RACHEL — North Marion had completely upended the tenor of Tuesday’s showdown with rival Fairmont Senior at Roy Michael Field. The Lady Huskies had severely overtaken the possession advantage, they were peppering the goal with attacks, and they had thoroughly gobbled up the game’s momentum and pushed Fairmont Senior back on its heels following an opening 15-minute blitz by the Lady Polar Bears.
But with seven minutes left and Fairmont Senior clinging to a 3-2 lead, the Huskies were dealt a painful reminder of reality, just in case they had forgotten from the game’s first 15 minutes: The Lady Polar Bears had Adaline Cinalli and they didn’t.
Cinalli, who erupted with a three-goal extravaganza in the first 18 minutes of action, simply wouldn’t permit the Polar Bears to concede what was once a 3-0 lead as, in the 73rd minute, she found a pocket of open space and leaped to connect on a corner kick entry from teammate Sidney Greene to put in a header goal and cinch what wound up as a 6-2 Fairmont Senior victory.
“In another game we did that same thing,” Cinalli said of the set piece score, “and, how do I put it, I just got myself underneath the ball and put it in the net.”
The score, which was quickly followed up by insurance goals from Emma Hedrick and Seneca Arbogast, was the coda to what was a storybook, four-goal night for Cinalli, who cemented her status as a rising sophomore star for the Lady Polar Bears.
“Oh, Addie was lights out. That girl is phenomenal, is she not,” Fairmont Senior coach Jeff King said. “That girl is all business — very seldom does she even crack a smile — she’s all business; she’s got a high motor, she goes all out all the time...I just love watching her play.”
Cinalli eviscerated North Marion’s defense with a dazzling display of technical ability, uncanny knack for the ball, and pure hustle as she found the back of the net in the 3rd, 16th, 18th and 73rd minutes to spearhead the Fairmont Senior (11-2-1) victory. And Cinalli’s goals weren’t simply run-of-the-mill stuff either, they were the first edits of a highlight mix tape, with the most spectacular single snippet coming in the 16th minute when she ducked low and redirected a chip pass by Karter King into the 18-yard box for an incredible header goal.
“That one when I hit it off the back of my head, I didn’t know I could do that,” Cinalli said. “That’s the one that stood out to me.”
Cinalli sandwiched that goal in between two others, one in which she just beat North Marion goalkeeper Abby Masters to a through ball and another in which she froze a charging Masters with a spicy hesitation move before converting against the open net. The quick-strike hat trick by Cinalli had the Polar Bears’ offense rolling despite playing without star midfielder/forward Tricia Lemasters.
“We controlled the ball and went on the attack, and we attacked really well,” King said. “We had good overlaps, our triangles were holding up well, our passing was good, and our lanes were open.”
The Polar Bears pummeled the right flank early with synergistic passing and movement, especially between the trio of Cinalli, Arbogast and sophomore Kate Gribben, to burst out to its 3-0 lead, and if would’ve been more if not for several high-wire saves from Masters, who tallied four of her five saves in the first half.
But North Marion (6-7-2), a squad whose play has revolved around a swarming, ceaselessness all year long, didn’t fold. The Huskies beefed up their backline with an extra defender, perked up their pressure in the midfield, and hit Fairmont Senior with a wave of attacks that featured senior star speedster Karlie Denham.
“We changed defenses from a three-person defense to a four-person defense and that helped us stop the bleeding for a little bit, and then we made better passing to our forwards “ said Nelson Elliott. North Marion coach. “When we were playing really well, we had really good passes to the forwards and then we took the ball out of the air better than we have all year long.”
North Marion got one back to make it a 3-1 game in the 22nd minute when freshman Caroline Furbee scored on a set piece after she followed up a first touch on an NMHS corner kick to bop one home. The Huskies were back in it, and over the next 40 or so minutes of action, they built up the bulk of their 20-13 shot advantage as they dictated the game on their own terms.
Fairmont Senior goalkeeper Rebecca Cox, who was spectacular with 11 saves, including seven in the second half, kept the Polar Bears’ two-score lead in tact as she fended off a slew of NMHS shot attempts, including a couple in which she was in a 1-on-1 stare down with Denham. But in the 64th minute, the inevitably of the threat posed by Denham, finally broke Fairmont Senior’s defense when NMHS freshman Allie Bleigh played an excellent through ball to Denham on the left flank who let loose with a long and lofted shot that sailed over Cox and into the net’s far corner to slice the margin to 3-2.
“In the beginning, we did not do anything different than what we normally do (against Denham); we ran our standard formation and it worked for a while,” King said. “But she’s just such a phenomenal player that you can’t forget about her; she started playing really well, so we went into a formation where we just started marking her, but she still got out of the mark.
“So we ended up just going back to our standard formation and attacking again. If we kept the ball on our end of the field, then we didn’t really have to worry about her (on the other end).”
The shift back to an aggressive style of play revived Fairmont Senior’s tic-tac-toe attacks that punctured North Marion’s defense for the first 20 minutes. And once the Polar Bears got back to their game, their breakout star of the night got back to hers, with Cinalli’s fourth and final goal in the 73rd minute serving as the dagger North Marion just couldn’t overcome.