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Poland upends Salem, 3-1

SALEM – The No. 9 Poland Bulldogs slowly and methodically took control of their Division III sectional match against the No. 5 Salem Quakers and eventually pulled away to claim a hard-fought 3-1 victory.

The Bulldogs, who improved to 14-2-1, now advance to face No. 8 Mogadore Field Monday night in Mogadore at 6 p.m. The Quakers close their season with a 16-3 record.

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

With the contest tied at 1-1, the Bulldogs came out of the locker room and raised their intensity for the second half. It resulted in them scoring twice in the first 23 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 forty 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,” senior Bella Milano said. “We didn’t want it to end yet. We didn’t want it to be our last game tonight.”

Milano led the way for the Bulldogs with two goals, her first tying 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.”

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,” Quakers’ coach Kent Paulini explained. “And then there 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.

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

After going down, Paulini thought that his team got too focused on trying to chase a goal.

“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.”

Salem’s Clara Double scored the Quakers’ 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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