Boston High School: Victoria Digiacomo

D1 Girls Soccer: Peabody 1, E. Longmeadow 0

November, 19, 2011
WORCESTER, Mass. -- After losing in the sectional quarterfinals in 2010 the Peabody Tanners used that loss as motivation for the 2011 season, which they finished as division one state champions.

“We had that early exit last year,” said Tanners head coach Dennis Desroches. “I know that was a driving force for us coming into this year.”

Peabody (22-0-2) was a 1-0 victor over the East Longmeadow Spartans (18-3-1), thanks to Katie Brunelle’s first half strike. But the Tanners had plenty of chances to put the game away in the first half.

Peabody striker Haley Dowd forced a save from East Longmeadow’s goal keeper Anne Stack just over two minutes into the match, from a free kick on the edge of the box.

In the fourth minute, Dowd sent her strike partner Victoria DiGiacomo clean through on goal with a perfectly-weighted through ball. Stack read the play well, and came sprinting off her line to make a tackle, not a save, at the top of her box and stop the danger.

With just 13 minutes to go in the first half, Dowd made a sensational run, going thirty yards past the Spartans defense only to be denied by Stack again.

It was starting to look like in wasn’t going to be the Tanners night.

“East Longmeadow is an excellent defensive team, so when have all those opportunities you have to take advantage of those,” Deroches said of his team’s first half frustration.

But Peabody finally got its deserved breakthrough in the 37th minute, from Brunelle.

Stack hurried a clearance off of the East Longmeadow goal line after a wayward back pass almost snuck through for an own goal. But her clearance only went as far as Brunelle, who took full advantage of the opportunity and scored the game's only goal just before the half.

“With a team like ours, who scores a lot of goals, we always have a lot of opportunities,” Brunelle said of Peabody’s first-half scoring chances. “I knew eventually someone was going to score, I didn’t know it was going to be me, but as long as we score that’s all that matters.”

The Tanners' defense and midfield limited East Longmeadow’s scoring chances in the second half, and held on for the 1-0 victory.

“Fortunately for us, that one goal held up,” Desroches said of Brunelle's strike. “Hats off to East Longmeadow, they really played us to the final whistle.”

Soccer: Peabody 2, Oliver Ames 1 (OT)

November, 15, 2011

WEYMOUTH, Mass. — It was apparent how much attention Peabody’s Hayley Dowd was going to get from the Oliver Ames' defense once the clock started to tick in the Div. 1 state semi-finals last night at Weymouth High.

For the majority of the game, the Tigers battered, bruised and smothered Dowd with a number of defense players and defensive looks to keep her off the scoreboard.

Sometimes great players just find ways to make their presence felt.

Dowd notched the game-tying goal and played a big part in Victoria Digiacomo’s game-winning goal in the first overtime as Peabody (21-0-2) advanced to the state finals with a 2-1 victory over Oliver Ames (17-3-3).

“When I have my chances I try to take it, and I think that’s what we did tonight,” said Dowd. “They are a good, tough team and it was one of the better teams we played this year. They were very physical.”

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead on the foot of Kristina Simonson in the 28th minute off a feed from Emily Grotz.

Dowd got her opportunity to finally break free of coverage early in the second half when she potted the game-tying goal in the 44 th minute for the Tanners.

Digiacomo and Dowd worked well up front against the Tigers back line with several scoring opportunities, but a little bit of over anxiousness saw those plays whistled for offside infractions.

In the opening minutes of the first extra session, the combo connected when Dowd sent a shot on goal and somehow it got through the Tigers defense to the waiting foot of Digiacomo to end the game 2:33 into the period.

“I’ve had a copule of those this year where I just see the net and I’m like ‘you aren’t going to score if you don’t get it on net,’” said Dowd. “I figured I’d get the ball on net and see what happens. Victoria made a great run into the net to get there right before the goalie.”

Added Digiacomo: “It squirted through and then it was me and the goalie. I got one step ahead of her and I poked it in. I didn’t even see it go in until she was on the ground.”

