Story & Photos By Ben Kaufmann
ST. ALBANS – With BFA-St. Albans and St. Johnsbury knotted at 1-1 in the final minute of the first half on Wednesday, Meghan Connor’s attempt from near the top of the box sailed high.
Twice in the first overtime, her attempts to give BFA the win from the same area also went high. One more went just wide.
With just over two minutes left in the final overtime period, Connor had room to try once again from about 35 yards away. This time, her shot hopped past the St. Johnsbury keeper to give the Comets a 2-1 win.
“We give Meghan the green light anywhere inside of 40 yards and she took it,” said BFA Coach Ben Marlow. “All night she was off just a little bit here and there and then that’s the one that goes in the net. She hits it with such pace it’s tough to track it I think.”
BFA (3-3) had the better of play for much of Wednesday’s contest with the Hilltoppers (2-5) and even had a lead for much of it. May Gratton pounced on a loose ball in the box with 11 minutes left in the first half to make it 1-0 as the Comets’ finally capitalized after earning the lions share of chances.
Usual suspects Gratton, Kaylee Green, Jocelyn Chun and Madeline Hungerford gave fits to the St. Johnsbury back line all game long. Green alone created a half dozen instances in which bad luck seemed the only thing keeping her from the scoresheet.
On the defensive end, BFA was equally impressive. Goalkeeper Maren McGinn did all that was required of her, but didn’t face much in the way of close-range shots thanks to Sophie Zemianek, Bethany Sanders, Mackenzie Moore, Taylor Baldwin, Zoey Bunbury and the rest of the Comet defensive core.
“That was a team effort,” Marlow said. “Everyone got in there, everyone gave us some minutes that we needed and I thought it was just a team win from back to front. I thought it was our most complete game as a team yet.”
The Hilltoppers only got on the board thanks to an unstoppable shot with just under 10 minutes left in regulation from nearly the same spot where Connor would later end the game.
“She hammered that thing,” Marlow said of St. Johnsbury’s equalizer. “That’s about as good as it gets from that distance. And you hope that those don’t happen, but there’s not much you can do about that.”
BFA came agonizingly close to taking victory back before the end of the second half. A flurry with about two minutes left on the clock saw Green barely miss and Hungerford hit the crossbar off the restart. That rebound was shot just high by Gratton.
“Those last two minutes we were right there and the ball didn’t go in the net. And then it does. You just don’t know,” Marlow said.
Connor had the last quality chance of regulation for the Comets, sending an attempt high with around 45 seconds left. BFA struggled to put forth the same offensive firepower in the first overtime period -and most of the second- that it had over most of regulation.
“I’ve got to credit St. J’s backs,” Marlow said. “I thought they, as the game went on, got stronger and they really limited our opportunities to kind of sneak in behind. We got in there early but then throughout the game they kind of limited our opportunities.”
BFA’s defense remained equally solid. The most impactful player over the 18 minutes of extra time was Bunbury, who was always exactly where BFA needed her anytime St. Johnsbury made a push forward.
“She did a great job of taking away their strengths, which is their speed on the outside,” Marlow said of Bunbury.
Having not created much in the way of overtime chances, when Connor found a bit of space -even at 35 yards out- BFA’s fans and bench urged her to let a shot go. She did, and though her shot wasn’t one for the record books, it had enough pace that an awkward hop made it an impossible grab for the Hilltopper keeper and hit the back of the goal to give BFA the win.
The Comets haven’t been blown out once this season, but also hadn’t beaten a Division I team before Wednesday. Marlow says the result was well earned.
“I think they needed it,” he said. “They’ve worked their tail off.”
The Comets hosts Essex on Saturday morning before hitting the road for five of their last six games – all against Division I opposition.