By Dan Harrison Correspondent
The Salem News
---- — SOUTH HAMILTON — The Hamilton-Wenham girls soccer team could’ve extended its second-half lead over Stoneham to three goals on multiple occasions in yesterday’s Division 2 North quarterfinal.
Generals head coach Alvi Ibanez certainly knows what happens the longer you let the opposition hang around. So he wasn’t overly surprised when the visiting Spartans came back to tie the game and force overtime.
He was, however, relieved when senior Cara Durgin sniped the game-winner just under the crossbar to give Hamilton-Wenham a 3-2 win in double overtime.
The victory propels second-seeded Hamilton-Wenham (15-1-2) into the Division 2 North semifinals against Wilmington on Friday in Woburn at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s a funny game,” Ibanez explained after the game. “You create opportunities, but if you don’t put them away, the opponent just might put you away.”
Durgin and the rest of her teammates had seen enough of penalty kicks this postseason after H-W’s first-round game went all the way to PK’s against Gloucester before they eventually prevailed.
“I think we were a little bit stressed out and disappointed, but we kept with it. I didn’t want to go into PK’s, and I don’t think any of the girls wanted to go into PK’s,” noted Durgin, who then spoke about netting the game-winner. “Oh, It felt good. It felt really good.”
Ahead 2-0 with just under 10 minutes remaining, the Generals turned the ball over at midfield and allowed Stoneham’s Lynn Kozlowski to walk in and beat goalkeeper Taylor Morong to cut the lead in half. Stoneham would tie the game with four minutes remaining when Morong misplayed a high-arcing shot from Samantha Gendall.
“We just had to remind (the girls) of why they’re here. You know ... that sense of urgency that we’ve had throughout the season,” Spartans head coach Sharon Chapman said of what sparked her team’s comeback. “They knew the game was on the line, and they had to give it whatever they had left.”
But Stoneham (12-7-1) shouldn’t have been in a position to force overtime, considering the amount of high-quality looks the Generals forwards had throughout the second half. The home team’s 2-0 lead, combined with the Generals’ staunch defense, may have provided them with a little too much comfort.
“The truth is that I thought we played them well. We knew they had a lot of speed and aggressiveness in the middle, and for the most part I thought we were able to handle that,” Ibanez said. “Their motivation was that they were down 2-0, and our motivation was that they tied it.”
Alana Vecchiarello started the scoring when she played a tough bouncing ball from teammate Madeline Bethoud and lofted it over the Stoneham keeper and into the right corner of the net to give H-W a 1-0 lead in the first half. Vecchiarello nearly scored again later in the half but rifled a hard, low shot wide-left.
The Generals would get some insurance in the second half when a Caroline Gribbell corner kick found its way past Vecchiarello (and the two Stoneham defenders marking her) and onto the foot of freshman Emma Bean. Seeing the far side wide open, Bean quickly hammered the ball into the net.
Gribbell, Samantha Charette and Carolyn Cook were outstanding on defense throughout the game, clearing balls with their heads and feet. Emily Gaucher was active throughout in the midfield, as well.