By Nick Curcuru Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — HAMILTON — Regulation and two overtime periods wasn’t enough time to settle the score in yesterday’s Division 2 North first-round girls soccer clash between No. 2 Hamilton-Wenham and No. 15 Gloucester at Hamilton-Wenham High School.
After 100 minutes of back-and-forth, physical, knock-’em-down, drag-’em-out soccer, the score was knotted at one goal a piece and the teams needed penalty kicks to decide a winner.
The Generals were a perfect three-for-three in penalty kicks, while Gloucester (9-7-3) connected on just one of four attempts. When Hamilton-Wenham goalie Taylor Morong swatted away Gloucester’s fourth penalty kick, it sealed a 2-1 win for the Cape Ann League Large champs and a spot in the Division 2 North quarterfinals.
Hamilton-Wenham (14-1-2) will meet No. 10 Stoneham in the quarterfinals tomorrow at Hamilton-Wenham High School (2 p.m.).
“We scouted Gloucester on Friday against Melrose, and we knew we were going to have our hands full with them,” Generals head coach Alvi Ibanez said. “And as everybody saw, we did have a tough time. It was a great game. I think the difference in the end was our defense. We made a few nice adjustments, and we were able to contain their strong forwards.”
From start to finish, physicality was at a premium. While both teams kept the physical play clean, neither team was willing to give an inch and the girls were willing to sacrifice their bodies for every piece of the field.
“That’s just the state tournament,” Ibanez said. “Every tackle is harder this time of year, every pass is harder and every shot is harder. There was a good crowd that got both teams playing hard, and that’s what happens. Both teams played their hearts out this afternoon.”
After a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes of play, it was Gloucester that struck first in the 26th minute when Bianca Giacalone fielded a long ball, beat a Generals defender and went in all alone on Morong, to give Gloucester a 1-0 lead.
That lead held up for a while despite the efforts of Hamilton-Wenham late in the first and throughout the second half.
Generals striker Alana Vecchiarello had several opportunities in the first and second half, but Gloucester’s Elle Wierbicky, whom White labeled the “MVP of the game,” battled the opponent’s leading scorer every step of the way, keeping her off the scoreboard.
The Generals’ hard work finally paid off with 11 minutes to play in regulation when a throw-in bounced off the heads of two players in the box right to Caroline Gribbell, who put a left-footed shot just inside the left post to tie the score at 1-1.
“That was our pride kicking in,” Ibanez said. “We were down 1-0 at the half at home, and we didn’t want to go out like that. We put an extra player at striker and risked putting just three players in the midfield. We were down and we needed to get aggressive, and it worked.”
The teams remained tied through overtime, which featured more back-and-forth physical action until the Generals sealed the win on penalty kicks.