Girls soccer: Lady Lawmen’s midfield key to success

It is easy to give credit where credit is due when discussing the 8-0-1 start to Jonathan Law’s girls soccer season.

Coach J.D. Rhode’s Lady Lawmen have scored 40 goals during this stretch.

Rhea Grant, Samara Thacker, Jocelyn Wirth and Grace Wooten have led the attack, spacing out the goals and assists.

Law, with Jillian Rice the keeper, has allowed only two goals this season.

Madison Butts, Morgan Macey and Abigail Bernstein excel in the defensive third.

Then there is the midfield, the area between the forwards and the defenders. It is where a fan might look away from the action, but it is where most games are decided.

“They are the engine,” Rhodes said of his midfielders. “We have a strong defense and an attacking offense. Midfield is what puts the two together.”

Taylor Kandrach, Gia Edwards, Cici Lopes and Kiana Walker provide the thread in Law’s winning tapestry.

“Taylor was our playmaker tonight,” Rhodes said after Law defeated Foran, 4-0 at the Vito DeVito Sports Complex last week. “She put the ball over the top deep and to the wings at their feet.

“We’ve played every team on our schedule once, but I was nervous coming here because our game with Foran is always a battle. Foran but the pressure on us. At halftime I told the girls to take a breathe and be more committed to playing passes to the foot.”

Molly Mercaldo, Skyler Sosa,  Michelle Montes and Katie Linn gave Law depth at midfield, as it looked to win every 50-50 ball.

Wootten went up on a crowd in front of Lion keeper Madeline Mitchell and took Grant’s pass and headed home the first of her two goals at the 24:57 mark of the first half.

“Being unbeaten keeps driving us,” Wooten said. “Roady (Coach Rhodes) gave us a pep talk at halftime. It was scary at first playing our rivals, but once the nerves went away we began to play our game.”

Rice and her backline faced a furious late bid to tie things, as Foran’s Ariana Montero, Hayley Byers, Anna Lee Melton, Yasmine Lingane, Dana Edmondson and Isabel Morales stayed on the attack.

“What I love about my time is they don’t put their heads down,” Foran coach Casey Blake said of her 3-3-3 Lions. “They stay focused and look to make the next play.”

Foran started eight underclassmen against Law.

Gabriella Muoio, Sara Portoff,  Maxine Lynch and Haley Marshall made up the backline.

Keying midfield play for the Lions were Mikayla Duhaime, Emily Kwalek, Tessa Malesky and Allison May.

Five minutes into the second half, Wirth rocketed a shot under the crossbar to take the score to 2-0.

Mitchell smothered the next chance, but Law kept coming and earned a corner at the 32-minute mark.

Edwards passed the ball to Wooten on her right, and the junior found nothing but net for a 3-0 advantage at 31:02.

Over the next three minutes, Foran came back.

Cassie Bennett, Mikayla Duhaime, Mya Wheeler, Gabriella Muoio and Tessa Malesky trapped at midfield and started the attack, only to see Law’s back three clear long passes or send others wide.

“We try not to get caught us in it (being unbeaten),” said Butts, who missed her junior season with a knee injury. “Morgan, Taylor and I (all team captains) look to keep everyone focused every practice doing the things we need to do.”

Makayla Mai accounted for the fourth goal when the sophomore found space on Law’s third corner of the game and tallied inside the far post with Foran’s Abigail Lucas in net with 6:45 remaining.

Law will visit Cheshire High Friday at 6 p.m. The Lady Lawmen defeated the Rams, 2-1, On Sept. 18.

Foran will host Guilford Friday at 5:45.

The Lions improved to 4-3-3 after Hayley Byers’ second-half goal gave them a 1-0 victory over Bunnell High in Stratford on Saturday. Mitchell had four saves and Lucas three.

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