are playing, they just come out and play hard.”
While Kennard was Monday’s hero, another sophomore, Olivia Avellar, has been a driving force behind the team’s quick start. Avellar leads the team with six goals and has tallied five assists for a team-best 11 points.
“She’s very dynamic and gives us so much creativity up top,” Pollert said of Avellar.
The coach also praised senior Sam Schiffenhaus for her play at midfielder.
“She’s just got a strong engine,” he said of Schiffenhaus. “She just never stops running in that midfield and she’s scored four goals.”
Even with so much talent on this year’s team, don’t expect Nauset to get complacent. The Warriors are hungry for a deep postseason run after last season ended with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Barnstable in penalty kicks during the league’s Atlantic Division tournament championship last fall.
“We have very high standards for this season,” Deschamps said. “We’ve been pushing to beat our record last year and now we’re playing off-Cape teams, so we have to step up our game. We want to try to intimidate other teams before we even play them.”
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com. Twitter: @BradJoyal