LITCHFIELD — The St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover girls’ soccer team was forced to play a different style game in its 3-1 victory at Campbell High School on Tuesday.
In a battle between two of the top Division III teams, St. Thomas (10-1), which usually likes to play a more possession-based game, utilized its quick-strike ability on counterattacks to overwhelm the Cougars (9-2).
“I think they’re very dangerous,” St. Thomas coach Paul Marquis said of the Cougars. “They carried a lot of the play, I think, obviously ... We like to possess it and knock it around but it turned out where we just talked to the girls and said, ‘Let’s counter.’ We’ve got the ability and we’ve got some dangerous kids up on top that can play on that counter so that’s where went.”
The Saints opened the game’s scoring in the seventh minute, when senior Morgan Atwell scored on a low shot from the top of the box to finish a counter. Jaimie Murray gained possession just past midfield and dished a through-pass to Chelsea Cooper, who then found Atwell at the top of the box.
Atwell’s goal proved to be the only one of the first half, giving St. Thomas a 1-0 halftime lead.
“Getting that first goal really helped build up our momentum,” Cooper said. “I think it helped us (keep) that energy up and our team is really good when we come to the second half, so starting off that first half strong really helped us in the second half.”
The Saints turned another counter into a goal in the 64th minute, when Cooper scored on an impressive individual effort in the penalty box. The junior forward worked her way through two Cougars, cut back and ripped a shot that found the lower corner of the Campbell net.
“That’s what caught us with the first couple goals was the speed on the counter,” Campbell coach Kevin Brassard said. “They (the Saints) were kind of taking the abuse that we were providing and I think our midfielders did a great job of controlling the game. And then we were just kind of sloppy in the final third. They would get possession and counter quickly. Our defense is very, very strong — this is kind of a fluke thing for us — but that counter really got us.”
Campbell surrendered seven goals and earned four shutout victories over its first 10 games. St. Thomas took a 3-0 lead and became the first team to score three times on the Cougars in a single game on Ella Kuselias’ rebound goal in the 67th minute.
Kuselias’ first shot in the box bounced off the near post but she collected her own rebound and found the back of the net on her second try. Blanca Recoder found Kuselias in the box with a through-pass after getting the ball via a St. Thomas free kick.
Campbell responded with a flurry of offense over the final 10 minutes, which led to junior Karleigh Schultz’s goal that came after a corner kick with nine seconds remaining.
The Cougars had an 11-4 shots-on-goal advantage and drew five corner kicks to St. Thomas’ one. Ten of Campbell’s shots on goal came in the second half but only a few tested Saints goalkeeper Shelly Heim, who combined for 10 saves with starter Ava Perfilio.
Campbell sophomore goalie Bailey Bourque made one save.
The two teams will finish their regular-season schedules against each other on Oct. 24 in Dover.
“Going against a team that had the same record with us, we knew (Campbell) was going to be a good team, good competition so having this win over a team that’s pretty similar to us is really awesome,” Cooper said.