Soccer Ends; XC, Cheerleading Heat Up
By Ellen Oliver
After the first week of playoff games, only girls soccer remained to represent the Chieftains in the post-season. The exceptions to the playoff system are the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams, who each sent seven runners to the Central Mass. Division 1 meet this week and the varsity cheerleading squad, who continued their season with a great showing at the league meet.
The Nashoba girls soccer team entered the playoffs with a first round bye and only one loss on its record.
Although the Chieftains were ranked #2 in the playoff seeding, semi-final round opponent #3 Algonquin had handed Nashoba that only loss, setting the stage for a battle in Bolton on Wednesday night.
Unfortunately for Nashoba, the semi-final game ended much like that regular season match, with Algonquin proving to be an obstacle Nashoba couldn’t overcome, as Algonquin advanced to the finals on a 1-0 victory.
The Tomahawk’s appeared to get the scoring started ten minutes in with an Algonquin goal. But Lucy LeBlond’s indirect kick went in untouched and the officials called it back.
Nashoba countered with two strong attempts in the next ten minutes when Amber Gustafson had a great shot for the Nashoba, but superb goal tending by Algonquin’s Sarah Jackson (12 saves) thwarted the attempt. Next, Middie Hanna Gonash’s hard kick bounced off the crossbar and swift forward Sara Clopeck controlled the rebound, but her shot went wide.
With the score still 0-0 going into the second half, Algonquin took to the field aggressively, taking two shots in the first six minutes. The second shot connected as Algonquin split the Nashoba defenders and Kate Hostage shot the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
The rest of the half saw Nashoba connecting with the ball, displaying excellent passing and defense, but not connecting with the T-hawk’s net.
Hearing the season-ending clock ticking with fewer than seven minutes left, Nashoba increased their intensity. Gustafson directed a hard bullet right at the keeper and Gillen’s corner kick was snatched by Jackson. Gillen tried once again booting the ball from the 30 yard line with three minutes remaining, but couldn’t get it past Jackson.
The final buzzer rang on Algonquin’s 1-0 victory. Nashoba ended its season with a 14-2-4 record.
“Algonquin is great and they played really well,” said Nashoba Regional Head Coach Pam Vaughan. “I don’t think that was our best game and unfortunately we let one in, and that ends your season. It’s disappointing.”
When asked about the highlights of the season, Vaughan reflected on the opportunity to be surrounded by a team united in playing a sport they all love. “The high point is just being together every day,” she said. “Being together and getting to play soccer every day.”
The cross county teams continued their legacy of strong performances at the Central Mass. Division 1 boys’ and girls’ meets. Saturday’s cross country meet at the Gardner Municipal Golf Course is a familiar location to Central Mass runners, but while the venue was the same, the organizers changed the race route, adding more hills to the already challenging course.
Those hills didn’t slow down Nashoba, especially sophomore Rylee Gillen who defended her title from last year. Gillen blazed to a first place finish (17:38.9) seven seconds ahead of second place finisher, fellow sophomore Kate Gobi from Wachusett.
The next runner for Nashoba was Grace Dempsey, who was 24th with a time of 20:03.9, Natalie Bettez (32nd, 20:35.2), Peri Matatia (36th, 20:52.9), Taylor Brady (38th, 20:54.3), Sarah St.Pierre (50, 21:29.9) and Melissa Buck (62, 21:58.8).
The girls team placed fourth overall (131points) topped by Shepherd Hill, Wachusett and Algonquin, just missing out on a team berth at the State meet.
The boys’ team had senior captain Mark Puleo crossing the finish line third with a time of 15:10.2, securing his desire to finish in the top five, according to Coach Steve Beckwith. Other Chieftains were Adam Heislein (13th, 15:34.1), Matthew Boelens (19th, 15:54.7), Jacob Hangen (23rd, 15:59.5), Kyle Cloutier (26th, 16:04.8), John Atkinson (31st, 16:11.4) and Cameron Buchholz (43rd, 16:34.2).
The team scores placed Nashoba third with 84 points, behind Saint John’s and Shrewsbury, earning the boys’ a place in the State meet as a team.
Gillen, Dempsey and Puleo and the entire boys’ team will head to the State Championships in Gardner on Saturday November 16.
The varsity cheerleaders participated in their league championships at Leominster High School on Sunday. The girls came in second with 75.25 points, just behind Marlboro. The second place finish allows the girls to participate in the regional meet next Saturday. The team also awarded academic and athletic all-star awards to Kathryn Angevine (academic), Amanda Lombardo and Jordan Uiterwyk (athletic).