WORCESTER, Mass. -– Most former high school soccer players have long forgotten the final kick of their careers. Belchertown senior midfielder Cameron Messier will remember his for the rest of his life.
Messier scored his fourth, and most important, goal of the season six minutes into the first overtime to lift the Orioles to a 2-1 victory over Medway in the Division 3 state title game at Foley Stadium in Worcester. Saturday night’s dramatic win earned the program its first ever state championship.
“As soon as I scored, it was just a huge rush of adrenaline and I ran to the fans,” described Messier. “It feels like a dream right now. As soon as it hit his hands and I put it in, I just immediately [thought] ‘Oh my god, that’s the game!” It was incredible.”
The overtime began with Medway trying to create havoc and pushing numbers forward, but in the sixth minute Belchertown found space to cross from the right. The ball eluded junior Billy Aldrich and fell to midfielder John Ingram, who flashed a shot across the face of goal. The shot was saved by a diving Michael Bagdon, but the rebound fell to the foot of Messier, who made no mistake with the finish.
Medway head coach Jeff Hallenbeck was disappointed that his team was not able to bring home the title for the second straight season (the Mustangs fell to Groton-Dunstable in the D2 state title game in 2012), but could only shrug at how the final goal was scored.
He noted, “We started letting down in the midfield, so we started making adjustments on the fly. Once the overtime came along we decided to put immediate pressure on them. We got a couple of opportunities, but then gave up a bobbling ball in the middle.”
The Orioles jumped out quickly in the opening minutes of the game to earn three corners in the first four minutes, but it would be Medway that would get the scoring started. Six minutes into the game, sophomore Jacob Warren was played to the edge of the 18 by Justin Kaplan and then unleashed an unstoppable left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
It was a great start for the Mustangs, but Hallenbeck admitted that the team could not sustain that energy and allowed Belchertown to play their game.
“I don’t know if the guys got a little excited when we scored so early...I did,” he remarked. “They [Belchertown] play a very aggressive style; they were moving the ball quickly. We got into a little game of kickball. So they kind of threw us off our game.”
The Orioles got their footing as the half wore on and fully dominated possession after the break. In the final 10 minutes of regulation, Belchertown was pushing Medway back and had several chances at a winner. Alex DeSantis had the best opportunity with a brilliant turn and shot on the edge of the box that came back off the crossbar. The rebound was headed home by Aldrich, but he was ruled offside.
“We never lost confidence,” said Belchertown head coach Tony Almeida. “These kids are good and they’ve been working hard all season long and they knew they could recoup from this. It certainly wasn’t our best game but it was good enough today.”
Despite Belchertown having momentum, Hallenbeck insisted his team was confident heading into overtime. The Mustangs stormed out of the gate in search of an early goal, but did not get the bounce they needed and then watched the Orioles put away their chance at the other end.
“We went four attackers up top and only two central defenders; that’s it,” he explained. “We went with our defenders to just chip it over the top to our forwards, but unfortunately it didn’t fall to feet. It was a good goal for them. It should’ve been cleared, but it wasn’t; these things happen unfortunately.”
After back-to-back seasons of reaching the state semifinals in Division 2, Belchertown made it to the finals in its first year in D3 (its first finals appearance since 2005) and the Orioles took home the trophy for the first time.
The goal-scoring hero Messier marveled, “First time in history that we’ve ever won States at Belchertown High, so it’s just incredible, honestly.”
“I love it for the kids because I know that they really wanted it,” said Almeida. “It’s great for the program. The kids have been at it for a long, long time. We’ve been working hard for the past 10 years and it’s finally nice to get here and win one.”
D3 Girls Final: Newburyport 1, Granby 0
Newburyport (20-0-2) completed an undefeated season with a commanding performance in Saturday afternoon’s Division 3 final at Foley Stadium in Worcester. The Clippers scored the lone goal and controlled possession in a 1-0 victory over Granby (18-3-1).
Senior Jaycie Triandafilou scored the game’s only goal seven minutes into the first half when a corner from Amy Sullivan took a deflection off her thigh and slipped inside the post. As it turns out, it was the only goal that the Clippers would need.
“I don’t really know what to say; it was amazing,” reflected Triandafilou about the game-winning goal. “It’s my last game and it felt right to get it. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
The shutout was Newburyport’s 18th of the season and the Clippers only allowed five goals all season. Senior defender Alyssa Leahy is the lynchpin for the Clippers in the heart of the defense and was named the program’s first All-New England player. Co-head coach Kevin Sheridan credited the strong back line as the key to the state title.
“In the second half we started to control the game a little bit and that’s the way you want to win a championship,” said Sheridan.
Co-head coach Robb Gonnam, who also coaches many of the players during the club season, remarked, “Clearly, she dictates what happens back there. She makes [keeper] Lily [Donovan’s] job easier back there and she makes the fullbacks’ job much easier. She barks at them a lot, but it’s a lot better when you have someone directing traffic.”
Granby pushed forward at the end of the game, but it was Newburyport that had the best chances in the final minutes. Sullivan and Trianafilou both had chances to wrap up the victory with breakaways only to shoot straight at Granby keeper Brittany Hauschild.
After the game, Triandafilou was not concerned about the missed chances as she clutched the D3 state championship trophy.
“Our coach said last year when we lost in the North sectionals that we would be undefeated this season and it came true. That was fitting also.”