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Girls' Soccer triumphant in state championship


by Jacob Gurvis

Girls’ soccer defeated Minnechaug 1-0 Friday to capture the Division I State Championship title. The Tigers are State Champions for the first time since 1999.

The game was scoreless after regulation and two overtime periods. When the game went to penalty kicks, senior Maddie Bledsoe saved four of six penalty shots and junior Katie Nugent netted the winning goal.

The Tigers bounced back after a rough first half, according to Coach James Hamblin.

“I thought Minnechaug came out as the stronger of the teams in the first half, but we managed to gain traction and adopt our style of play in the second half. We certainly defended well and communicated throughout and shut Minnechaug down so they did not have any real scoring opportunities. We also kept battling away and tried various ways to create chances ourselves,” he said.

The team was successful all season, going undefeated through all 21 games they played, including the playoffs. One recurring theme with the Tigers this season was teamwork. According to Hamblin, the girls benefitted from this camaraderie in the final.

“I think it was the team chemistry and belief they had in each other. We knew we had a very talented group of players from day one, but talent sometimes does not win championships without the hard work and belief. Our captains were great leaders and the team bought into our goals,” he said.

This win was not any one player’s doing according to Hamblin, but rather a “true team effort.”

“So many players stepped up and did their jobs well. Maddie Bledsoe was outstanding in goal and so was our entire back four. It’s too difficult to individually select player performances as they won this together and had each other’s support through until the final penalty kick,” said Hamblin.

“To the players, I think it means everything, knowing that all the blood, sweat and tears was finally worth it. It was earned, and they will have this memory for a lifetime,” he said.

For Hamblin, this championship provided a moment of both relief and pride.

“I’m just so proud of all the girls. Overall I think they deserved this, this was their year. My first reaction was one of relief as the penalty kicks were nerve racking and could have gone either way,” he said.

Going undefeated through 21 games is not an easy thing to do. The Tigers were dominant from day one, and never faltered. That success, said Hamblin, all goes back to the unity of the team.

“This was a talented group who all bought into the hard work on a regular basis. This was a special group of players to work with both on and off the field and I’m humbled to have been with them on this ride,” he said.

“It’s all still sinking in and very humbling,” Hamblin said. “There are some great high school teams in Massachusetts and on any given day you can have a bad game and be out of this competition. Every team needs a little luck along the way, and we certainly got it a few times, but we like to think we earned that luck and I hope the team enjoys this time, as they deserve it, but I also think they will keep grounded at the same time as that is in their character.”

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