WORCESTER — The Newton North girls’ soccer team took its 20-game unbeaten streak to Worcester State on Friday night to take on Minnechaug for the Division 1 state championship.
Make it 21.
The Tigers eked out a 1-0 win, ending the deadlock in the sixth round of penalty kicks as junior Katie Nugent placed her shot inside the right post for the winner. It was her first goal of the season.
“She saved it for a great time,” said Newton North coach James Hamblin. “She has been great all season. She’s one of those unsung hero type players. She just goes and does her work.”
Minnechaug (16-5-2) was the first team all year to hold Newton North (19-0-2) scoreless in regulation. Eleven minutes into the first half, a shot off of a Newton North corner was headed off the goal line by a Minnechaug defender. Five minutes later, a shot by senior forward Angela Ward hit the goal post.
“I didn’t know too much about them,” said Hamblin. “I was very impressed with them. Whenever they had the ball they were dangerous.”
Minnechaug, which won the state title in 2008, was quick in transition and put pressure on the Tigers’ defense. But as they have all season, the back line rose to the challenge and gave up only four shots on goal.
Three minutes into the second half, Ward beat her defender and played the ball up to senior Shannon Fitzgerald, who was unmarked and facing the goal. As the goalkeeper came out, Fitzgerald passed the ball to her right to junior Katie Thompson, who shot it into the open goal. But Thompson was called offsides and the goal was waved off.
Fitzgerald got another opportunity with under 20 minutes to go in regulation. She ripped a shot from the left sideline that was on target. Minnechaug’s goalie got a hand on it and the ball bounced off the crossbar.
“They frustrated us,’’ said Hamblin. “Not many teams can shut down Shannon and Angela and Katie [Thompson]. I think this is the first game this year that we haven’t scored in regular time.”
The 11 girls on the field for Newton North played every second of the 110-minute game. It’s surprising that any of them had enough left in them to take penalty kicks at the end.
Tigers senior goalkeeper Maddie Bledsoe made one save in the shootout and three other Minnechaug shots missed the frame.
But it took Nugent to cap the Tigers’ undefeated season.
“I just picked a side and didn’t change my mind,” said Nugent. “I wanted to do it for the seniors. They deserve it.”