‘It’s a chess match’: Westborough girls soccer defeats Shrewsbury

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‘It’s a chess match’: Westborough girls soccer defeats Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury’s Mia Ryder shields the ball from Westborough’s Regan Sullivan. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

WESTBOROUGH – The Westborough Rangers girls soccer team wants to put the ‘we’ in Westborough.

The slogan – which the team adopted at the start of the athletic season – was key to the Rangers’ win on Oct. 5. Westborough’s teamwork and camaraderie were on full display Thursday night as the team blanked the Shrewsbury Colonials, winning the low-scoring, high-energy match by a score of 1-0.

‘It’s a chess match’: Westborough girls soccer defeats Shrewsbury
Westborough’s Sadie Blumberg (captain) gets ready to strike the ball. Shrewsbury’s Paige McLaughlin (captain) defends. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

The match’s only goal was scored almost immediately. Westborough was awarded a penalty kick just over five minutes into the game, and Sadie Blumberg’s shot found the bottom-right corner of the net to put the Rangers ahead 1-0. According to Westborough Head Coach Scott Moroney, getting an early lead is “incredibly important.”

“High school soccer is all about momentum. It shifts back and forth,” said Moroney. “In a game like this, momentum is huge. If you see the team start to move players in and out, we’re managing momentum. We’re managing energy. We’re managing matchups.”

For Shrewsbury, the early deficit was troubling.

“We haven’t found ourselves in that position in a few games. We’ve been playing with the lead. Kudos to Westborough, they had a great game plan. They’re very well-coached, and I think that they outplayed us tonight,” said Shrewsbury Head Coach Becky Landers.

‘It’s a chess match’: Westborough girls soccer defeats Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury’s Carley Duhamel moves the ball upfield. Westborough’s Clare O’Reilly is in hot pursuit. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

What a difference a week makes

Shrewsbury had beaten Westborough on Sept. 26, just over one week prior to this contest. After Shrewsbury scored the first three goals, Westborough was searching for answers. The Rangers tweaked their strategy and eventually staged an impressive comeback bid, narrowing the Colonials’ lead to 3-2 before time ran out. Westborough lost the game, but it learned enough about the Shrewsbury team to improve its strategy for the second match.

“During [the first] game, [Assistant] Coach [Maddi] Berthoud made a tactical adjustment. It was the right adjustment. It put our team into a situation that we were comfortable in,” said Moroney. “It’s a chess match. Tonight, we were one goal better than they were. They’re a phenomenal team. They’ve got a tremendous record. They’re going to do good things.”

Although there wasn’t any change in the score after Blumberg’s early goal, both sides had chances to score throughout the match. Both teams traded corner kicks, shots hit the crossbar, and both goalkeepers made impressive saves. Moroney liked what he saw from his offense, even though it didn’t directly translate into points.

“We had some good chances. In a game like that where you’re managing momentum, you want to create chances. Sometimes the chance you don’t score on still resonates with the other team,” he said.

Westborough did have chances, but Shrewsbury’s defense was sharp throughout the match.

“[The defense played] phenomenal, led by Josie Sawyer, our goalkeeper,” said Landers. “The defense – time and time again – takes a lot of pressure. I can’t speak more highly of them.”

‘It’s a chess match’: Westborough girls soccer defeats Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury’s Abby Pacy gets her foot on the ball. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

Looking ahead

Westborough improves to 4-4 with the hard-fought win. After four consecutive close losses early in the season, Westborough’s team seems to be taking shape. Moroney attributed the recent success to the team’s chemistry and attitude.

“They’re teenagers – they aren’t always perfect – but they rally around each other,” he said. “It’s really nice to see the environment we’ve created. One of the girls said the other day that ‘everything is out of love.’ So, if we’re going to be tough on each other… it’s out of a place of love. I thought that was the best way to say it.”

With the loss, Shrewsbury – which came into the game on a seven-game winning streak – drops to 8-2-1. The loss was Shrewsbury’s first since the first game of the season against Sutton. Although the team had lost, Landers didn’t seem too concerned about her squad, noting that the loss will only make her team better in the long run.

“I think we learn from it but we move on. These are the games we want to play in. They make us better. I think obviously we have a lot to learn from this game, but we’re not going to dwell on it and we’re going to move on to the next one,” she said.

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