There was a game within the game on the pitch last night with Dowd and Tigers’ defender Clarissa Romero. The Tigers’ coaches had Romero stay with Dowd every step of the way, and in some instances bodies were flying all over the field in an intense, physical one-on-one matchup.

“She was outsanding,” Tigers coach Britt Sellmayer said of Romero’s effort. “She’ playing with a fractured nose and to go toe-to-toe with the premier player in Massachusetts, she did a great job.”

Dowd, who was taken to the turf on several occasions on rushes towards the net, said she was happy to play physical and she welcomed the challenge from a tough-minded Tigers’ back line.

“We played physical and we were going back-and-forth,” said Dowd. “I’m not mad at her and she’s not mad at me. That’s the way it is.”

Player Perspective: Peabody's Hayley Dowd

October, 25, 2011
It didn’t take all that long for Peabody girls’ soccer forward Hayley Dowd to capture the Tanners’ record as all-time leading goal scorer. The junior notched her 92nd career goal earlier this month in a 6-0 win over Salem, breaking Justine Hartigan’s career record in a little more than two seasons’ time.

The BC commit still has plenty of games ahead of her and the dynamic striker doesn’t plan on slowing down as the No. 6 Tanners look ahead to a deep postseason run.

We caught up with Dowd after a recent match in Swampscott to talk about her record, a recent trip to England and what the deal with this “Biddy” pride is all about.

Q: Did you know that you were closing on the school record?

A: “I knew I was close, but a couple people called from the local newspapers and they told me when it happened. They called me before I got to record asking about it. It’s great. It’s a great record to have.”

Q: Was it a goal to set the record this year?

A: “It’s a different year. We lost two of our best midfielders from last year and we have a couple of forwards who have taken on a different role. As long as the win the game, I don’t really think about scoring. I’m just happy that we’re coming out on top in a lot of these games.”

Q: How have your teammates helped you along in setting that record?

A: “They’ve been great. Especially in the last couple of years, I haven’t had to run after the ball, they’re able to win the ball and get it to me, which is great. I credit a lot of it to them because I wouldn’t have those goals without them. I think it starts with the defense. A person that’s stuck out in my mind has been Bianca Muscato. She stops everything that comes to her. One girl who used to play on the outside, Katie Brunelle, has stepped in great in the middle. She wins everything that comes her way and she works hard. Also, my other forward, Victoria Digiacomo, working with her has been great this year. We set up each other a lot, it’s been fun.”

Q: With those changes to the lineup, how do you feel the team is coming along?

A: “We had a little bit of rough start earlier in the season and we weren’t playing that well. But we’ve come together as a team more. We’re playing great as a team defensively and then the transition game to the forwards has been really good.”

Q: You played in England with your club team against some of the UK’s best club teams. What was that experience like?

A: “I play for Stars Mass and the league that I play in invited me and [Corey Persson] from Danvers to go and play. I’ve always wanted to go to a foreign country and England was a place that I really wanted to visit, so I really wanted to go there. We got to see a game over there, so that was cool. It’s just great that they’re men’s teams have women’s teams now. We went to Chelsea and they have like 30-plus fields at their facility, it was wicked nice -- unbelievable.”

Q: You made your commitment to BC last year. What went into making that decision?

A: “I thought at first that I wanted to go far away, California or someplace like that, but I started thinking about it and realized I wanted to be closer to home. My family comes to a lot of my games, my mom, my dad, my grandparents, so I thought it would be nice so that they can come and watch me. That made it pretty easy. It’s a half hour away from our house, so it’s far enough to stay away, but it’s close enough to come home. The success they’ve had definitely helps, too. There are three girls now from Massachusetts who play for Stars that are older than me that are there and two girls on my club team who are also going there, so it’s great.”

Q: What are the team goals for the rest of the season?

A: “Well, we wanted to make the tournament and we already qualified, so that’s good. We want to win the league and do well in the tournament. We had a bit of rough tournament last year, so hopefully we’ll get past the second round this year.”

