WORCESTER, Mass. -— The Weston girls soccer team was victorious at Worcester’s Foley Stadium on Saturday morning, winning the Division 3 state championship behind an early second half goal from senior Maddie Linde.
Weston -- which came into the game with a record of 11-7-1, and was the No. 17 seed in the South sectional -- benefited from top-tier competition during the season. First-year coach Rich Daestrela claimed after the game that Weston’s competition in the rigorous Dual County League ultimately helped prepare the Wildcats.
“This was a long season, but when it’s your first year coaching girls, what else could you ask for?” Daestrela said, “It was an incredible ride and playing in Dual County definitely prepared us for the tournament. We outscored teams and in certain situations we actually went to penalties and won.”
The Wildcats prepared in detail for Sutton, the No. 2 seed from central Mass who came into the game at 18-3-1.
“We knew what formation we were playing," Daestrela said on the lineup changes early in the second half. "So we matched up with the formation that they were playing. Once we got that first goal I just wanted to be able to lock it down and change my formation to maintain a 1-0 lead."
The Wildcats were able to gain that 1-0 lead about eight minutes into the second half, the goal coming from the Columbia-bound senior Linde, assisted on a volley by Hannah Grace.
Goalkeeper Alissa Duffey, also a senior, put up yet another shutout for Weston, her sixth consecutive shutout. Duffey hasn’t given up a goal since the regular season, as Weston outscored their opponents 19-0 in the tournament.
After suffering from a concussion earlier in the season, Daestrela said he was impressed with Duffey’s improvement following her injury.
“She did a fantastic job, throughout the whole entire season we worked on her," he said. "She got a concussion and then got back into playing, and for the rest of the ride she got a shutout, the first game back she played she got scored on once, and after that we were able to get great goalkeeping and strong defense from our team.”
But that doesn’t mean that this shutout didn’t come with its’ own challenges. The Suzies had an equally impressive run through the central Mass. tournament and in their win over western Mass. champion Lenox. The goal by Linde was the only goal Sutton gave up over the course of the tournament, outscoring playoff opponents 15-1.
Sutton narrowly missed scoring on several occasions, including on two free kicks within 15 yards that went over the crossbar and on two headers in front of the net. In the end though, Weston’s defense held back Sutton’s vicious second half attack.
“We did it two years ago, but I don’t think anyone thought we’d be here at this point in the season," Linde said. "I’m just astounded and so proud of every single person on our team, without every single person we would not be where we are."
Weston also knocked off Sutton two years ago in the Division 3 state title game, but members of this year’s team, including Graves, were proud of the progression that the Wildcats made after coming into the season with the real possibility of not having a coach.
“Especially coming from starting the season without a coach and not having a preseason and seeing how much we developed and far we’ve come, it’s great to be here,” she said.