EXETER – Before the penalty kicks started, Bow Coach Jay Vogt gathered his team in a circle on the sidelines at Bill Ball Stadium. He told his top-ranked Falcons to visualize their shots hitting the back of the net. He had them take deep breaths. Then he left them with these final words.
“Remember,” Vogt said, “we have Bridget.”
That would be Bridget Ehrenberg, Bow’s senior goalie who allowed just four goals on nine PK attempts from No. 4 Hanover to lead the Falcons to a 2-1 (5-4 PK) win in Thursday’s Division II girls’ soccer semifinals. Bow (18-1) will now face No. 2 Souhegan in Sunday’s D-II championship game at noon in Exeter.
“We were in penalty kicks last year against Goffstown (in the quarterfinals) and (Ehrenberg) made a couple saves to help us there, and we practice it and she makes, saves, so you’ve got to believe, right?” Vogt said. “Of course she had tears in her eyes before it was starting and I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ ”
Ehrenberg admitted that, yes, she may have had a anxious tear or two before the PKs.
“It’s just stressful, especially being my senior year,” Ehrenberg said. “It could be my last game.”
The Marauders (14-3-2) took an early lead in the first round of kicks after their keeper, Isabella Badales, saved the first shot and Bryn Kable scored on Ehrenberg. But Bow’s Amanda Marshall got her team on the board, and then her sister, Kayleigh Marshall, evened things at 2-2 after Hanover’s Charlotte Johnson scored. The Marauders went up 3-2 after Sophie Miles powered a shot through Ehrenberg, but Bow’s Kimberly Gosselin evened the score at 3-3 and Ehrenberg made a double punch save on Catherine Wagner to force a second round of kicks.
Bardales saved the first two bids of the second session, but Ehrenberg matched her with two saves, including a diving, full-stretch stop on Riley Craft.
“I try not to look at their eyes because sometimes they’ll try to fake me out,” Ehrenberg said of her penalty saving routine. “So I just keep my eye on the ball and then just try and follow it the best I can.”
With the second round still scoreless, Bow’s Sarah Martin hit the crossbar, but the ball ricocheted straight down and crossed the goal line. Hanover’s Abigail Wilson answered with a goal to keep her team alive, but Bow freshman Kristina Pizzi calmly delivered a quick shot just into the left side netting to put the pressure back on Hanover.
The Marauders then sent Elaine Taylor to the penalty spot, but she couldn’t beat Ehrenberg, who made a quick slide to her right and caught the shot to end the game and send her team to the finals.
“A lot of excitement,” Ehrenberg said of her emotions after the clinching stop. “It’s the first time our school has made it to the D-II championship.
The Falcons went to six straight finals from 2010-15 and won in four of them, but those were all in Division III. This is the first D-II final for Bow, which was in the division from 2004-09 and came back up in 2016. The players were well aware of the significance and serenaded each other with cries of, “We made history!” after the game.
That history didn’t come easy against Hanover. The Marauders started fast and dictated play in a first half that saw them hold advantages in shots (6-1), corners (4-2) and, most importantly, goals (1-0).
“Both (regular-season) games we played against them it was like that,” Vogt said, referring to his team’s 1-0 win against the Marauders on Sept. 1 and its 2-0 win in Hanover on Oct. 10. “They come out and put on some pressure and we knew that, but we weren’t ready for it and it took us a while to adjust.”
The Marauders earned three corner kicks in the first six minutes of the game. They took the first three shots of the game. And they found the first goal in the 14th minute on a beautiful combination play. It started with Wagner pushing a pass wide to Craft, who sent in a sharp cross that connected perfectly with the run of Carly Craft, who volleyed it home to give her team a 1-0 lead.
The Falcons regrouped at halftime and came out ready for Hanover’s pressure. The Marshall sisters, Lauren Goyette and Lindsay Burnham started to assert themselves in the midfield and gradually the game flipped in favor of Bow. The Marauders still looked dangerous on the counter, but every time a break was on, Bow center backs Chloe Binder and Emma Gagne snuffed it out.
“We felt like we were starting to get momentum, we weren’t getting chances, but we were getting it in their end,” Vogt said.
Of course the Falcons needed to do more than just get it in Hanover’s end to survive.
“I was getting a little nervous,” Ehrenberg said, “but still deep down I knew that we had the game.”
That belief was rewarded in the 72nd minute when Kayleigh Marshall finally found the equalizer. The play started with Brianna Boone winning a 50/50 ball in midfield and lofting it toward Miah Munro, who flicked it on for Marshall. The junior ran onto the smartly headed pass, took a touch and then fired a shot past a diving Bardales and inside the left post.
“We never quit,” Vogt said. “We talked before the game about always believing in ourselves, no matter what happens keep believing, and they did. We kept fighting and found one.”