Q: What’s the story behind these “Biddy” t-shirts everybody’s wearing? (Dowd was wearing a “Biddy Soccer” t-shirt at the time)

A: “We’re kind of crazy. That’s what we call ourselves. I don’t know when it started, but a couple years ago, it just kind of stuck. It comes from when people say Peabody, it’s the ‘Biddy’ at the end. So we just kind of cut it down and it becomes ‘Biddy.’ I know it’s crazy.”

Q: That makes sense.

A: “Yeah, kinda.”

Breaking down the MIAA soccer tournaments

November, 5, 2010
The seedings for the Boys and Girls 2010 MIAA Soccer Tournament were announced on Thursday afternoon, and with teams getting seeded base solely on their winning percentage, this tournament set up to be one of the most exciting in high school sports.

D-I North
In 2009, Lexington came in as a No. 2 seed and Lincoln-Sudbury as a No. 5 seed, when they met in the North Sectional finals with Lexington winning 2-1 on penalty kicks.

In 2010, the Minutemen and the Warriors find themselves again ranked second and fifth, and both teams have the ability to win this section. Lexington finished No.1 on ESPNBoston’s final boys' poll and they score as a team with six players having scored four or more goals this season. Jordan Vanderhooft leads that group with eight markers.

Lincoln-Sudbury finished the season 13-2-1(No. 10 on ESPNBoston) and they have Cole DeNormandie up top who can change a game on his own.

Boston City League Champs Madison Park (No. 15 on ESPNBoston) grabbed the top seed in this section with a 14-0-1 regular season record and could pay ninth-seeded Greater Boston League Champs Medford (No. 20 on ESPNBoston) in one of this section’s quarterfinals.

D-I South
New Bedford (No. 3 on ESPNBoston) and Greater New Bedford are the top two seeds in this section, and for the record the New Bedford won the regular season local derby 3-0. The Big Three Conference flexes it’s muscles with Brockton (No. 4 on ESPNBoston) getting the third seed. But the Bay State Conference put three teams in the top 10 seeding in this section with Walpole at No. 5 (No. 13 on ESPNBoston), Weymouth at No. 6 (No. 11 on ESPNBoston) and Wellesley at No. 10.

The most interesting, potential quarterfinal would be if Brockton met Weymouth. The Boxers have scored three or more goals in nine of their 18 games, while the Wildcats have kept 12 clean sheets though 20 matches. Their first choice keeper Scott Greenwood is just a sophomore. Two other sophomores’ in this section to keep an eye on are Needham’s Mac Steeves, who scored 15 goals to improve on the eight he scored as a freshman, and Attleboro’s Dominik Machado, who is a member of the Revolution U-16 Academy.

D-I Central

The Algonquin Tomahawks (No. 7 on ESPNBoston) have been the class of Central Mass all season long and got the No. 1 seed. But No. 2 seed Leominster handed Algonquin one of their two losses on October 26, in a 1-0 game. The only way they could meet in the post season would be in the Central Final.

D-I West
Ludlow (No. 8 on ESPNBoston) has won three Western Sectional Finals in a row and come in as the top seed, but Amherst, the No. 2 seed, may have a say in who represents the West this year. Amherst finished above the Lions in the Smith Division this year even though Ludlow defeated and drew with the Hurricanes in their two regular season meetings. Chris Pereira has 25 points (15 goals, 10 assists.) through 18 games for Ludlow and is the marquee man in this section.

D-II North

The defending champs, Concord-Carlisle (No. 3 on ESPNBoston) come in as a No. 2 seed this year and appear in the tournament for the 26th season in a row. Senior tri-captain Cam McGrory is perhaps the most complete goalkeeper in the state and Ray Pavlik’s team will be well-tested having dropped only three points all season in the Dual County League, which is arguably the toughest in Massachusetts.

But the No. 1 seed in the section goes to the undefeated Winchester Sachems (No.6 on ESPNBoston), who won the Middlesex and have only two draws all season, both to Lexington. Their defense is full of confidence having allowed just one goal in their last six matches. And up top Ryan Connolly and Ben Davis have 27 goals between them.

