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Poland downs Salem

SALEM — The ninth-seeded Poland Bulldogs slowly and methodically took control of their Division III sectional match with the fifth-seeded Salem Quakers and eventually pulled away to claim a hard-fought 3-1 victory.

The Bulldogs, who improve to 14-2-1 on the year, will play eighth-seeded Mogadore Field at 6 p.m. Monday.

The Quakers close their season with a 16-3 record.

“We knew it was going to be a big game. Between their record and they have fast girls up front. They have a good group of girls that are disciplined, and we knew we would have our work cut out for us,” Bulldogs coach Neil Huda said.

“I was confident that we would come out and win because when we play, we play hard and play like a family,” senior Bella Milano stated.

With the contest tied at 1-1, the Bulldogs came out of the locker room raising their intensity for the second half. That resulted in them scoring twice in the first twenty-three minutes of the half to pull away from the Quakers. Something the Bulldogs seniors discussed during the intermission.

“I told the seniors that they have 40 minutes to keep playing or end your season,” Huda said. “I said you need to pick up the intensity and it will get you to where you need to go.”

“We knew it could possibly be our last game,” Milano said. “We didn’t want it to end yet. We didn’t want it to be our last game tonight.”

“We knew it would be our last game if we didn’t keep up the pressure, so all of the girls really wanted to show that we wanted to keep going,” Bulldogs senior Syda Masucci added.

“We started off hot in the first fifteen minutes and we felt real comfortable,” Quakers’coach Kent Paulini remarked. “We were controlling things and then Poland just gradually pushed us back, and back, and back.”

Milano led the way for the Bulldogs with two goals, her first tieing the game at 1-1 at the 21:54 mark of the first half. A kick that she admits was a bit of a lucky bounce.

“The one that tied it was with my left foot,” Milano said with a chuckle. “I saw it go right for the corner and the keeper looked like she was about to get it, but it went through her hands.”

“Nice shot, very nice. She has a nice leg and she hits the ball well. She means a lot to our team,” Huda said.

But it was her second goal that proved to be the game-winner. It also ratcheted up the pressure on the Quakers who were not able to generate any offense in the second half.

“I had an open shot and I took it,” Milano said. “My dad always says to take a line of sight and do it. That’s what I did.”

“I think we lost some organization and panicked a little,” Paulini explained. “And then it was a snowball effect from there. You get in a situation like this with a tournament game against a good team like Poland, there is a little bit of panic then, and I could see by looking out at them.”

Masucci would seal the game away with her goal at the 17:08 of the second half. That goal gave the Bulldogs a two-goal advantage and allowed them to focus even more on keeping the Quakers bottled up on their half of the field.

“It felt nice. I don’t think it calmed down the team though, we knew we had to keep it going,” Masucci remarked.

“We tried to put something together where we could slow them down. So they wouldn’t get the ball through and by us. It worked out for the most part. The defense did a great job,” Huda remarked.

“I think we got so focused on chasing that goal, that we lost sight of the game plan,” Paulini admitted. “We focused on what play was as direct as possible. The way Poland is organized defensively, what our girls were trying to do just won’t work.”

The Quakers Clara Double scored their lone goal at the 34:54 mark of the game to give them an early lead. At that point, both teams were getting offensive rushes before the Bulldog’s defense started taking control.

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