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Lions eliminate girls’ soccer in double overtime thriller

by Kristian Lundberg
With one miserably beautiful strike, a promising season for girls’ soccer ended in a 4-3 heartbreaker at home in the second round of the State Tournament Wednesday, Nov. 9.
The 7th-seeded Tigers, 14- 4-2, had more than their fair share of opportunities, and they dominated possession for most of the game, but their inability to defend on two free kicks and one lucky bounce sent 15th-seeded Chelmsford to the Sectional Quarterfinals.
“Unfortunately the ball didn’t fall well for us,” coach James Hamblin said. “Three of their goals came on free kicks, the goal in the other tournament game was a free kick. We had talked about it before, but we couldn’t defend their free kicks.”
Although Chelmsford senior Abby Johnson registered the game-winner on a scorching shot with only one second left in double overtime, the Lions earned their victory through their persistence in the second half, refusing to quit when confronted with a 3-1 deficit.
Chelmsford scored in the 46th and 74th minutes, both times off free kicks, to tie a game that the Tigers had controlled throughout the first half. While the Lions steadily mounted their comeback as the clock ticked down, the unease percolating through Dickinson Stadium steadily grew.
By the time Chelmsford headed into overtime, holding all of the momentum, the stage was set for the Lions’ gamewinner. The goal came on a cross that bounced to Johnson, who picked out the top corner from the top of the box to spark a benchclearing celebration.
“I told my girls at halftime, ‘I don’t care if you lose, I just want you to to say afterwards that you gave all your effort,” Chelmsford coach Anne Mariano said.
Still, as Hamblin put it, the Tigers’ season was “still a great success.”
The Tigers went undefeated over their first nine games, posting a 7-0-2 record while holding their opponents to only two goals over that span.
Despite a small midseason slump, by the end of the regular season Hamblin had taken his team from two wins during his first year to 14 in his third, and the underclassmen with whom he had begun his tenure had developed into an experienced group of seniors.
Expectations were sky-high heading into the playoffs for a team that had already tasted tournament success last year. However, for the second straight year, the Tigers were stifled in the second round.
Yet, even in the disappointment of how this season ended, Hamblin said he was hopeful for the team’s future.
“As much as you want to lick your wounds right now, the future is still going to be exciting,” he said.

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