At the moment, the Wellesley boys’ and Natick girls’ soccer teams have a lot in common.
The Bay State Conference programs did not receive high seeds in their respective South brackets — credit their challenging conference and nonconference slates — but have found a way to be playing on the final day of the season.
On Saturday, the Raider boys and Redhawk girls will be at Manning Field in Lynn, playing for a Division 1 championship.
Fueled by Bay State Carey MVP Oskar Haeberlein, Wellesley (15-3-2) has won 13 straight games to earn a title shot against perennial West power Ludlow (19-0-3) at 4 p.m. On 7-0-1 run, Natick (15-2-5) has followed the lead of senior Abby Gerdes to the state final, and a matchup against defending champion Wachusett (19-1-2).
In Wednesday night’s state semifinals in Lynn, Haeberlein netted a hat trick in Wellesley’s 3-0 win over Lincoln-Sudbury. That was shortly after Gerdes scored the lone goal on the same field in a 1-0 win over Brookline.
“It feels like a dream,” Haeberlein said after that win over L-S.
On Thursday, he recalled that he was too nervous in previous tourney games against Weymouth and Needham.
“[Coach Tim Mason] kept telling me to relax, he could see that I was playing nervous,” Haeberlein said. “Eventually I got in a groove though and the last two games have been great.”
He also scored the winner in Monday’s South final against BC High.
“He’s very versatile and smart,” said Mason. “He’s someone where, if we spot a weakness, we can move him around and he’s not fazed. We play him at forward, at midfield.”
Haeberlein’s success this season — he has a team-leading 10 goals and 11 assists — has not been a surprise to either player or coach. He just needed more playing time.
A year ago, with All-American Ryan Clare up front, Haeberlein was more of a rotational player.
“With [Clare and other seniors] moving on, it’s opened up space,” Mason said. “He did a great job of learning from them last year, and he had great understanding that it wasn’t quite his time yet. And now he’s taken it on and he’s able to execute.”
Haeberlein said he “wanted to come in this year and show what I could do,” after the starting role opened up.
Before the Raiders rattled off 13 straight wins, they were 2-3-2 after a Sept. 27 loss to Needham.
“The games that we lost were by one goal,” Mason said. “It wasn’t panic status. It seemed worse than it was. We did change formation after that Needham game, and I think mentally that gave the boys something else to focus on.
“We really lacked a lot of confidence as an attacking group. It just took us a while to get in the swing of things, and that mental change gave them a big boost.”
At Natick, Abby Gerdes (26 goals) has carved a similar path through the season and tournament. She scored a hat trick in the South semis, a key goal in the South final, and the only goal in the state semifinals.
“She’s been a natural scorer for us,” said Natick first-year coach Dave Wainwright. “She did it during the regular season, and she’s really stepped it up in the tournament.
“We wouldn’t be here without her.”
Gerdes has embraced tough, high-stakes games all season.
Back in October, she said “I think we learn how to work with each other better in high pressure games . . . you adjust to where you need to be before tournament.”
And after Wednesday’s semifinal victory, she reveled in a game with so much on the line.
“I love high-stress games,” she said. “I love trying things that seem impossible.”
Wainwright said his team has been building to this point.
“It’s just really meshing with the whole team,” he said.
“They’re all on the same page. They have a mutual goal, it’s not really about individual goals. There’s been some lucky bumps here and there, and some challenges, but they’ve done a great job of adapting to changes.”
There will be plenty of MIAA championship hardware on the line at a number of venues Saturday.
In boys’ soccer, Arlington takes on top-ranked Nauset for the Division 2 title at Xaverian Brothers. Nipmuc and Wayland play for the D3 title at Woburn, and Bromfield will face St. Mary’s at St. John’s Prep.
On the girls’ side, in Division 2, it’s Winchester vs. Hopkinton at Xaverian. In Woburn, Norwell takes on South Hadley for the D3 title. And it’s Millis vs. Granby for the D4 crown at St.John’s Prep.
There are three championship volleyball matches at Worcester State. Barnstable and Newton North get the primetime slot for their Division 1 showdown at 7. Minnechaug and Groton-Dunstable tangle for the D2 title at 4:30, and Bourne plays Whitinsville Christian at 2 p.m. for D3 honors.
At WPI, Nashoba Regional takes on Somerset-Berkley for the D1 field hockey title. In D2, its Dennis-Yarmouth vs. Greenfield.
Correspondents Matt MacCormack and Ethan Schroeder also contributed to this story. Charlie Wolfson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.