One of the most remarkable turnaround seasons in EMass sports continued yesterday morning at Manning Field in Lynn.
The Austin Prep girls’ soccer team, which started the season not having made an MIAA tournament appearance in 14 years, edged Georgetown, 1-0, to claim the Division 4 North crown.
The Cougars will face Ursuline Tuesday (5 p.m.) at Quincy’s Veterans Stadium for the EMass championship. Austin Prep now stands at 17-1-3, a far cry from its 3-9-2 season in 2012.
In her third season as coach, Austin Prep’s Jessica Chiachio has the Reading school in uncharted territory.
“I knew early on in the season that we were playing well together as a team, and that was a good sign,” Chiachio said. “It wasn’t about individual players for us.”
Her team’s steady playmaking was put to the test in the first half Sunday, when Georgetown’s defense slowed the game to a near standstill. The ball barely left the middle of the field, and the goaltenders on both ends were forced to stand and stare.
“I noticed [Georgetown] was playing really tight on us,” Chiachio said. “We weren’t able to use our speed. We weren’t able to play our game, so in the second half, we pushed our players outside.”
The game seemed bound for overtime and a shootout, but Austin Prep finally ended the impasse.
With 29:17 left in the second half, Cougars senior midfielder Madison Shaw , on a free kick, produced a beautiful bending goal. Her shot arced its way over the defense and found the top right corner.
“Her shot is so perfect,” Chiachio said of Shaw.
“There’s such accuracy. I was sure we had that goal once it hit the top corner. We knew going into the game that it would take just one goal. I said to the team, ‘That’s all it will take.’ ”
The Cougars had a chance for some security a few minutes later when Allyson Braciska found open room in the middle, but her shot clanged off the crossbar.
Ursuline 1, E. Bridgewater 0 (PK) — As the ball left Katherine Lynch’s foot and sailed into the lower right corner of the net, the East Bridgewater players stood shocked while the Ursuline girls’ soccer team sprinted to Lynch and into elation.
The junior midfielder’s penalty kick gave the seventh-seeded Bears the 1-0 win (4-3 in penalty kicks) and the sectional title.
“I said it was our turn to shine,” said Ursuline coach John Forte, noting that the Bears have never made it this far.
After 100 minutes of scoreless action at Taunton High, including 20 minutes of sudden victory, the teams went into penalty kicks.
The top-seeded Vikings (17-3-2) led 2-1 after two rounds as Mackenzie Vlachos and Sarah Lofstrom converted shots to the lower right corner.
But after another attempt sailed high, Ursuline took advantage as Katherine Cavanaugh and Bridget McAdams scored to make it 3-3. In the fifth round, a shot rolled just left of the goal for East Bridgewater, setting up Lynch’s goal.
“This year, we really worked hard towards the end of the season, once we knew we made the tournament, at PKs,” Forte said.
During regulation and overtime, the Vikings dominated the possession, but could not sneak one past goalie Niamh Hynes. The junior repeatedly kept Ursuline alive, finishing the day with 13 saves.