GROTON -- Sitting at 3-7 with eight games left, the probability of the Groton-Dunstable girls' soccer team making the Districts looked to be near zero. But if the world was run by probability, Columbus wouldn't have set sail for the Americas out of fear of falling off the face of Earth. The Lady Crusaders caught fire; going 5-1-2 over their last eight games, including a District-clinching 1-1 draw with visiting Marlboro on Tuesday.
"We made a great run towards the end of the year to put ourselves in position to make the post-season, and we did what had to be done today to get there," said Groton-Dunstable coach Steven Naboicheck. "I feel like we have come on at the right time and we have a nice wave of momentum heading into the Districts."
Over the first 20 minutes of the match, the Lady Panthers were in control, running up a 6-1 advantage in shots and coming up with the game's first scoring threat. In the 19th minute, Sarah Purcell sent a pass towards the middle of the field to Julie Corey, who lined a shot from 25 yards that went just over the cross bar.
During the last 20 minutes of the first half, the Lady Crusaders began to find their footing a little bit on offense. Groton-Dunstable's passing improved and they started to move the ball well, but could not get any quality scoring opportunities. A pair of long shots were turned away by Marlboro goalkeeper Amanda Monfalcone as the game remained scoreless after 40 minutes of play.
Despite being outshot 5-0 in the first 15 minutes of the second half, it was the Lady Crusaders who struck first courtesy of a penalty kick. A close tackle was whistled in the box, setting up a penalty shot for Dani Kenney who converted, putting home a shot just under the crossbar and by a diving Monfalcone to give Groton-Dunstable a 1-0 lead.
Playing with a sense of urgency, the Lady Panthers continued their assault on offense. In the 68th minute, during a scramble in front of the net, Corey came away with a loose ball and fired a shot from eight yards out. Lady Crusaders' keeper Kailyn Rekos (seven saves) was there to make the save, but a rebound came back out to Corey, who drove a shot just wide of the right post.
After a couple of other chances went wide and high, Marlboro came up with the equalizer at the 77:34 mark of the contest. Purcell sent a long lead pass to Anna McCabe, who lined a shot off the left post. The rebound kicked out to Purcell, who lined a shot that was saved by Rekos. Another rebound came out to Marissa Flynn, who placed a low shot inside the post to tie the game at 1-1, which is how it would end as Groton-Dunstable got the point they needed, finishing 8-8-2 to make it to the playoffs.