HOCKESSIN — Julianna Witherell bookended Archmere’s soccer game against Saint Mark’s on April 8 with the first and last goals, the second of which came in the last minute of play to lift the Auks past the Spartans, 4-3, in a thrilling contest at Hockessin Soccer Club.
Witherell scored in the fifth minute, with Saint Mark’s Emma Manley answering in the eighth, and that was all of the scoring in the first half. But the teams would break out the fireworks in the second.
The Auks put the pressure on the Spartans early in the second, with a crossing pass by Witherell redirected by Lyla Bell, only to be deflected over the end line by Saint Mark’s goalkeeper Marissa Cirillo. That led to a pair of Auks corner kicks, the second of which was caught by Cirillo.
The Spartans’ first good chance of the half also resulted from a corner, as Katie Lennon headed the inbounds pass just high. The Spartans took the momentum after that, but a free kick and another shot both sailed high, and another free kick, this one from Hannah Schepers, caught by Archmere keeper Gabriela Fernandez.
The next corner belonged to the Auks, and this time they connected. The inbounds pass went into the 6-yard box, and Marina Mahon eventually found the loose ball and tapped it home for the 2-1 lead.
Saint Mark’s just missed the equalizer on three separate occasions, and the Auks made them pay. An Auks player was fouled about 35 yards from the net, and Emma Gioffre took the free kick and drilled it by the wall and inside the far post to increase the lead to 3-1 in the 63rd minute.
The Spartans got one of those back just three minutes later. They played a loose ball around Fernandez, and Lily Phillips sent a left-footed shot into the open net to cut the deficit in half. They kept the pressure on and nearly tied on a shot that missed the right post by inches about two minutes after the goal. After that, a header from Kayleigh Brady was just wide.
Phillips struck again, tying the game in the 72nd minute. She collected a long outlet pass, took a few steps toward Fernandez, then let a shot go that caught the underside of the crossbar and bounced into the net.
Cirillo kept the game tied with a pair of saves in the waning minutes, including one where she reached up and punched the ball over the net. The winning goal began with a free kick from about 40 yards out. It landed deep in the 18-yard box, where Gioffre was able to keep Cirillo from grabbing it. Gioffre carried the ball outside the box, turned and lofted a pass toward Witherell. She redirected it toward the goal, and the ball appeared to bounce off a Spartans defender and into the net.
The Auks outshot the Spartans, 9-7, and had a 9-2 advantage in corner kicks. Fernandez had four saves. Archmere improved to 5-1-1 and hosts Newark Charter on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.
Cirillo stopped five Auks shots. The Spartans (4-1) are home on Monday against Sanford for a 3:45 p.m. start.
All photos by Mike Lang.