Spaulding

From left, Spaulding scorers Portia Berard, Paige Allen and Madelyn Hull stand near the sideline after leading their team to Tuesday’s 3-1 girls soccer victory over Lake Region.

ORLEANS — Most senses were dulled in the bitter cold and pelting ran Tuesday.

Somehow Spaulding stayed razor-sharp.

The Crimson Tide girls soccer team kept their hopes of a home playoff game alive by outlasting Lake Region, 3-1. Portia Berard, Madelyn Hull and Paige Allen tallied one goal apiece for Spaulding, while Anya Kennedy scored for the Rangers.

Spaulding keeper Rebecca McKelvey made seven saves, compared to four saves by Lake Region’s Maya Auger.

“Becca had two saves on the fast break where she came out and went down,” Tide coach Rob Moran said. “And those are fantastic saves. We can make a mistake or get beat, and expect that Becca is going to save us.”

Berard opened the scoring in the 28th minute before Hull doubled the lead in the 46th minute. Kennedy trimmed the deficit to 2-1 in the 52nd minute, but Yvonne Roberge set up Allen for the final goal in the 54th minute.

“The first goal is always big,” coach Moran said. “You’re able to keep up with your game plan when you get that first goal. That second goal made us feel a little more comfortable, until they got their goal. And honestly, the last 20 minutes of the the game I was worried about playoffs coming up. I’ve got so many girls that are injured and we just sat in and weathered it being up 3-1.”

Spaulding (9-4) and Lake Region (4-9) were both in the hunt for the No. 8 seed during the playoffs in their respective divisions entering the match. The Rangers’ bid for a home game in the Division III tourney suffered a catastrophic blow with the loss to Spaulding. The D-I Crimson Tide have been making a late-season push to overtake North Country or Burr & Burton in the standings. A 3-1 loss to Montpelier on Saturday didn’t help that mission, but the strong performance against Lake Region gave Spaulding its sixth victory in seven matches.

“Especially an away game, it’s so important to get those index points,” coach Moran said. “It frustrating being this late in the season and having the injuries that we have. So it is on our mind that we’re going into these games without two returning starters who can really impact the game. But the rest of the team is really stepping up and we’re producing in other areas.”

The Tide’s starting defenders were Isabella Moyes, Fracesca Barney, Molly Parker and Emily Morris. Hallee Allen, Payton Lamberti and Madison Ashford also made big plays for the Tide defense, which was busy for most of the match. McKelvey picked off a handful of crosses at the top of the 6-yard box to frustrate the Rangers and also gave her team an offensive spark with punts across the center line.

“She’s able to send it,” coach Moran said. “Sometimes when the ball is coming at you that quickly and you’ve got a goalie who can receive and then start your counter right away, it’s extremely helpful.”

The Tide faced some offensive question marks at the beginning of the match while competing without crafty midfielder Chloe Mattson and workhorse striker Sage MacAuley. But it didn’t take long before Allen tested Auger with a shot outside the left post. In the 20th minute Mollie Moran won the ball for Spaulding near the sideline in the defensive third and played a long diagonal pass to set up Hull for a 1-on-1 breakaway. Auger rose to the occasion by denying the low shot to keep things scoreless.

Lake Region threatened to pull ahead a few times at the other end, but a Tide counterattack indirectly led to the first goal. The Rangers broke up the initial opportunity, with a Spaulding player knocking the ball across the end line to give Lake Region a goal kick. Berard kept her eye on the ball during the restart and showed off her quick reflexes by intercepting the pass 25 yards away from the goal. She immediately dribbled toward the penalty area and sent a low shot inside the left post.

“Portia did a great job defending that goal kick,” coach Moran said. “And once she received that ball, she was really composed in taking on their two defenders. And her prep touch setting up that shot to go far post — it was a really good goal.”

McKelvey caught a rising shot by Madison Bowman in the 30th minute to keep her team’s lead intact. The Tide keeper collided with Lake Region’s Alayna Azur in the 33rd minute while both players raced after a 50-50 ball at the top of the 18-yard box. McKelvey and Azur fell to the ground and watched as athletes from both teams scrambled to get a foot on the deflection. Parker saved the day for Spaulding with a one-time clearance, allowing her team to warm up at halftime while enjoying a one-goal advantage.

Allen flew up and down the field at the start of the second half and helped set the stage for a go-ahed goal after dribbling up the left side. She was thwarted on a hard-fought scoring attempt, but the Rangers couldn’t clear the ball out of the danger zone. With Auger away from the goal line, Lake Region fullback Liris Haney made a mad dash to follow up the play. Hull reached the ball a half-second before her opponent and used the inside of her foot to send a high-percentage shot into the back of the open net. It was Hull’s seventh goal of the season.

“Paige really stepped up the game today,” coach Moran said. “She starting turning it up to a new level, and I think that was very important for the team. It got extremely cold. It seemed like every five minutes another player was coming off the field injured. So we really needed that spark. And by her turning it up, it really applied a lot of pressure on the backs. And she worked that goal. It was probably the easiest one that Madelyn will get all year. But we talk about following to the far post and making those runs.”

Azur continued to pester the Tide back line after Spaulding’s insurance goal. The sustained pressure led to a chance by Kennedy, who made it a 2-1 game with a long-range shot.

The Tide responded less than two minutes later after advancing the ball toward the top of the penalty area. Roberge took a few short touches while sizing up the situation, drawing several defenders in the process. She played the ball out of pressure with a soft pass to the top-right corner of the penalty area, where Allen took over possession. The junior forward scored her team-leading ninth goal of the season with bullet past Auger.

“Yvonne played that pass with patience and she picked out Paige, who was open just inside the 18,” Moran said. “It was a brilliant pass. And for Paige to get that touch and to have the sense to take that shot far-post, that was probably my favorite goal of the day.”

Spaulding (9-4) will travel to play Harwood at 4 p.m. Saturday.

“Harwood is going to be tough,” coach Moran said. “We’re just focussing on going there and trying to have a good game.”

Lake Region (4-9) will travel to play Montpelier at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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