By Danny Atkinson
CLINTON — Entering its second-round state tournament matchup against No. 9 Granby, No. 8 Morgan had managed to go undefeated despite playing in the Shoreline Conference, which contains a ton of parity. In front of a rabid home crowd Wednesday night, the Huskies’ momentum ran out.
An aggressive Bears squad scored two goals in just over a minute late in the first half and remained in control for most of the game, going on to win 3-1 at Indian River Complex to advance to the Class M quarterfinals.
Granby (14-4-0) will go on to host No. 16 Lewis Mills (11-5-1) in the quarterfinals on Friday.
After winning its first state tournament game since 2019, the Shoreline champion Huskies’ season ends at 12-1-7.
“I think we just got tired near the end, and when that happens it takes a lot of effort to chase down the ball,” senior captain Jessica Flanagan said.
While Morgan controlled possession much of the opening 20 minutes, it was unable to take advantage against physical defenders. The Huskies’ forwards were unable to get good scoring opportunities close to the goal, with the Bears consistently blocking crucial passes and kicks or causing them to be off line. Morgan’s best scoring opportunity in this stretch was a shot just above the net.
Starting with 20 minutes remaining in the first half, momentum began to tilt toward Granby. The Bears began to take advantage of their speed and successfully play long balls on the artificial surface of IRC, allowing them to wear the Huskies down. Eventually, Granby pounced on two good scoring chances.
With 6:40 remaining in the first half, Addyson Earl gave the Bears a 1-0 lead on a goal in the left corner of the net. Senior keeper Angelina Comiskey, who had played a strong game up to that point, initially stopped the shot with her hands before losing control of the ball. The goal was set up by an excellent corner kick from Pippa Large.
Just over a minute later, Alyssa Mackowski scored on a high kick in the corner of the net that Comiskey reacted slightly too late to as Granby took a two-goal lead.
The Huskies had not allowed more than two goals in any game until Wednesday.
“They play with a kind of organized chaos, where they just kind of punch the ball up in front and use their speed (to score),” Morgan coach Steve Sullivan said. “They’ve got some talented players, and once they get going it’s tough to stop them.
“If you don’t stay with them, they’re going to capitalize on mistakes.”
Flanagan echoed her coach’s words.
“With them playing long balls, it was hard for us to keep the ball on their end of the field,” she said. “They are a strong team that has very good passing.”
In the latter part of the half and especially after Granby’s two goals, Morgan very rarely maintained possession for a significant among of time and missed on passes and shots. Its best scoring opportunity came on a header with 4 seconds left that just went out of bounds. The Huskies had just one shot on goal to Granby’s nine.
Morgan was better on both ends in the second half but continued to allow the Bears offense to get in front of them too often. The Huskies finally broke through with just under 26 minutes remaining when sophomore Maeve Madura beat Kayla Davis in the lower right corner off a nifty pass by junior Emily Smith.
Comiskey made a couple of impressive saves over the next few minutes, but Earl killed any thoughts of a Huskies’ takeover when she converted a beautiful shot from the left corner that just beat the goalie to her right with 15 minutes remaining.
The Huskies had quality scoring opportunities in the frenzied final minutes after adjusting the offense to put more players on the back line and an extra striker up front. They had multiple open shots that were wide of the net and a pinpoint corner kick that went off a Morgan player and over the net. Ultimately, Granby was able to play keep-away with long balls.
Both Sullivan and Flanagan said they were proud of Morgan’s season.
“The kids really bonded very well and always played for each other,” the coach said. “There is more talent coming into the program and this team set a higher bar for next year’s squad.”
“I’m super proud of this team” Flanagan said. “It was exciting to win the Shoreline tournament again and not have a loss (until tonight). It’s nice my last year was so successful. I’ll miss the connections and friends I made playing here, especially during this season.”