CLAREMONT — From the opening whistle, this was a playoff-type game with intensity and aggressiveness coming from both sides.
A defensive battle lasted for over 60 minutes Thursday as the defending state champion Hopkinton girls soccer team was looking for revenge after falling to Stevens at home earlier in the season. These two evenly matched teams traded possession, shots and mostly midfield play until Loren Charron one-timed a cross over the middle of the field to give the Hawks all they would need on the night midway into the second half, paving the way for a 2-0 Hopkinton victory.
Neither team generated much offense on the night as Sydney Miller had company all night in the form of Hopkinton senior Eleanor Owen.
“My job tonight was to blanket Miller and not give her an inch. This is a team we really wanted to beat especially after we lost to them on our home field earlier this season,” said Owen.
The Cardinals had an advantage in spurts early but their shots were just off the mark. Ellee Grenier flew one over the cross bar from a Stella Lavertue pass while Tori Dalke’s offer was wide. Lavertue made a pretty flick from inside the box that drifted high as Stevens had opportunities that Hopkinton didn’t as the half ended 0-0.
Alexis Aiken was strong on defense for Stevens. She was all over the field from her center back position, making quick clears and hard passes to the wings. Tanner Brown and Sydney Miller were marked up in the center midfield by Caitlin Clark and her very aggressive play, and had little time to make plays.
Less than a minute after the Charron goal, the Hawks clinched the game off a corner that had eyes for a Hopkinton foot named Clark and a 2-0 win. Stevens mounted a counter attack but the Hawks headed to the corner to ice the game with possession, along with throw-ins from their knees to kill off the clock.
“We played a clean hard game tonight against a good Hopkinton club. We will get ready for our next opponent and look forward to getting on the practice field and getting back to work on Monday,” Stevens coach Tom Belaire said after the game.
“We really wanted to knock them from the undefeated and we did just that as we dominated the second half,” said Hopkinton coach Mike Zahn, who called his team a “second-half team” after they posed for a team photo in front of the goal.
The Cardinals record stands at 11-1-1. Stevens heads to win-less Monadnock next Tuesday while Hopkinton is 10-2 and travels to Somersworth (3-6-1).