D-II South
This section features two undefeated teams, No. 1 seed Sandwich (No. 5 on ESPNBoston) and No. 2 seed Canton (No. 9 on ESPNBoston) and they both seem to have an easy road to the finals, but looks can be deceiving.

Sandwich had only two draws all year, and learned an important lesson after squandering a four-goal lead to Marshfield in mid October. The Blue Knights didn’t allow a goal in five of their next seven matches. The Canton Bulldogs finished the season undefeated for the only time in the programs 28 years.

No. 4 seed Bishop Feehan has won nine of it’s last 10 and could potentially play Tri-Valley Champions Medfield (No. 19 on ESPNBoston) in the quarterfinals. The Warriors have a goal difference of plus-30 entering the tournament.

D-III Overview
There could very well be a re-match of the 2009 State Semi-Finals.

In D-III North, keep an eye on Weston, who is just the 11th seed at 7-6-3, but they will be ready for to make another run to the state finals after a tough regular season in the Dual County League, where they registered a 1-0 over Lincoln-Sudbury.

In D-III South, Cardinal Spellman finished the season 18-2 and it will take a major upset to stop them from getting to the state level.

D-I North
This bracket is unpredictable to say the least, which make the most exciting.

Top-seeded Peabody (No. 3 on ESPNBoston) handed fifth seeded Acton-Boxborough (No. 5 on ESPNBoston) their first regular season loss since 2006 on opening day. A-B ended up losing two games in 2010 -- their only other loss coming to No. 22 seed Lincoln-Sudbury. The two teams could have a rematch if they each reach the semifinals. Colonials goaltender Jessie Wiggins only allowed four goals in 17 games, but the Tanners strike force of Hayley Dowd and Victoria Digiacomo is a tough one-two punch.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed Masconomet (No. 13 on ESPNBoston) lost just once all year -- to No. 21 seed Andover. They have a scoring trio of Gabby Russo, Hannah Nekoroski, and Amy Griffiths making it tough to focus on just one player. No. 3 seed Central Catholic hasn’t been scored upon in their last seven matches, a nice run to be on heading into the tournament.

D-I South
Whitman-Hanson (No. 1 on ESPNBoston) finished the season undefeated and UCLA-bound Samantha Mewis is the most talented player in the state and also member of the USA Women’s U-20 team. It will be tough for any team in D-1 South to stop the Panthers.

Bishop Feehan lost only one game all season, and it was to an out-of-state opponent. The Shamrocks will most likely play the winner of No. 7 seed Needham (No. 16 on ESPNBoston) versus No. 10 seed Brockton (No. 10 on ESPNBoston), which will be the most interesting matchup of the first round. The Rockets have the second lowest goals against average in Division I at 0.5 and only Whitman-Hanson And Acton-Boxborough are better. Goalkeeper Victoria Tarabelli and senior defender Courtney Steeves will have their work cut out for them against the Boxers forward Morgan Branco.

D-I Central & West
These regions are also wide open. Nashoba and Wachusett look destined to meet each other in one semifinal, while Algonquin and Shrewsbury look ready for the other semi. It will be interesting to see if the Tomahawks can get out of the Central and defend their state title.

In the West, it’s Minnechaug’s title to lose. Lauren MacLellan is a tough forward to contain.

D-II North
Look for Belmont’s playermaker Katie O’Brien to set up Lauren Thurber as the top-seeded Marauders look ready to make a deep tournament run. Danvers is the No. 2 seed and had impressive regular season wins over Peabody and Central Catholic. But they also lost to No. 4 seed Bishop Fenwick, so the D-II North title is there for the taking.

D-II South
East Bridgewater is the top seed with a 16-2-0 regular season record. But don’t overlook No. 5 seed Cardinal Spellman, the defending D-II champions will no doubt be out to defend their title.

D-III Overview
Shawsheen (No. 20 on ESPNBoston) earned the top seed in D-III North and Nantucket earning the top seed in the South with a perfect 18-0-0 record. Bromfield earned the top seed in the Central and Gateway earned the top seed out West. And with defending D-3 Champion Millis not qualifying for the tournament this year, there will be a new D-III state champion crowned.