The No. 11 Hamilton-Wenham girls soccer team prolonged its dream season, as it upset the No. 3 Stoneham Spartans 3-2 in the MIAA Division II North Quarter-Finals on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at Woburn High School.
The conditions were miserable as the rain came down for the entire 80 minutes of play, making the flow of the game fast and unpredictable.
The Generals (11-5-2) were able to claim the first half as All-League senior midfielder Caroline Savasta netted two goals. Both shots were from a fair distance from the goal - 15 and 25 yards - but the wet ball was mishandled by the Stoneham keeper both times putting the visitors up 2-0 at halftime.
"I was telling everyone to take advantage of the weather, and that's what I did," said Savasta of her two scores.
The Spartans (14-3-3) also put together some scoring chances in the first half, but great play from All-Star sophomore goalie Taylor Morong and a little help from the goal-posts kept Hamilton-Wenham on top.
"It was intense," said Morong after the game. "It was a good test for us and we played really well; We were able to pull together and play as a team."
The Stoneham girls came out in the second half reenergized, aiming to capitalize on the defensive approach of the Generals' new 5-4-1 formation.
They were able to do just that, getting goals from junior forward Susan O'Loughlin and senior defender Jen Geraghty, tying the game at two with 15 minutes left to play.
The game's intensity skyrocketed from there, with both teams fighting for control of every ball.
With just three minutes remaining, Savasta played a ball through to All-League sophomore forward Alana Vecchiarello, but her shot was knocked away on an amazing diving save from the Stoneham goalkeeper.
Vecchiarello was able to claim redemption on the ensuing corner kick, as she found herself with the ball on the 10 yard line and drove a shot into the open right side of the Spartan net, securing the Generals' 3-2 victory.
"I don't even know what happened," admitted Vecchiarello. "I just took the shot hoping for the best; I was in shock watching it go in."
Defender Hannah Chmura, a senior captain, played a great game for Hamilton-Wenham and was paramount in disrupting the play of Stoneham's key ball-handlers, sophomore Amanda Mohammadi and junior captain Taylor Havican.
"Wow," were the sentiments of speechless Hamilton-Wenham head coach Chal Congdon after the win. "They played out of their minds tonight, we had no idea what to expect from [Stoneham] but that was by far one of the best games I've seen my team play all season. Everybody rose to the occasion, it was great."
The Generals now advance to the semifinals, where they will face the No. 2 Danvers Falcons on Thursday, Nov. 11 at Manning Bowl in Lynn. The Falcons (16-2-2), last year's Division II North Champions, are coming off of a 3-0 quarterfinal victory over No. 10 Tewksbury.
"Whoever we play next is obviously going to be a strong team," said Savasta, "but if we all give 100 percent and we play like we did tonight there is a good chance we can come away with another win."