Boys Soccer Cannot Hold On to 1-0 Lead Versus Exeter Squad; Rivalry Draw Keeps Big Blue Out of Post Season Tourney

The Andover Boys Soccer team took a 1-0 lead deep into the second half of its game against Exeter on Saturday, but it allowed a goal with nine minutes remaining. The game finished in a 1-1 draw. Though this result was not what Andover had hoped for, the team could be proud of the way it battled a talented Exeter squad. Captain Alex Clifford ’07 led the Andover offensive, netting the team’s only goal in the final game of his Andover career. John Gardner ’08 anchored Andover on defense, as he has done all season. He kept the team competitive by making several tremendous saves. Gardner encouraged teammates with his resiliency when he broke his finger mid-way through the second half but decided to finish the game. “Gardner played the game of his life,” said Sam Gould ’07. Andover supported Gardner’s steadfast play throughout the contest. The team came out of the gates playing with energy and aggressiveness. The game was hard-fought and competitive because the adrenaline was pumping equally hard for Exeter’s squad. Though the ball changed hands fairly frequently and both sides consistently had opportunities on goal, Andover seemed to have the upper hand on possession during the first forty-five minutes. Andover’s aggressiveness and hard work paid off with about seventeen minutes remaining in the first half. The referees called an Exeter player for a foul inside the goalie’s box and awarded Andover a penalty kick. Captain Clifford, Andover’s go-to shooter, took advantage of this opportunity. He lined up the ball and fired a low shot to the right side of the net. Exeter’s keeper started to his right, only to watch the ball zoom past him on the left. This goal gave Andover the 1-0 advantage. Andover continued to play hard for the rest of the half and took this lead into the break. The rhythm of the game changed in the second half, as Exeter adopted a more offensive strategy and Andover became more protective. Though Andover kept the intensity level high, it struggled at times on offense. “I don’t think, offensively, we ever found our flow,” said Coach Steve Carr. “In the second half, we tried to beat [the Exeter players] at their own game.” Andover typically focuses on possession, whereas Exeter plays direct, long-ball soccer. Andover was unable to beat PEA with its own strategy. While Andover used such long-ball attempts on offense, it focused on defense after the initial goal. This was a necessary strategy, but it was hard to maintain over a long stretch—two-thirds of the game. Though Andover’s energy was a key to its competitiveness, the players became somewhat fatigued in the second half. “We got tired in the second half,” said Carr. “We expended a lot of emotional energy [for the rivalry game].” With time winding down, Exeter continued to be aggressive as Andover became tired. It looked as though Andover might pull away with a win, but Exeter broke the silence with just nine minutes remaining. On the play, Exeter’s star ran down the field and picked up the ball close to the goal. He then passed to a taller player who sent the ball in to the top of the net and evened the score at one. The tie was frustrating, but the team had a good season regardless. “If you step back and look at the season, we had a good year,” said Carr. “The kids were great. They played hard and worked hard for each other.”