WALPOLE, Mass. – With seven minutes to go in Friday night’s Div. 2 East final at Walpole High, Medway scored its second straight goal and grabbed its first lead since midway through the first half. Having managed to pull out close wins in each of the first two rounds, Foxboro needed to keep its composure and find a way to make it three in a row.
The Warriors could call on the experience of 14 seniors who were part of the program’s first sectional final appearance two years ago, a disappointing loss in the East quarterfinal last season, and a regular season that featured many of the state’s best teams. All of that came into play on Friday.
Of course, it also helps having a player like senior midfielder Sophia DiCenso. The University of Richmond-commit, and recently announced member of the U.S. U-19 national team, split the defense to tie the game and then scored her sixth goal of the night with three minutes to play to put Foxboro ahead for good. Julia Kelley tacked on another goal with 1:05 left and the Warriors celebrated an 11-9 win and the program’s first East title.
“She’s on cloud nine,” Foxboro coach Brittany Sherry said of DiCenso. “She puts the weight of the world on her shoulders. She carries this team and we really look to her to get it done and she got it done.”
DiCenso said, “I feel like everyone’s just been wanting it since we lost to Walpole our sophomore year and every day at practice we talk about this is our year, we’re going to win a trophy, and we did it. Everyone’s literally on top of the world right now.”
Similar to the semifinal against top seed Wayland, it took a while for someone to get on the scoreboard. Sophomore Lilly Vey cut though the defense and put Foxboro ahead 10 minutes into the game. Medway scored twice over the next five minutes to grab the lead, while Foxboro was struggling to finish off the chances that it was creating.
Senior Meghan Curran hit the post twice on free positions and Molly Murphy smacked the post with a shot on a fast break. Curran also had a chance in the final second of the half that bounced up off the turf and kissed the bar.
“If we’re hitting the post then it means we’re placing the ball, we’re not throwing it randomly, but they needed to drop eventually,” said Sherry. “Wayland [in the East semifinal] really helped us knowing that we could make mistakes offensively and still prevail.”
DiCenso finally got a chance with three minutes left in the half and she made it look easy from a free position. A little more than a minute later, DiCenso added her second of the night, again from a free position, to make it 3-2 at the break.
Abby Hassman had an early free position opportunity saved and Medway raced down field to tie the game at 3-3 just two minutes into the second half. DiCenso completed her hat trick from a free position but then had one miss the net and Medway took advantage to tie the game again at 4-4.
Curran came through with her next direct opportunity, picking the top corner with an unstoppable shot. Ninety seconds later, DiCenso cut across the defense from the left and went side-arm to rip a shot under the bar for a two-goal lead, the largest lead of the game for either team.
Medway bounced back with two straight goals to tie it again. Foxboro once again had the response to avoid allowing the Mustangs to grab the lead. Curran scored her second of the night, going side-arm after spinning back to her left.
The lead was short-lived and the Mustangs scored back-to-back goals to put Foxboro on its heels and take its first lead since the score was 2-1. No surprise to anyone, but the Warriors again turned to DiCenso. She showed good patience as she worked her way across goal, making the goalie commit before firing in the tying goal.
With the clock winding down on three minutes to play, Medway was inches from tying the game, but a shot came flying back off the post and ricocheted out towards midfield. Senior Molly Murphy reacted first and chased the ground ball down at the near sideline and got possession for the Warriors.
DiCenso drove towards the back of the cage but then spun back on her marker, tried to split two defenders, and earned a free position and a yellow card for her opponent. She made no mistake on the big opportunity and put the Warriors ahead 10-9 with 2:58 to play.
Foxboro got the ball back and tried to run out the clock. With a minute to play, Kelley drove to the cage and finished from close-range to make it a two-goal game. The Warriors won the next draw and proceeded to run the clock down, smiles stretching across their faces as they realized that the dream that started two years ago, the chance to make history for the program, was coming to fruition.
“It feels amazing,” said Sherry, who may have had the biggest smile on the field at the final whistle. “Even in the semifinals when they started picking away at leads, I think that exposure of playing top D1 teams, we do it because we learn from it every single time.” She added, “We’ve battled and we’ve gotten tested and we prevailed because of it.”
When asked about playing a schedule with perennial D1 powers like Notre Dame Academy, Longmeadow, Walpole, Franklin, and others, DiCenso joked, “At first we saw it and were like what is she doing but honestly now I can say it was so worth it.”
She added, “I think there were moments when we were like, wow we’re getting beat pretty bad by these teams and going into tournament we need to step our game up, but I feel like those losses were more motivators. Our schedule prepares us for 30 seconds left and we’re up by one or two and we’re so composed on the field because of the competition that we face.”
Foxboro (16-7) will play South champion Cohasset in the state semifinal on Tuesday night at Babson College.