High schools

MIAA GIRLS’ SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIPS

Girls’ soccer championships: Runnels delivers Danvers D2 title in PKs

MATT MACCORMACK
Millis players celebrate their 1-0 win over Millbury in the Division 4 girls’ soccer final Saturday morning at Worcester State College.

Lydia Runnels approached the keeper’s box to take the seventh penalty kick for Danvers in Saturday’s Division 2 state championship at Fitchburg State University’s Elliot Field.

At the referee’s whistle, the senior midfielder lurched forward, approaching the ball head-on. With a quick curl of her left foot, Runnels twisted a shot past the outstretched hands of Medway junior keeper Samantha Murray, and the Falcons claimed their first state title in program history, 3-2, in penalty kicks.

“This group’s really special,” coach Jim Hinchion said. “We wanted this for us, but we also wanted it for everyone who’s put on the Blue and White jersey.”

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Scoring occurred early and often. Medway freshman forward Heather Scheid struck first with an opening tap-in, but Danvers (19-2-1) netted the equalizer only a minute later, senior forward Hannah Lejeune slotting home a rebound off her own penalty kick.

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Medway (17-3-2) once again claimed the advantage in the 34th minute, the product of a bending free kick from senior midfielder Abigail Murphy.

However, the Falcons’ persistence would not be denied, despite trailing well into the final minutes of regulation. Danvers’s fast-break attack continued to threaten, and paid off when sophomore Abby Cash set up a successful Riley Baker one-timer in the 76th minute.

Division 1

Wachusett 2, Westford 1 — For 103 minutes at Fitchburg State University, Westford Academy locked horns with Wachusett Regional through two halves of regulation and two overtime periods.

 In the end it was two set-piece connections between Wachusett sisters Trish and Monica Pallotta that ended the Grey Ghosts’ run for a first state title in program history. Trish, a junior, served up a 30-yard free kick in the 57th minute and a corner kick in the second overtime, both of which Monica, a senior, converted to bring Wachusett its first state championship since 2001.

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 “They’re really special players, and they have a connection as sisters,” Wachusett coach David Gentleman said.

 The Mountaineers (19-0-4) came back from a 1-0 deficit after Westford (17-2-2) struck first just two minutes after the halftime intermission.

 The scorer was none other than senior Katherine Pawlak — who scored the winners in Westford’s Division 1 North final and the state semifinal. This time, Pawlak managed to get a foot on a shot that was initially saved by Wachusett keeper Emma Hickey.

 After Monica Pallotta’s first goal, Westford was mostly quiet until the second overtime period. In the 98th minute, Pawlak almost continued her game-winning ways on a corner kick, but her shot ricocheted off the outside of the left post.

 “We were down in their end almost the entire time,” Westford coach Tracy Capone said of the second overtime period. “Couple of corner kicks and hit the post. You know, it’s a game of inches, and we were hitting the wrong side of the inch I guess.”

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 Though the Grey Ghosts’ dream run stopped just one game short of a state title, Capone was quick to highlight all her team had accomplished this year.

 “We knew we had a special team, we knew we had a special group, and that we could approve upon last year,” Capone said. “And they did it. I mean, every game we won, and the further we got in the tournament, it was just building momentum.”

Division 3

Sutton 4, Archbishop Williams 1 — Defensive cogs Naomi Falkenberg (senior goalie) and Bridgette Donovan (junior center back) exited in the first half with injuries, but the Suzies (21-1-2) rallied behind three second-half goals from senior Kate Evangeline at Worcester State for their second state title in four years, and eighth overall, but first in D3.

“This is what you dream about,” said eighth-year coach David Payne, teary eyed after earning his second championship. “They all had to find something extra today.”

Senior winger Sarah Hicks scored 10 minutes into the game and Evangeline extended the margin in the second half before senior Chigozie Sumani scored the lone goal for the Bishops (20-2-2) in the closing moments.

In the 10th minute, freshman midfielder Sarah Beachman slid a crafty through ball on the right side and Hicks calmly finished for a 1-0 lead.

In a span of 10 minutes, Donovan exited with a leg injury, and Falkenberg left after a collision with Catholic Central League MVP Asiah Dingle, a senior striker for Archies. Senior winger Kara Bratlie moved into net.

“They already had it in their head how to take care of Kara, which is different than how we’d play for Naomi,” Payne said.

“We gave them a couple opportunities and they capitalized on them,” said Archies coach Gordie McClay. “It kind of took the wind out of our sails a little bit.”

Division 4

Millis 1, Millbury 0 — The Mohawks capitalized on their opportunity at Worcester State to capture the school’s second state title — and first since 2009.

Millis (17-2-2) took the lead less than a minute into the second half. Freshman midfielder Jordyn Ferrantino hit the crossbar on a thunderous shot from 30 yards and senior forward Kaylee Francis pounced on the loose ball at the right post, banging home the winner.

“It kind of deflected a little bit,” Francis said, a state champion medal dangling around her neck.

“I kind of just ran through the ball and it went in.”

Central champ Millbury (13-5-5) nearly netted the equalizer in the 65th minute. Jennifer Diamond hit the crossbar from 30 yards, but no Woolies could get a foot on the rebound before it was scooped up by Millis sophomore goalie Caileen Adams.

Millis coach Steve Bailen said his team’s execution on each of the crossbar-contact situations was the difference in the game.

“We’ve been practicing these crossing drills since early on in the season,” Bailen said.

“We capitalized and that was it.”

Millbury was seeking a third straight state title after winning Division 3 in each of the past two years. The Woolies were senior center back Caitlyn Wilbur, who left with an injury in Millbury’s 2-1 win over West champ Granby in the state semifinals.

“Two teams, well fought,” said Millbury coach Hussein Issa.

“One got a bounce, one didn’t get a bounce.”

Matt MacCormack reported from Worcester State.