Swampscott girls soccer gears up for Norwell in state semi

Haley Bernhardt and the Swampscott girls soccer team will play Norwell in the Division 3 state semi. (Item File Photo)

SWAMPSCOTT— The Swampscott girls soccer team is now two wins away from a state championship, and it doesn’t plan on slowing down until reaching that milestone. In order to get there, the Big Blue will have to go through Division 3 South champion Norwell (20-2-1), a No. 1 seed who breezed through its bracket. Swampscott coach Norman James knows that it’s likely the toughest test the Big Blue have faced to this point.

“It’s going to be a tough test for us, and we need to be ready for a long, hard fight,” said James. “We’ve done a lot of homework on those guys in the past couple of days and we can see that they have two players who are very talented and who can cause a lot of problems for us. We know we’re going to have to continue to play good, sound defense above all if we want to have a chance in this one.”

But make no mistake, Swampscott hasn’t gotten this far by sheer luck. The Big Blue (16-5-1) had to battle every step of the way en route to their Division 3 North title, including notching wins over the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 teams in the bracket. And let’s not forget, Swampscott shut out every one of those teams.

“From the beginning of the year, we’ve had a very good, tight team,” James said. “We always worked together so well, especially when we went up against really good teams in the regular season. I think playing against those good teams like Beverly, Danvers and others during the regular season helped prepare us for these tough tournament games, and that was able to shine through over these past few games.”

Swampscott has gotten this far on the back of its incredibly strong defensive play, including the play of goalkeeper Nikki Rosa and forward Mackenzie Kearney. Add in the offensive prowess of forward Haley Bernhardt and a host of supporting players, and the Big Blue have reason to believe that they’re perfectly suited to pull off a win Wednesday.

“We’ve seen some things while studying up on those guys that we may be able to exploit,” James said. “First thing’s first, we’ll have to play good, disciplined defense from start to finish. They have some very good forwards who can do damage on the offensive end. But there are also some things we’ve seen in their defense that we may be able to exploit, and hopefully we’ll be able to get Haley and some of our other scorers some opportunities to put points on the board. If we can do those things, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to win this one.”

With all that being said, James and the Big Blue know that it would be unwise to get too far ahead of themselves. All of the focus needs to be on the game and the opponent in front of them on Wednesday evening.

“We’re taking this one game at a time, as we have been all season,” James said. “This is going to be our biggest test of the year, and we have to prepare and play like it. But I know my seniors, and they’re not going to want to finish this season without a win, so I know they and the rest of the team are going to give it their all on Wednesday.”

Swampscott and Norwell will face off Wednesday night at Norwell High (5).

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