Alyssa Gonnella and the rest of St. Anne’s-Belfield’s seniors have been waiting. They’ve endured one-goal games, ties and frustrating losses.
In fact, against St. Catherine’s, that’s all they’ve endured. The last time STAB’s girls soccer team beat St. Catherine’s, Gonnella and her classmates were in seventh grade, playing on the middle school squad.
Until Friday, when a Gonella feed set the table for eighth grader Kymora Johnson to notch the game-winning goal with under a minute to play, a wild finish to the LIS rivalry game that gave STAB a 2-1 victory and pushed its record to 4-0-1 on the season.
“This is absolutely incredible, I’m so proud of the team right now,” Gonnella said. “It has been a long time, I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this.”
The game-winner came in the wake of a flurry of tries by STAB, with the ball bouncing off the crossbar in the final two minutes before an apparent foul in the box went uncalled. St. Anne’s regrouped quickly, with Gonnella directing traffic by imploring Johnson to move into a specific spot at least once, trying to set a run up. The senior midfielder has adapted quickly to that role as vocal leader in the central midfield this year.
“This is definitely my first year being the center of the team and I’ve been loving it but we have a lot of young people, a lot of new people on the team,” Gonnella said. “I’ve had to make sure everyone is staying connected at all times.”
Her on-field direction worked nicely, as she found Johnson’s feet and the eighth grader finished it off to seal the win just seconds before the final whistle blew.
“I knew it was coming over the top and I just had to run as fast as I could to get on to it,” Johnson said.
STAB appeared to have gotten the goal they needed with 22:16 to play in the second half when Casey Gartland set up Gia Woodfolk for a score that put St. Anne’s up 1-0. But St. Catherine’s equalized a few minutes later on a goal by freshman Kira Rackley, setting up the nip and tuck finish that included a lot of physical play as the two squads tried to ramp things up and come away with the win.
“It definitely was a dog fight and we came out ready in the second half,” Johnson said.
In the end, the Gonnella to Johnson connection put STAB over the top, but not without a strong defensive effort from the Saints who had to deal with Mary Kate Richards attacking on the wing. STAB’s Bailey Cullen had several big runs that didn’t end in goals but likely took their toll on St. Catherine’s defenders while Woodfolk was similarly effective up top at challenging the St. Catherine’s defense and forcing Emma Galbraith to make seven saves.
STAB keeper Samantha Sidders also made an array of saves as St. Catherine’s counter attacked hard several times.
“This was a great game to play right now — it showed us that we still have work to do but that we can win and we’re ready to play this season,” Gonnella said.