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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Despite an outstanding performance in net by freshman goalkeeper Mackenzie O’Neil (11 saves), the Wellesley High girls varsity soccer team dropped a heartbreaker to Bay State Conference rival Natick on Thursday evening at Sprague Field.
O’Neil and the Raiders were able to keep the Redhawks off the scoreboard for the majority of the first half, but Natick responded with two late goals to enter the half up 2-0.
The Raiders came flying out of the gates offensively in the second half in an attempt to cut into the Natick lead. It was Natick, however, who found the back the net next, as the Redhawks were able to extend their lead to 3-0 following a strike from just inside the box.
Despite being down by three goals late in the second half, the Raiders never gave up and made a valiant effort to net a goal before the final whistle. Senior Katie Walsh had arguably the best chance of the afternoon for the Raiders late in the second half with a point blank shot from just outside the left post. The Natick keeper made an incredible sprawling save, however, and knocked the ball away with her hand to preserve the shutout for the Redhawks.
“We started out well and we finished well,” said Wellesley head coach Michelle Cook. “The skill is absolutely there and you could see that there was a fight in our group, we just need to find a way to string together a full 80 minutes, today just wasn’t our game.”
Cook also praised the effort of her young goalkeeper Mackenzie O’Neil following the tough defeat.
“She’s awesome,” said Cook. “There were a lot of times today where she made some big saves and bailed us out of some tough situations, but when your opponent gets that many scoring chances throughout a game there is only so much that she can do.”
“Mackenzie’s only a freshman, but you can tell that she is a real leader on this team. When Mackenzie yells to her teammates from the net to get back and cover a certain area of the field, they always listen and do what she says. She understands the game extremely well and she’s only going to get better this year and in years to come.”