The Bears headed to Wilbraham & Monson Academy on Wednesday for their quarter-final match in New England Prep School Soccer Association Championship tournament. The game was a re-match as the teams met back in September with Wilbraham taking a 2-1 victory away from the Bears.
The home side came out strong in this match as well and pushed the visiting Bears early and were able to convert a scoring chance to take a 1-0 lead four minutes into the match. Berkshire quickly settled in and responded well to the opening goal, advancing into the offensive half and creating a number of chances including a sequence that included four consecutive corner kicks. The Bears leveled the score in the 16th minute, when freshman Eliza Stichter made a great run and drew a foul in the opposing team's box resulting in a penalty kick. The freshman showed poise beyond her age and stepped up and drilled a ball into the side netting even the match.
The score remained 1-1 for most of the remainder of the half with the teams trading chances and both goaltender making some excellent plays. With under three minutes to play in the opening session, Wilbraham built an attack down the left side which pulled the Berkshire line over and left Wilbraham's leading scorer unmarked inside the six yard box. She made no mistake with the incoming cross and confidently headed it into the top corner for a 2-1 lead. That score would not last long as just over two minutes later, Wilbraham would strike again when a Berkshire defender mis-touched a ball that led to a breakaway which the Wilbraham striker would finish with under a minute to play in the half.
Down 3-1 at the half the Bears regrouped, changed formation, called on their previous experiences of having to come back and rallied with authority. In the opening minutes the Bears' generated a number of chances including a shot which hit the cross bar and a breakaway which was stopped by an excellent save by Wilbraham's goalie. 13 minutes into the half, Berkshire broke through when leading scorer Keunna Dill was finally able to beat her mark and got in alone on the keeper and finished the play to bring the Bears within one. The goal sent a jolt through the Berkshire side, and feeling a renewed opportunity to climb their way back into the game they kept the pressure on. 62 minutes into the match, junior winger Jackie Pape, who played the best match of her career, won a ball and sent a great ball in over the defensive back line. Wilbraham's defenders were caught flat, and Keunna's pace proved too much as she got in alone again and beat the keeper to level the score.
With the score now tied with under 20 minutes to play Wilbraham pushed forward hard. Berkshire's backline did a nice job to keep the threats neutralized and when anything dangerous materialized junior keeper Camryn Biasin quickly thwarted the attack, showing why she is being regarded as one of the top keepers in the league. The aggressive push forward by Wilbraham left space in the back and at the 73 minute mark, Hannah Cooke won a ball a sent Dill in again. The Wilbraham defenders and keeper made an excellent effort to shut her down, but she would not be stopped calmly jumped the diving keeper and followed the ball into the goal for a hat-trick and her team leading 18th goal of the season.
From there the Bears took on a defensive shape and held up well. Camryn Biasin successfully controlled a number of corner kicks and the Berkshire line did an outstanding job of making the necessary clears to secure the 4-3 comeback victory.
It was an outstanding effort by both sides and the match was a demonstration of what makes prep school soccer great. The Bears had a number of great efforts up and down their line-up and will look to carry that second half momentum into their semifinal match against the Rivers School which is scheduled for 2pm on Saturday at Rivers.