By Michael James LeClair
The Nashoba Regional girls’ soccer program is once again queens of the pitch in Central Mass. Division 1. The victory led them to the state semi-finals on Tuesday, where they fought hard, but came away on the short end of a 1-0 game.
At the District Championships on Saturday afternoon, the Chieftains secured their third sectional title in four years and first since 2012 with a 1-0 victory over fourth-seeded Algonquin Regional. The triumph is also the 11th Central Mass. title in the program’s history.
“I’m so excited for the win; I’m so excited for the girls. They’ve worked hard all year for this,” said Nashoba first-year head coach Renee Moulton. “I really can’t tell you how hard the group has worked.”
For Moulton, the win is extra sweet. Prior to taking the Chieftains head coaching job this fall, she was an assistant coach on the Tomahawks bench for seven seasons.
“For the girls over there, I like them,” said Moulton of her former team. “I spent seven years there. It’s mixed emotions that way, but I’m not going to lie, it’s a really good feeling to win.”
As for Algonquin, it finishes the 2014 campaign with a 12-7-2 record.
It’s the third straight shutout victory in these 2014 playoffs for Nashoba as it blanked Quabbin Regional and Westborough prior to Saturday’s contest with the Tomahawks.
Nashoba goalkeeper Ashley Spellman made three saves in the win for the Chieftains.
The only goal of the match occurred 9:42 in. That was when senior forward/midfielder Amber Gustafson took a feed from a nice pass from midfielder Kaitlyn Thorogood and blasted one by Algonquin keeper Emma Bacon (eight saves).
“Kaitlyn Thorogood played a really good ball across and I took it,” Gustafson said. “I fell, so I just kicked it at the same time.”
The Chieftains slanted the field in their favor in the opening 40 minutes as the hosts controlled the run of play for the majority of the first half. Much like it had in the first two playoff games, the Nashoba defense was able to limit the scoring opportunities Algonquin could muster.
Moulton showered her defense with praise, not only for Saturday’s performance, but for the entire 240 minutes the Chieftains have been on the field this postseason.
“It’s our back line and Ashley Spellman. She’s a tremendous goalkeeper. She made some big saves,” Moulton said. “The back line
is Courtney [Aylaian], Marissa [Kelberman], Jill [Conry] and Mariel [MacAskill]; a very solid back four. They’ve done a tremendous job all through the playoffs.”
The Tomahawks had one golden opportunity to cash in on Saturday during the 31st minute when Caroline Leonard streaked in from the left wing and blasted a shot from 15 yards away. Her bid just missed the net and Spellman as it sailed wide left and went out of bounds.
Nashoba had its fair share of chances to extend its lead over the final 47 minutes. Freshmen Grace Keith’s bid from close range with seven minutes to play before halftime sailed over the crossbar. Early in the second half, Thorogood had Bacon beat when she came out to challenge a ball at the top of the box, but Thorogood’s shot at the net was cleared by an Algonquin defender right on the goal line.
With a little over 23 minutes remaining in the contest Kylie Lance was awarded a penalty kick. Her shot was denied by Bacon with the rebound going right to Kassie Sidopoulos. The Nashoba senior captain’s rebound shot attempt missed the net high and sailed out of bounds.
Unfortunately for the Chieftains, all good things must eventually come to an end, thus was the case on Tuesday night.
Days after capturing the Central Mass. District 1 title, Nashoba’s bid for a state championship came up a game short. The Chieftains dropped a 1-0 decision to Western Mass. champion West Springfield at Nashoba Regional High School.
Nashoba wraps up its 2014 campaign with a 16-4-2 overall record.
The Terriers, who were playing as the home team despite traveling halfway across the state to Bolton, registered the only goal of the game with just two minutes left to play. That was when Charlotte Pernice beat Nashoba’s Spellman from close range, inside the penalty box to secure the win.
“The girls played hard and that’s all you can ask. We knew coming in that West Springfield was a good team; you don’t go undefeated if you’re not,” said Nashoba head coach Renee Moulton following Tuesday’s season-ending loss. “After the game I thanked the girls for all their hard work and effort this year. We didn’t start the season the way Nashoba is used to starting a season, so for us to be where we are, the team really came together and I’m proud of them.”