By her own high standards, Sam Kersey was in a bit of a slump heading into the Division 4 south quarterfinals. She had gone two straight games without scoring a goal, which had to feel like eons to the supremely skilled sophomore.
In the biggest game she’s ever played for the Mashpee High Falcons—so far—Kersey more than made up for it, scoring four times in a 5-1 win over Holbrook that moves Mashpee to the semifinals on Tuesday, November 12, against league rivals Hull at Carver High.
The win on Wednesday, November 6, matches the furthest that the program has ever gone in MHS history. It marked the fifth-straight win by the Falcons, who are now 11-8-3 overall on the season. The team had two wins its last three straight just to make it into the postseason, and has only gotten stronger over time.
“I was getting double marked in those (previous games) and today I just got a chance to be free and to be myself, and with the passing and everything we got our chances and I got into the back of the net,” Kersey said. “We used our strengths to go against their weaknesses and we knew that we had a faster offense than their defense and we took advantage of that.”
That speed was all of the difference as three of Kersey’s four goals came thanks to her having an extra gear that the defense did not. She showed it off in the 37th minute to tie the game up, popping a gorgeous laser under the bar after beating the defense up the left wing. She then put her team ahead to stay by scoring two in an 82-second span early in the second half.
The go-ahead goal was netted in the 48th minute as she went around the defense, and then faked the goalie before tucking it in to make it 2-1. Then, in the 50th minute, the Falcons defended a corner kick and sent Kersey off to the races. She blew by everyone and beat the goalie to the near side to all but ice the win, though the sophomore said that there was too much time remaining to get comfortable.
“I remember looking up at the clock and there was still a half-hour to play. We needed to make sure that we weren’t too cocky and to keep playing our game for a full 80 minutes,” Kersey said.
Coach McCuish said that Kersey’s effect on the team is more than just her ability to put the ball in the net, although that attribute is a big reason that the Falcons are where they are.
“She’s had such a huge impact. She’s not just a talented finisher, and leads our attack, but she keeps our morale up. She’s humble, she’s positive, she encourages her teammates, she’s a leader on and off the field,” McCuish said. “Not only is she talented and skilled, but she has that leadership quality and brings the energy to the team that keeps her teammates going.”
Her teammates were certainly riding that energy, and they got even more of a lift when Sam Morry put them up by three in the 59th minute. Emily Theodore put a great corner kick to the middle of the area, and Morry bodied it in for a 4-1 lead. Kersey went on to put in a deflection with two minutes to go to sew it up.
While the offense was certainly humming, scoring five for the second playoff game in a row, it was the defense that might have been all of the difference. The Bulldogs were able to take the lead 12 minutes into the game on a transition play, but after that the Mashpee defense was immense. Goalie Abby Dorman played fantastic, making several stellar stops to keep her team close when they were down. Senior fullback Ashley Keleher led a fantastic showing by the back end, which erased all of the Holbrook fast-break chances after their early strike.
“There were a lot of nerves before the game, so I tried to just mellow out and put the nerves aside,” Dorman said. “I just tried to play the best that I could today… I had a lot of faith in my team.”
Keleher said that she was pumped up for the game because she felt that Holbrook’s Riley Cochran was one of the best players that she’s faced all season long, and she took it upon herself to make sure that Cochran was not a factor. The HHS forward set up her team’s goal, assisting a pass to Lucy Ambrault, but after that Keleher dominated the match-up.
“I just love competition and that was probably the best competition I’ve had this season,” Keleher said. “The whole team had some nerves (early in the game) but we knew that we had to do it, we had to do it and pick it up.”
And now the Falcons will have a chance to face bigger nerves and more competition in the next round. They face a Hull team that defeated them twice in the regular season in league play, each time by one goal. The Pirates won a 2-1 game in Mashpee and a 3-2 game on their home field.
They’ll square off on Tuesday, November 12, in Carver at 5 PM with a trip to the finals on the line.