Almost right from the start, the crucial late-season match between FCIAC counterparts Fairfield Ludlowe and Brien McMahon didn't have the look of an offensive shootout.

The two postseason-hopefuls spent much of their time trading possession for possession and combined for just four shots--all of the low-percentage variety--for the first 40 minutes. Yet with the match still scoreless, Tony Samuelian, head coach of Ludlowe, knew what would dictate the final outcome.

"Right from the start it was like a 100-yard game," Samuelian said. "I told the kids at halftime it's just a fast break in basketball. That's what it was--just up the court and down the court. It was the team who was going to take advantage of a mistake and the team that was going to work the hardest."

Ultimately, neither team made many mistakes, but the Falcons did just what the Senators couldn't do: capitalize on a rare scoring chance near the net.

With just under 11 minutes remaining, Ludlowe's Catherine Rooney delivered the decisive strike. The senior midfielder controlled a loose ball following a throw-in, took a few dribbles inside the McMahon box and booted a low-lying shot inside the far post from 10 yards out, lifting the Falcons to a thrilling 1-0 victory on Tuesday.

"After a while, I just wanted to get it in the goal," Rooney said. "I hit a hard shot and tried to keep it on the ground. It just slipped through the goalie's hands."

Samuelian explained that the key to the Falcons' attack was their ability to spread out McMahon's defense by using the entire pitch.

"When we used the width of the field, we were fine," he said. "When we tried to McMahon's defense by using the entire pitch.

"When we used the width of the field, we were fine," he said. "When we tried to squeeze the ball down the center, you could see they were marking up our forwards and staying real tight to them."

Rooney's goal came just moments after McMahon goalkeeper Shagyne Samuels stonewalled one of Ludlowe's several scoring chances in the second half by diving to her left to block a blast from the edge of the box by Emily Matis. Samuels made four saves--all in the second half--but it still wasn't enough for the Senators (5-8), who must earn four points over their final three matches to qualify for the Class LL state tournament.

"It's frustrating to play that hard and to work that hard the whole game and not get the result. But that's the way soccer is," McMahon head coach Nicole Stockfisch said. "You can outplay someone and lose."

The Senators struggled to generate offense without their leading scorer, forward Shawnique Samuels, who was forced to sit out one match after accumulating three yellow cards throughout the season. The Senators were out-shot 9-7 and didn't muster many chances until late.

"It's a consequence everybody has to deal with and it hurt not to have her because you can tell we had trouble shooting, scoring, anything," Stockfisch said. "I knew her speed would have been tough to deal with up top."

Junior Bridget Clarke made two saves in net to earn Ludlowe's fifth shutout of the season.