LYNN — A two-goal burst in the first two-minutes of the game was all the Swampscott girls soccer team needed to win the first north sectional championship in the school’s history — a Division 3-clinching 2-0 victory over Bishop Fenwick Sunday at Manning Field.
The No.. 4 Crusaders threw everything they had at the seventh-seeded Big Blue in the second half, but couldn’t crack through the Big Blue’s stout back line defense to seal the win for the Big Blue and punch their ticket to the state semifinals Wednesday against South champion Norwell.
“As a first-year coach, I had no idea what to expect,” said Norman James. “I just know that I am so happy for the players and this feels incredible.”
Fenwick coach Steve Flaherty said while he was disappointed to lose the game, the Crusaders gave it their all.
“There effort was unbelievable from start to finish, especially in the second half, but we just couldn’t finish our opportunities,” Flaherty said. “The only thing I told them was to leave it all on the field, and they did just that. My four senior captains (Sammi Gallant, Marissa Orlando, Sam Tache and Grace Foley ) were tremendous today and have been all year. Marissa especially created so many chances for us despite being double and triple-teamed at times.”
Grace Digrande netted the eventual game-winning goal at the 11:06 mark, converting a free kick from the 25-yard line after her sister Sophia Digrande, was fouled. Grace Digrande launched a seeing-eye shot into the top left corner of the net, just inches inside the post and inches under the crossbar. Fenwick freshman keeper Claudia Keith made a leaping attempt to save the ball, but came up inches away.
With a little more than nine minutes to play in the half, Mackenzie Kearney made a run down the left side of the field and earned a corner kick. Grace Digrande lofted a perfect corner into the box, where senior captain Haley Bernhardt picked the ball out of midair and buried it past Keith to double the Big Blue’s lead to 2-0 with 8:51 left to play in the half.
The goal got the Crusaders’ attention as they amped up the offensive pressure, creating several scoring opportunities the rest of the half. Their best chances came with under two minutes to play off shots by Grace Foley, and Isabella DelVecchio, only to be denied by Swampscott ‘s keeper, Nikki Rosa.
Fenwick carried its offensive momentum into the second half and pretty much controlled possession and pace of play for much of the half.
Orlando owned the right side of the field, creating several chances on runs despite being tightly marked, and at times, double-teamed. One of the Crusaders’ best chances to cut into the Big Blue’s lead came in the 55th minute on a free kick at the 35-yard line. McKenna Gilligan launched a floater into the box where a Swampscott defender, misdirected a header toward her own goal. Rosa scrambled through a scrum and collided with a Fenwick player but was able to cover up the loose ball.
With 13 minutes to go, Bernhardt nearly put the game out reach. Kearney sliced and diced her way through Fenwick’s midfield and found Bernhardt, wide open at the top right corner of the box, but her shot went wide.
With under 10 minutes to go, Fenwick’s Isabella Fabbo, Elani Gikas and Gilligan all had quality chances, but Rosa denied them all.
Fenwick best chance came with under three minutes to go when Gilligan launched a free kick on goal from the 30, only to come up empty.
Fenwick finished the season 17-3-1.