Essex came to play. But so did the Bulldogs. It was a tale of two halves. The Bulldogs controlled the ball in the first forty minutes as Essex found themselves constantly on their heels and in their defensive third fighting off the ‘dogs. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they just could not convert, leaving the door open for their overtly physical opponents. In short, Essex took advantage of their opportunities scoring three times in the second half on one-touch tap ins off of corner kicks. Let me repeat that - three scores off of corner kicks. When asked about his team’s preparation with regards to set pieces, coach Zilkha took the blame. “I have to be honest, we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to work on set pieces and today it showed. We lost our marks and you have to give full credit to Essex for capitalizing on those situations.” The Bulldogs didn’t allow many opportunities, but the ones they did made the difference.
The Bulldogs were anchored by what can only be described as the two most imposing center-backs in the state - captain Addison “I”ll put my cape on and catch up to you in a heartbeat” Kujovsky and Graciana “dare to not be aware” Maier. Outside backs Lily “breakneck speed” Cole and Nicole “two-game” Mackson did everything they could to keep the game close being proactive and jumping any mistakes made by Essex. Up top were three of the fastest players in the Northeast led by Brooke “she’s on her horse” Weber, Livia “track star” Barclay and newcomer Molly “burn ‘em” Burnham. “She’s on her horse” Weber converted late in the game and, frankly, all three speedsters gave the backline of Essex a headache for the majority of the game. Controlling the center was captain Alexa “posied under pressure” Witkin and Tully “trimming” Trimmer so named because one moment her opponent has the ball and the next Trimmer is cutting them down. Both players could be seen jumping errant passes, battling 50/50s and dropping serves in behind the Essex backline. Brielle “Doctor” Proctor was as physical as she has been all year methodically pushing opponents off the ball and finding the holes for precision-like through passes. Casey “the communicator” Vogel could be heard letting her teammates know who was where and supporting the idea that more eyes and voices on a team is instrumental to a team’s success. Halyn “utility player” McIntyre played a little bit of everywhere showcasing the team philosphy “whatever I can do to help my team”. Mia “sure dude” Sherwood is another example of being able to play any position needed - from goalkeeper at the beginning of the year to center-midfield and winger today, Sherwood can comfortably play any position asked of her. Hannah “cool and calm” Cyr battled all day winning 50/50s and giving the Bulldogs a chance on several occasions by getting up high in the attack and back on all transitions. Laurel “shake her” Baker could be seen on the wings fighting and shaking off her opponents with sole rolls and effective feints. Finally, guest goalkeeper Annabelle “I would rather work hard then go to the beach” Beach played outstanding in goal making a few difficult saves - including one crowd-pleasing punch out over the crossbar, to keep the Bulldogs close for as long as she could. Hannah Troumbley and Lucy Farrell were on the IR list and hopefully returning soon. Assistant coach Sophia Witkin commented “They played really well against a physically bigger opponent. Had they converted on their chances early in the game, this could have easily been a different story.” Coach Witkin had a staff taking stats on the game and shared this with us -
In the first half, there were twenty-two 50/50 balls of which the Bulldogs won 13. That’s a 60% success rate. Again, this is against a bigger and stronger opponent who was not afraid to use their muscle - Essex players could be seen all day with their arms parallel to the ground. In total, 50/50s were on the Bulldogs side 20-18.
Consecutive passes - there were fifteen different times in the game where the Bulldogs strung together a minimum of at least 3 passes (5 times had a minimum of 4 passes, 2 times saw at least 5 consecutive passes).
The 4-1 score does NOT do service to the competitive atmosphere of the day nor the closeness of the two team’s abilities on the field. But beyond anything we had seen on the day, the Bulldogs paid tribute to the year’s theme - Honor the Effort. And that, they did.