NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — McCann Tech girls soccer coach Mike Dowling looked across the field and saw the future.
"They were definitely better skilled passers," Dowling said after Norfolk Aggie defeated his Hornets, 4-0, in the state vocational tournament championship game on Thursday.
"I can see my young girls definitely being that way, hopefully in another ... year, year and a half. That's our scheme, too, except we had the bad traps and errant passes, where they were a little more finely tuned."
The visiting Rams (12-8) from Walpole scored twice in the game's second minute and three times in the first half on the way to winning the crown.
And while McCann (15-4-1) certainly will be gunning for a voc tournament title of its own in the distant future. The Hornets also have a near future to worry about: Saturday's Western Massachusetts Division 4 sectional opener against Pathfinder (11-5-2).
It will be McCann's third game in four days and its fourth game this year against the Pioneers.
You might say familiarity breeds contempt -- or at least fatigue -- but Dowling has another take on Saturday's rematch of Wednesday's voc tournament opener.
"I'm looking forward to playing Pathfinder again, believe it or not," Dowling said.
And that is not because McCann has a 3-0 record against Pathfinder this fall.
"We need some redemption from the last half we played against them," Dowling said. "I told the girls, that was probably one of our worst halves of soccer the whole season, especially coming toward the end of the season. They knew it, but I kind of laid into them.
"If we played yesterday like we did today, we would have really hammered Pathfinder, I think."
That alone says a lot about Norfolk Aggie, which got goals from four different players and held the Hornets to just two shots on goal and one corner kick on the day.
The game-winner came about a minute and a half in when Kourtney Costello centered the ball from the right wing and found Kelly Couite high on the right side of the 18-yard box. Couite used her left boot to drive the ball past McCann keeper Alexandria Wood and inside the far post.
A defensive breakdown allowed Norfolk's Gina Coote to sneak behind Wood and score unassisted just nine seconds later to make it 2-0.
McCann responded with a dangerous opportunity at the other end, but Monique Martel's free kick from just outside the 18 on the right wing was saved by the Rams' keeper in the third minute.
After a Dowling timeout, the Hornets settled in and played a fairly even first half, but Kim Sullivan scored for Norfolk Aggie from the top of the 18 with just less than 11 minutes left until half-time to take stymie the comeback bid.
The second half belonged to the Rams, who compiled a 7-1 edge in shots in the period. The lone goal of the half came midway through when Abby Ames broke through the middle of McCann's defense on a through ball and scored to provide the final margin.
Unlike most teams that lose post-season tournaments, the Hornets are far from done. Dowling said his team will need a different offensive approach on Saturday to keep their next post-season tourney appearance from being a short one.
"They know us, and we know them, so it's going to be a pretty familiar matchup," he said of the Pathfinder game. "If we can keep them off the scoreboard -- because they haven't scored against us yet -- that's probably our main focus.
"And maybe we'll have a few more offensive opportunities come Saturday because we were trying to be too cute [on Wednesday]. We had a couple of shots at the top of 18, and they didn't take 'em. Instead, they decided to pass. So we're going to work on focusing more on quantity of shots rather than quality of shots."