DUXBURY, Mass. – The Whitman-Hanson girls’ soccer team has won eight straight league titles, including five in a row since joining the Patriot League.
But that run of league championships is likely to end this year after Duxbury swept the season series with a 1-0 win on Saturday afternoon.
Senior captain Meghan Zaverucha scored the lone goal of the game 15 minutes into the second half to give the Dragons (9-1-3) the Homecoming weekend victory that leaves them needing only one win in their remaining two league games to clinch the title.
“It’s a great win,” said Duxbury head coach Emerson Coleman. “I’ve been here six years and we’ve never done that; we’ve beaten them individual times in a season, but never twice. In the last five years, it’s been their title, but we haven’t won anything yet, which I told the girls.”
Panthers head coach David Floeck thought that his team kept possession well and controlled the majority of the run of play, but struggled to create and finish chances.
“[This is] kind of how our first match went with them,” he remarked. “We’ve struggled putting the ball in the net. We’ve had some good possession or some good run of play and that final pass or that final shot… we just can’t get it in.”
The Panthers nearly had the perfect start to the game as within the first minute Casey Corr had a chance but flashed her shot just wide of the far post. Duxbury responded with a free kick by Emma Gill that was palmed away by keeper Lauren Clark and freshman forward Elizabeth Connolly’s follow up effort smashed off the crossbar. Those were the only clear chances in a cagey first half.
The goal finally came in the second half, during the home team’s best spell of pressure in the match.
Connolly created space on the left and her shot forced a save at the near post that conceded a corner. The kick was played into sophomore Molly Tobin, who mishit her header and inadvertently picked up an assist, as it fell into the path of Zaverucha. The senior captain took one touch and fired into the roof of the net.
Zaverucha was all smiles after the game. She noted, “It definitely felt amazing. To beat them twice is really amazing and to be the one that got the goal is awesome.”
The duo that combined for the goal also played a notable defensive role for the Dragons. According to Coleman, Zaverucha was assigned to stop Panthers midfielder Lily Higgins and Tobin was tasked with following sophomore Kelsey Gilbert. He praised the pair for preventing the Panthers central midfielders from being able to create scoring opportunities.
Zaverucha explained, “I was covering Lilly [Higgins] and she is an amazing player, so I was happy to be able to stay with her and then we had Molly Tobin on [Kelsey Gilbert] and other than that I thought all the match-ups were perfect. We put our heart into it.”
In the final 10 minutes, Whitman-Hanson (8-4-1) went to three forwards up front in the hopes of finding an equalizer and just three minutes from time the switch almost worked. A handball gave the Panthers a free kick from 30 yards and, minutes after just missing on a free kick, Higgins sliced her towards the top corner, but it smacked the corner where the bar and post meet.
It was inches from the game-tying goal.
“We were looking for anything to make a difference,” said Floeck about changing formations. “We thought that we might be taking a chance at the back, but we created some chances. They played well. [Senior defender] Gabbie Davis did a great job at the back for them.”
He added, “We didn’t do enough of the little things. Even the goal they scored was off a missed clear and just a couple mistakes leading up to it. When you’re not putting the ball in the net, those types of things kill you.”
The Duxbury players were well-aware of how important the win was to the league standings, which was made clear by the celebrations that followed the final whistle.
The victory meant a little bit more because the Dragons were missing three starters: leading scorer Emily Weimer, who is out for at least another week, midfielder Kylie Stevens, who was lost for the season with a knee injury, and captain Nicole Gavin, who has missed the season after picking up a knee injury during the summer.
“This team has shown a lot of resiliency,” said Coleman. “When we lost Gavin during nationals, it was a big loss and then this past week we beat Scituate, who was unbeaten, tied Silver Lake, and now winning today and all without Emily Weimer, who is one of the best strikers around.”
He continued, “This is a hard-working team and they just keep battling.”
Zaverucha agreed, “I think it’s really awesome considering some of our players are injured and we’re really playing for them, which is something special for us.”