Broncos’ Goal in the final seconds hands Crusaders gut-wrenching loss

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MANCHESTER, NH – In a season marked by challenges and disappointments, this one was a gut punch.

Despite putting together one of its best all-around performances, the Manchester Memorial girls’ soccer team remained winless on the season, falling to Alvirne, 1-0, Thursday night, at Chabot McDonough Field.

Freshman Carissa Triolo came off the bench for the Broncos (5-4-3) to score the game-winning goal with just 15 seconds left in regulation. The score was set up when a long clearing pass by an Alvirne midfielder took a high bounce over the knee of Crusaders’ defender Ciara Banks. Triolo found herself unmarked, less than 10 yards from the net. She was able to put a solid foot on the ball and beat Memorial keeper Madison Weigler to the far side.

“It happens in sports. Sometimes you win with a bounce and sometimes you get beat by a bounce,” said Memorial Coach Nick Gardner. “We played our brand of soccer. We played hard.”

The loss spoiled a spectacular effort by Weigler , Banks and the entire Memorial defense. Weigler finished with nine saves and had been vying for her first shutout of the season. As a team, Memorial (0-10-2) had allowed less than two goals in a game just one other time this season, a 1-1 tie with Spaulding.

“(Weigler) is having an all-star season,” said Gardner. “I may be a little biased but I haven’t seen a better high school keeper this season.”

Weigler was solid throughout the game but came up especially big over the final 10 minutes. Twice she robbed Alvirne forward Hannah Sellingham. The first came on a leaping punch save on a blast by Sellingham from about 15 yards out. The second came when Weigler raced to her left and barely beat Sellingham to a dangerous loose ball.

Ironically, Sellingham was pulled from the game after tumbling to the ground awkwardly in the collision with Weigler and was replaced by Triiolo with just over six minutes left in regulation.

At the other end of the field, Manchester Memorial was controlling play for much of the second half but was unable to break through against Alvirne keeper Paige McKinney (8 saves). Led by senior captains Paige Thibault and Sarah DeVillers, along with Julia Filep, the Crusaders’ midfielders dominated play for long stretches. The pressure led to three second-half corners, but Memorial was unable to finish.

One of Memorial’s best scoring chances came off a rush by Thibault, who found forward Autumn Pelletier about 10 yards in front of the net. Pelletier settled the ball and ripped a blast, which was blocked by Broncos’ sweeper Jaime O’Conner. The ball wound up back on the foot of Pelletier, who fired again, only to have it blocked again by O’Conner. The second block was square in the abdomen and doubled over the senior.

Later, Filep nearly broke the tie on a direct kick from inside 15 yards. She softed a soft arc over the Alvirne wall, but her shot grazed over the top of the crossbar.

Memorial will be back in action Thursday, when it plays host to Exeter. Game time is 6 p.m.