*Update* Nashoba Girls Soccer Heading to State Finals; XC Headed to States
By Ellen Oliver
*Update: Wednesday Nov 15*
After defeating Minnechaug 2-0 on Wednesday, the Chieftains qualified for the State Division 1championship round. The girls will face Franklin on Friday, November 16 at 5:00 pm at Worcester State. MIAA Ticket Prices: $7 adults and $5 students/seniors.
Nashoba’s post season success has other schools seeing green, often followed by photos of hoisted trophies or the shine of medals. On Saturday, three Nashoba teams competed to extend their seasons and make their marks on the record books.
Saturday morning, the boys and girls cross country teams traveled to Gardner for the Central Mass Division 1 race. Freshman Rylee Gillen gave Nashoba the first boost, outrunning last years’ district champion to take first place, finishing the course in 17:32.8. Her six teammates did their part with four placing in the top fifteen to award Nashoba top honors.
After Gillen, freshman Grace Dempsey finished in seventh (18:27.3), sophomore Natalie Bettez was ninth (18:32.2), junior Kelsey Horowitz finished 12th, and senior Kara McCormack came in 15th (18:59.5). Senior Taylor Brady broke the top 20 (19th, 19:21.5) and sophomore Peri Matatia was 44th at 20:26.3.
The boys’ team, who tried to remove the green target from their backs by unveiling new black jerseys for the meet, was seen as a top contender for the District 1 title. But injuries weakened their squad and they finished fourth, only seven points away from representing Nashoba as a team at States.
Senior Forrest Hangen led the Chieftains with a fifth place time (15:10.9), followed by junior Mark Puleo (10th, 15:20.7) and sophomore Adam Heislein (19th, 15:36.9). Sophomore John Atkinson crossed the finish line 33rd (16:07.3), only three spaces from cashing a ticket to states, and sophomore Jacob Hangen, one of the injured Chieftains, finished 35th (16:18.6). Forrest Hangen, Puleo, and Heislein will compete as individuals at the state meet next week.
The boys knew qualifying as a team was going to be close with the loss of senior Connor Pokorney and Jacob Hangen’s injury, but they ran hopeful and hard. “We were disappointed, but knew we ran our best,” said team captain Forrest Hangen. “We would have liked to go to states together, but we’re happy with what we did this season.”
The seven-member girls cross country team and the three qualifying Chieftain boys will compete at the state meet on November 17th at Northfield Mountain.
Girls Soccer Scores in Overtime
The morning may have belonged to cross country, but the afternoon was all soccer. The Nashoba girls’ team ventured to Holden to face Algonquin in the Central Mass Division 1 finals.
As top seed, Nashoba was the home team and they enjoyed great support from the Chieftain community. Algonquin was the three seed and were defeated by Nashoba twice near the end of the season, however, the Chieftains weren’t taking anything for granted. “Algonquin is a fabulous team,” said Nashoba Coach Pam Vaughan. “In every game we played against them, they were really strong.”
Destiny seemed to be cast for Nashoba at the first few minutes of the game, as the Chieftains dominated the ball in Algonquin’s end of the pitch, but the Tomahawks quickly gained their footing and the following 75 minutes were a back and forth grudge match.
When the officials blew the whistle on the regulation time, the score was 0-0. Each team took to a corner to prepare for the 10 minute golden goal overtime. “It was frantic [on the sidelines] sometimes, but we’re really good at working together as a team,” said senior captain Jessica Miller. “We knew we needed to bring more intensity than they brought as quickly as we could.”
The Chieftains turned up the heat and didn’t take long to strike. A minute plus into the extra session, sophomore Amber Gustafson slid a pass to senior captain Kim Slade who tucked it in past Algonquin keeper Sarah Jackson. The whistle blew on the jubilant, happy Chieftains as the Algonquin players collapsed on the field, their season over.
“This is exactly what I expected it to be,” said Vaughan. “We expected it to be a back and forth kind of game. I wasn’t surprised at all how they came out. We knew it would be a battle and hopefully we would get a break, and we did.”
Vaughan praised her entire team’s effort, noting the day’s playmaker, Slade, and play breaker senior goal keeper Eileen McGarry (three saves). “Kim puts that kind of effort every day,” said Vaughan. “That was a right footed shot, accurate. That’s a senior captain for you.”
About her starting net minder, Vaughan said, “I’m glad people don’t get to see what Eileen is capable of doing because she is really unbelievable. Fortunately I get to see it every day in practice. What you see from Kim, we get from Eileen in the net.”
The Chieftains will face Minnechaug, winner of the Western district, in the state semi-finals at Nashoba on Wednesday, November 14. Although they didn’t know their opponent until Monday night, the girls will do their best to be prepared. “We’ll work on what we need to work on,” said Miller. “We’ll get ready to play the game we play.”