By Matt Williams
---- — LYNN — Victoria Digiacomo and Hayley Dowd were the two best strikers in the Bay State in their last two seasons playing at Peabody High.
Yesterday in the 18th Agganis Women’s Soccer Classic, the dynamic duo stood in front of the net instead of shooting at it.
The South all-stars were without a goalie, so Digiacomo and Dowd took turns manning the net while helping their team to a 2-2 tie. Diagiacomo made seven saves in the first half while Dowd scored a goal; in the second half, they switched with Dowd making six stops and Digiacomo scoring the tying goal with 9:33 remaining.
“In the locker room before the game, we realized we didn’t have a goalie and the coach asked who wants to play? Hayley and I didn’t even look at each other, and both our hands shot up. I think we were the only ones,” said Digiacomo, was named South MVP — a distinction she shares with her older sister, Erika, an Agganis Soccer MVP in 2009.
Passing and skilled plays were limited by heavy rains throughout the second half of yesterday’s Classic, which was the fourth tie and second in a row. The Manning Field pitch was soaked, which slowed down the through balls and made long rungs difficult. There were times it rained so hard that it was difficult to see.
“I felt bad for the goalies,” said Ipswich’s Maddie Howe, one of the North defenders. “People might not have been showing their best, but the game was still a lot of fun, and having fun is really the point of a game like this.”
In the first half before the rain began, Dowd had a few opportunities and developed a nice rhythm with Danvers’ Chrissy Gikas and Beverly’s Allison Collins, with the latter two nearly hooking up for a goal in the eighth minute.
In the 19th minute, Dowd got behind the defense and finished for the game’s first goal and a 1-0 South lead.
Digiacomo made some nice saves as the North outshot the South 8-3 in the first half, including one she leaped to punch away, (“I got some height on that one,” she said). Defenders like Bishop Fenwick’s Gina Vellucci and Becky Mercuro helped break up some attacks and Danvers’ Renee Pohle was particularly strong in the box.
With 2:54 left in the opening half, North finally broke through when Amesbury’s Megan Cullen converted a 2-on-1 chance.
The defenders certainly weren’t as physical as they typically are in a regular season contest, but that didn’t take away from the spirit of the game.
“It was fun. My strength is more athleticism and this was more of a skill game, so some things were a struggle, but it was cool,” said Ipswich’s Brigid O’Flynn, who played well in the middle for the North. “It’s great to get a chance to play with girls outside our league and some of the girls we read about during the season.”
“Everyone was enjoying it out there,” Ipswich defender Courtney Long added. “It was a good time and it was great to be out there getting to know people.”
Melrose’s Olivia Downey scored three minutes into the second half to give the North a 2-1 lead. South brought all kinds of pressure from Digiacomo, Swampscott’s Erin Cassidy, Salem’s Joy Lima and Beverly’s Meggie Manzo, but North MVP and goalie Lauren Flynn of Central Catholic came up with some excellent stops to keep her team in the lead.
With about 17 minutes to go, Dowd had her best save when she got her hands on a high shot that bounced off the crossbar and directly to a North attacker. Dowd made the second save to keep the game 1-1.
“I was trying to put it over the bar, but I’m not that tall so it only went so far,” quipped Dowd, who played goalie in a regular season win over Lynn English as well. “I played goalie some growing up in Youth Soccer and I figured it would be fun to give it one last try.”
North applied a little more pressure, with Masco’s Leah Connerty making a few nice passes, before the ball started swinging the other way.
Then, with under 10 minutes to go, Digiacomo re-entered the game, found some space about 25 yards away and blasted the tying goal into the top corner.
“It was so wet that I honestly thought it was going to go over the net,” she said. “I was just going with it, aiming for the top corner pretty much.”
Flynn and Dowd made sure there were no more goals as the Agganis game ended in a draw for the fourth time.
Jackie Morse of Danvers and Becca Kemmer of Beverly also played well on the backline for the South.