QUINCY, Mass. -- Entering the Division 3 North tournament as the No. 17 seed, the truth was most vociferously somewhere in between for the Weston girls' soccer team.
Entering the playoffs with a 6-7-4 record comprised mostly of a brutal schedule in the heavyweight Dual County League, the Wildcats promptly dominated the field, outscoring the opposition 23-1 in five games en route to their second North title in three seasons. Tonight, in the D3 Eastern Mass. Final against South champ Norwell, at Quincy's Veterans Memorial Field, nobody was taking anyone lightly.
In the end, after 100 minutes of scoreless play, Weston's deceitful run lives another day, as the Wildcats outlasted the Clippers in penalty kicks, 2-0, to punch their second ticket to the D3 state final in three years.
Weston will face Central/West champ Sutton, Saturday moring at Worcester's Foley Stadium.
"I'm so glad you asked that, because I don't think these girls get enough credit sometimes," Weston head coach Rich Daestrela told a reporter, when asked about the team's scheduling. "It's tremendous. Twenty-three goals to one in the tournament, I think that says alot about the schedule that we play, which is really strong Division 1 teams."
As for the round of penalties, Daestrela thought he had scouted his opponents well, and whatever efforts made in that regard seemed to pay off. Two of Norwell's attempts went over the crossbar. On the other two, goalkeeper Alissa Duffey guessed correct both times, diving to her right to stop shots low corner then top corner.
On Weston's end, Hannah Graves went waist-high to her far left in the first round of penalties, then Jackie Foody added insurance in the third round with a shot to the top corner.
"We actually both really scouted them, and knew where they were going the whole entire time," Daestrela said. "They kept the same exact order. That was a big thing for us. We went to watch the Dover-Sherborn game against Norwell [D3 South Final, a 1-0 Norwell win in PK's], so we knew where they were going for the penalty shots."
New blood, no problem: Daestrela wasn't named head coach of the Wildcats until five days before this season, and didn't have his starting lineup solidified in the first game. That storyline sounds awfully familiar to the one that unfolded in 2010, when first-year head coach James Blackwell promptly coached them to the D3 state title.
"Maybe every year, they should find a new coach, then they'd be all set," Daestrela joked.
Daestrela comes to Weston after a two-year stint at Lawrence Academy, resigning over this last offseason. This is his first foray into coaching the girls side, and says "It's been a great experience."
Channeling her inner Higuita: Tonight's game was the third straight decision by penalties for Norwell, and he most striking trait of Clippers' squad is the booming right leg of its Boston University-bound seninor goalkeeper, Bridget Conway. So booming, in fact, that she is often called upon by head coach Kara Connerty to take set-pieces for anything outside 30 yards from the goal.
That allowed for the Clippers to send another body into the 18-yard box. Many times tonight, a Conway free kick from 40 yards out landed squarely the hands of Duffey, or even sailed over the crossbar.