High schools

GIRLS’ SOCCER STATE SEMIFINALS

Westford Academy outduels King Philip to reach Div. 1 final

 Brockton, MA: 11-14-17: Westford's Meline Almasian (left) beats King Philip's Avery Snead (center) and Makayla Griffin (right) to the ball in first half action. Westford took on King Philip in the Division One Girl's State Soccer Semi-Finals at Brockton High School. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Westford Academy’s Meline Almasian (left) beats King Philip's Avery Snead (center) and Makayla Griffin (right) to the ball in the first half of the Grey Ghosts’ 2-1 victory in the Div. 1 state semifinals Tuesday in Brockton.

When Mary Cadogan received a through ball on the right flank in the 64th minute, she almost couldn’t believe how much space the King Philip defense allowed her.

A clear shot on goal awaited the junior midfielder, but she surprised the entire Marciano Stadium crowd, squaring across the 6-yard box. That’s where senior forward Katherine Pawlak waited to tap home the game-winner for Westford Academy in 2-1 win over the D1 South champion Warriors in Brockton.

The Grey Ghosts (17-1-2), winners of the D1 North sectional, will play Wachusett in the girls’ soccer state title game, their first time ever reaching such a stage.

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“There are so many seniors on this team, and we’ve all been on the same travel team growing up,” said Pawlak, also a swimmer and short-distance sprinter. “We made it to the state championship when we were little and won, and it was a huge deal then.

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“It’s an even bigger deal now, so it’s going to be amazing to hopefully share it again with these girls.”

Before Pawlak’s game-winner, sophomore striker Alexandria Giovino opened the match by ripping a 20-yard strike into the top corner in the 26th minute. A failed clearance fell to Giovino, and she wasted no time in catching senior goalkeeper Emma Durant off guard.

“We wanted that [first goal] so badly, and it was in the game plan,” said Westford head coach Tracy Capone. “If we could score first and put them on their heels, take some of the momentum, then we could ride that.”

Heading into the game, Capone said their game plan was to neutralize King Philips sophomore forward duo of Avery Snead and Chloe Layne.

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That worked to some degree, though Snead headed home an equalizer in the 39th minute off a corner kick at the back post. Outside of that, senior goalkeeper Emma O’Sullivan enjoyed a relatively quiet night in goal for Westford.

“The back line for them held, and we made one big mistake in the last 20 minutes of the game,” said Warrior head coach Gary Pichel, whose team finished 20-2-2. “We paid for that, but I just told the kids how we had an outstanding year. We were one game away.”

Division 2 South

Medway 2, Notre Dame (Hingham) 1 — Thanks to heroic efforts from junior goalkeeper Samantha Murray amongst others, the Medway girls’ soccer team is heading to a third consecutive Division 2 state final.

After a 100-minute battle in Tuesday’s D2 South final at Taunton High, the Mustangs headed to a penalty shootout tied with No. 5 Notre Dame Academy, 1-1. Nothing could separate these teams once again, as the first nine penalties hit the back of the net, but on Notre Dame’s fifth attempt, Murray dove to her right early and came up with a game-winning save to seal a 2-1 victory for second-seeded Medway.

“I saw [NDA forward Olivia Mucci] look a little too long at one of the corners so I assumed she was trying to throw me off,” said the Providence College-bound Murray of her final save. “I went to the right and was really lucky that she decided to go that way.”

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Medway (17-2-2) will face Danvers (18-2-1) in the D2 state championship at a time and location to be determined.

In the 52nd minute, Medway broke a scoreless tie on a counter attack, as junior midfielder Audrey Cobb played a perfect ball to the feet of senior forward Meg Downing, who buried it to put the Mustangs ahead.

Emma Tucker, of Marshfield, electrified Cougars fans with an equalizing goal on a volley from 25 yards out in the 60th minute, and nearly scored a few minutes later, but Meghan Foley came flying in for the Mustangs to clear the ball off their line and preserve the 1-1 tie.

Once they got Notre Dame (15-5-2) into penalties, the Mustangs had full confidence that their goalie would get it done.

“I knew Sam [Murray] was going to make a save,” said Medway coach Jason Rojee. “She’s such a leader back there and probably the best goalie to come through this town.

