WORCESTER, Mass. -- Following the loss to Canton in the 2011 South sectional semifinals, Medfield head coach Mike La Francesca and the Class of 2013 made a commitment to get the program back to the state championship.
Lots of teams make similar pledges; few have the talent to make it a reality.
On Saturday afternoon at Worcester State, the Warriors (21-0-3) fulfilled their pledge with a 3-1 victory over the Belchertown Orioles (20-1-2) to win their second Division 2 state title in three years.
“I’m just so proud of them, there are no words," La Francesca said. "They set the goals a year ago that they wanted to be here tonight on November 17th and that’s what they did. This team believed in themselves and they believed in their team.”
Senior midfielder Jen Narlee was thrilled at the opportunity to fulfill the team’s preseason expectations and to finish her career with a victory.
“We’ve been waiting for it since last year when we didn’t get it and we were so disappointed," she said. "We have the most heart that I’ve ever seen a team have and that made the difference. I’m going to miss this program so much.”
Junior forward Cami McCurdy wrapped up a stellar playoff run with a brace in the finals.
The opening goal came in the 15th minute, against the run of play, as McCurdy took a pass from Krista Pinciaro, touched it onto her right foot, and slotted it home at the far post. McCurdy’s second goal came in the dying minutes and clinched the title for Medfield.
According to the striker, who was only a spectator at the 2010 finals, the only thing on her mind as she rounded the keeper was winning the championship for the seniors.
“I thought about the seniors on my team and I realized that if I made that goal that meant it was over and I had to play for them, not me," she said. "In the back of my mind, I knew I had to stay composed and play for them.”
The game-winning goal was scored by Pinciaro, who scored directly from an in-swinging corner kick in the 26th minute. The defense has been the story for Medfield all season, but with eight goals in the final two rounds La Francesca was able to count on a powerful attack as well.
“Cami has, I believe she had five goals in the playoffs, and then you have Katelyn Murray who has not only been distributing but putting the ball into the net," he said. "And Pinciaro today with the goal and the assist, I mean, a great forward line up there.”
This was by no means a blowout.
Although trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Orioles were the team that controlled possession and continually pressured the Medfield without creating clear-cut chances. Belchertown got on the board seven minutes after the break on a powerful header by Jillian Cavanaugh on a long free kick by defender Jillian Lund.
The combination nearly hooked up again just moments later, but Cavanaugh’s header flashed inches wide of the far post. Despite continuing to pressure, the Orioles could not find an equalizer.
Then, on a quick counter, McCurdy finished on the break to ensure that the state title belonged to the Warriors.
“I think in the last few games it comes down to a mental thing more than if you have skill,” explained Narlee. “That’s what we prepare for. We just were ready; we were ready to win this.”
La Francesca noted that many teams are ready to win, but the players have to get on the pitch and perform. The Warriors did exactly that.
“We did expect to win, but, at the end of the day, you have to play the game, you have to win the game, and you have to make it happen," he said. "And they did.”