By Rachel Lenzi in The Buffalo News. Click here for more.
Photo by Harry Scull Jr / The Buffalo News
The time on the field for the Nardin girls soccer team was suddenly finite, but Brigid Molloy wasted none of it.
The Nardin senior needed less than five minutes to punctuate her final high school soccer game. Molloy’s goal helped lift the Gators to a 2-0 win against Nichols for the Monsignor Martin Division A championship Sunday at the Nardin Academy Athletic Center in North Buffalo.
“The last time I went to the championship was when I was a freshman, so this was a huge deal for me,” said Molloy, a forward who will play at Villanova next year. “It meant a lot playing with my sister (Mary) this year. It was really such an exciting game coming off such an exciting season, so it was super-important for us to win this year.”
The Gators defeated the Vikings in a rematch of the final regular-season game for both teams, a 6-1 decision in favor of Nichols on Nov. 10.
“They’re a skilled team and they have a few kids who can score,” Nichols coach Larry Desautels said. “We knew they were going to come back, with a vengeance. They move the ball well and we had a tough game yesterday (a 3-2 win against St. Mary’s of Lancaster). It wouldn’t have mattered who we played yesterday, but we knew this was going to be a tough one. They take advantage of peoples’ mistakes.”
Nardin took control of the offense in the first half of the championship game Sunday, but when Nichols started to find its offensive footing in the second half, Nardin’s defense and goalie Reilly Lenahan made key stops.
“The entire year, we’ve fought through,” Molloy said. “We’ve been down to a lot teams, like St. Mary’s and Nichols in the past. Every single time, we’ve had the perseverance to push right through and not give up, and we’ve kept the mentality of not losing.
Molloy gave the Gators a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute of the game.
“I was hanging by the last defender and I noticed that they had a high line, and so did one of my center-defenders,” Molloy said of her first goal. “We played it over the top and it went right through, and I saw where the goalie was and played it right behind her.”
Nardin’s defense allowed only a handful of shot attempts on Lenahan. Nichols’ best scoring chance came in the 22nd minute of the first half, when a header by Linda Ullmark went directly into Lenahan’s hands.
Maran Kingsley gave Nardin a 2-0 lead in the 28th minute, when she took a crossing pass from Molloy and beat Nichols goalie Grace Laski on a shot from the top of the 18-yard box that caromed off the goalie’s hands and into the net.
The Gators nearly made it 3-0 when Meredith Donahue’s shot went over the top of the crossbar in the 58th minute.
Two minutes after Maddie Achtyl’s shot from the left side of the 18-yard box hit the outside of the net, Lenahan made another save to keep the Vikings scoreless.
Then, with 12 minutes left in regulation, Nardin withstood three consecutive corner kicks by the Vikings, finally clearing the third. The Gators did it again with less than five minutes left, clearing a third scoring attempt off a corner kick by the Vikings.
“We have a really good structure back there and good leadership, and Mary Molloy, my younger sister, it came to her every single time and she has the leadership and the confidence to not let that go past her,” Brigid Molloy said. “We had the perseverance, too. Even though it kept coming right back at us, we hit it out, every single time.”
“She’s not even our regular goalie, so she stepped in, knowing what we needed for the team,” Molloy said of Lenahan. “I am super-proud of her. She really came through when we needed her the most, and she’s only a junior.”
When the game got physical in the final minutes of regulation – including a red card that was issued against Nardin assistant coach George Cotroneo after he contested a call by the referees with less than six minutes left – the Gators simply continued to play, as they’d done before.