“This is now our third state championship appearance in a row. It’s time to come home with a win.”

Division 3

Archbishop Williams 3, Newburyport 2 — In hotly-contested, back-and-forth affair, Makenzie Heath scored a pair of goals, including tie-breaking tally on a penalty kick in the fading seconds of the first half, as the Bishops clinched a Div. 3 state semifinal victory over Newburyport at Manning Field in Lynn.

With both sides collectively trading five scores, the match proved to be a measure of which team could sustain its offensive prowess.

Heading into halftime with a 3-2 advantage, the Bishops (20-1-2) held on to their slim margin down the stretch to advance to the state championship game.

“I said it on August 24th when we had 60 girls try out,” coach Gordie McClay said. “I said, 20 of you are going to be playing in November for a state championship. I really believed it then, and I think they believe it now.”

The Clippers (16-4-3) broke through first with senior forward Colleen Byron capitalizing on deep cross to produce a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute.

Shrugging off a slow start, the Bishops evened it up 15 minutes later.

Insufficient clearances in Newburyport’s defensive third proved fatal for the Clippers, allowing junior Aoife Delaney to deliver Chigozie Sumani a header scoring opportunity. The Bishops rode that momentum and took a 2-1 lead in the 27th minute, when Heath, a junior set-piece specialist, rifled in a free kick from 30 yards out.

“I look towards the corners because I know some goalies can’t get there,” Heath said. “I just did my best to pick my spot and not shoot it over.”

Offensive pressure continued from both sides as the break neared. A lofted midfield ball in the 32nd proved overwhelming for Bishops’ senior keeper Kaylee Walsh, who fumbled on the collect. Newburyport sophomore midfielder Christine Good was nearby for an easy tap-in equalizer, making it 2-2.

The Bishops’ final breakthrough came in the fading seconds of the first frame as Sumani chased a through ball deep into enemy territory.

A failed clearance attempt in the box by Clippers senior keeper Jennifer Stuart took Chigozie Sumani out. Heath stepped up for the penalty kick, and calmly side-footed home the set-piece winner.

“I have confidence in myself to knock it in, and I have confidence in my teammates behind me to support me,” Heath said. “It was a great game.”

Division 4

Millis 2, Amesbury 1 — Lexi Vaillancourt, a calming presence at center back for the Millis girls’ soccer team,moved up to forward and scored the winning goal for the Mohawks (16-2-2) in stoppage time of their double overtime Div. 4 state semifinal victory against Amesbury in Lynn.

“We had a whole strategy mapped out,” said Millis coach Steve Bailen. “We saw that [Amesbury] was sitting back quite a bit and we wanted to capitalize on that.”

Millis, which last won a state title in 2009, will face Central sectional champion Millbury (13-4-5), which defeated West champion Granby, in Saturday’s Div. 4 championship.

Amesbury (16-6-1) went up 1-0 in the 32nd minute.

After receiving a pass from senior midfielder Ashley Pettet about 35 yards from goal, junior midfielder Emma DiPietro lofted a high, arcing shot that snuck over the head of the Millis keeper, senior Caileen Adams.

Millis got the equalizer in the 62nd minute. After several minutes of sustained pressure, the Mohawks earned a corner from the left side. Freshman Jordyn Ferrantino scored directly off the corner, beating Amesbury sophomore goalie Allison Napoli. It was the Indian’s first conceded goal in the postseason.

Millis had several chances in the closing minutes of the second half, but couldn’t prevent a golden goal overtime. The game looked like it was headed for PKs, but Vaillancourt’s stoppage time winner pulled the Mohawks through in the second frame of sudden-death OT.

“They won a lot of 50-50s,” Vaillancourt said of Indians. “They put the pressure on.”

Bailen said his side can hit another gear in Saturday’s championship game.

“I thought the girls played well today,” Bailen said afterward. “But I’ve seen them play better.”

Matt MacCormack
The Millis girls’ soccer team (16-2-2) is on to the Divison 4 state championship against Central section champ Millbury (13-4-5).

Ethan Schroeder and Matt MacCormack reported from Lynn, Nate Weitzer from Taunton.