READING — After going 11 years without a tournament victory, the Reading High girls' soccer team got it done in dramatic fashion, last night, at Hollingsworth Field.
Junior midfielder Brianna Cirrone scored her second goal of the game (and of the season) with two seconds left, off a cross from junior Nicole O'Sullivan, to give the Lady Rockets a 2-1 victory over Barnstable, in preliminary round action of the MIAA Div. 1 state tourney.
Reading, the 29th seed, advances to the first round where it will travel to face No. 4 seed Franklin, Saturday evening (5 p.m.), at Franklin High.
"They played out of their minds," said Reading coach Kelsey Ring. "I am proud as anything of them. They worked for it and they earned it, it was all them."
The Lady Rockets took a 1-0 lead in the first half, and maintained it rather easily as the 36th-seeded Red Hawks chose to keep most of their players back on defense.
Barnstable opened up its offense late and the Red Hawks stunned everyone in attendance when they scored with about four minutes left in regulation.
Reading stormed the attacking third in the closing minutes and managed to time it perfectly for Cirrone's game-winning goal.
"She hit it with either her chest or her head, but it went in," said Ring, who got her first tournament coaching victory on her first try. "In Tewksbury (where she was an assistant) we made it a bunch, but we never won. This is my first tournament win ever and I'm pretty excited about it."
When Reading found out Barnstable would be the first round opponent, the players took it upon themselves to do some research on the Red Hawks through YouTube and other sources, so they were aware of the defensive posture they like to take.
"They (her players) said, 'yeah, coach, they park the bus, they like to put 100 players behind the ball,'" said Ring. "OK , it's going to be tough to score but we'll do our best. Sure enough, they did that."
The Lady Rockets had numerous corner kicks in the first half, and each time, all 10 field players would join goalkeeper Rose Dibb inside the six.
"We knew they would have a ton of people in the box," said Ring. "We decided since they were putting a ton of people in the box, we needed to put more people in the box."
Senior Julie O'Brien was taking the corner kicks, and in the 25th minute she found the right spot to put the ball.
O'Brien's kick from the left corner came down in front of the crossbar, and forced Dibb to punch the ball away. The ball bounced down to Cirrone at the 18 and she drove a shot from straight out which clipped the bottom of the crossbar and ricocheted down, beyond the goal-line, and then spun out. This can be a tricky call when only the goalie is in the frame, but with all the players packed in near the goal-line, this was an easier call for the official.
Barnstable maintained the defensive strategy it started out with, even after the goal, and the Lady Rockets were unable to add to their lead, and only had three other shots on net in the half.
The trend continued in the second half, with the Red Hawks mounting next to no offense, and with Reading unable to get any quality looks to try and expand its lead.
Barnstable took a timeout with just under 10 minutes remaining, and with it the Red Hawks began pushing players forward. Almost immediately, Barnstable got its first shot on goal of the half, although Reading goalie Kendall Sundstrom made the routine save.
The Red Hawks started creating scoring chances, a couple of which had the Lady Rocket defense scrambling to keep Barnstable from executing on.
Finally, Livi Varetioms sent a through ball from the left side to Dakota Hess in the middle. Hess took a dribble and then sent a shot into the right side of the net from about 25 yards out.
Wanting to try and win in regulation, both teams abandoned the defensive mode to try to generate more chances. The Lady Rockets were flying all over the place.
With time apparently running out, O'Sullivan beat her defender near the right corner, moved towards the net and sent a pass into the goalmouth, where Cirrone was among three players crashing the net. She was the one who knocked the ball in for the win.
"Good for Brianna, who got both of the goals," said Ring. "They were maybe her second and third, or first and second she had all season."
Ring subbed less last night than she had in any previous game, this season, and was pleasantly pleased that it did not cost them in the end.
"I played a lot of them for 80 minutes," said Ring, of her starting lineup. "I can't believer they still had energy in the 79th minute to go down the field and cross it, and run through and put it in. It was unbelievable."