By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNN — The girls’ soccer team’s 10 year Division 3 North championship drought is officially over.
The Pioneers won their third Division 3 North championship after Lynnfield defeated archrival North Reading 3-1 in the Division 3 North finals at Manning Field on Saturday, Nov. 15. Lynnfield won North sectional championships in 2003 and 2004.
“It feels awesome,” said Pioneers head coach Mark Vermont. “2003 and 2004 were great years. We worked hard to get here and they battled. We got it done and we are moving forward.”
Lynnfield will be playing Division 3 South champion Dedham (16-4-2) at Brockton High School on Wednesday, Nov. 19, beginning at 5 p.m.
The Pioneers’ victory over North Reading helped erase last year’s memory of losing a hard fought North finals contest against Newburyport. The Clippers defeated the locals 1-0 in penalty kicks.
“This is absolutely awesome,” said senior captain Emily Scollard. “We made the North finals last year, but the outcome wasn’t exactly what we wanted. To make it all the way back here and to get a win is just incredible.”
Senior captain/goalie Hannah Travers agreed.
“We have been waiting for this opportunity ever since we walked off the field last year,” said Travers. “We worked as hard as we possibly could to get here. It feels amazing.”
North Reading (13-7-2) controlled the tempo for the first 20 minutes of the first half. Sophomore Marissa Zarella had a chance to give the Hornets an early 1-0 lead, but the forward’s shot sailed past the net.
With the contest deadlocked at zero, Scollard was awarded a corner kick. She buried a shot in the upper right hand corner of the net, giving the Pioneers a 1-0 lead with 7:27 remaining in the first half.
“Emily has been an animal the last four years,” said Vermont. “It was a beautiful goal. It was just awesome.”
Scollard’s goal set in motion Lynnfield’s trademark high-octane offense. Freshman Lizzie Shaievitz completed a throw-in that landed near junior midfielder Abbie Weaver. Weaver quickly turned and fired a shot past North Reading’s goalie with 3:19 remaining, giving the Pioneers a 2-0 lead.
Vermont said Shaievitz gave the Pioneers a boost against the Hornets.
“We told Lizzie to run as fast as she could and cause all kinds of problems,” said Vermont. “And that’s exactly what she did.”
Weaver scored her second goal of the contest with less than a minute remaining in the game, giving the Pioneers a 3-0 lead. Senior defender Kelley Nevils was credited with the assist.
“It was awesome,” said Vermont about Weaver’s two goals.
Lynnfield’s 3-0 lead was short lived, as Zarella managed to slide a shot past Travers in the closing seconds of the first half, making the game 3-1 at halftime.
“I nearly lost almost 10 years of my life when they popped that one in,” joked Vermont.
With a two-goal lead, the Pioneers played lockdown defense in the second half and hung for the 3-1 victory.
“A two goal lead is the toughest lead in sports,” said Vermont. “Our defense has been working hard all season. Abby Petras has been anchoring it in the back with Kelly Look and Kelley Nevils. We are so fortunate to have Christa Romano and Haley Iapicca, who both stepped up. It allowed us to rotate the six defenders and keep them fresh, which is a big deal. Hannah came out and asserted her dominance in the back.”
Vermont commended the Hornets’ performance against the Pioneers and said it was fitting that the longtime Cape Ann League rivals would meet in the Division 3 North finals.
“It’s always a great battle when we play North Reading,” said Vermont. “Sean Killeen is a great coach and they fought tooth and nail for everything.”
Senior captain Paige MacEachern concurred with Vermont’s sentiment.
“They played a physical game, but we just worked through it,” said MacEachern.
Vermont said the Pioneers’ seniors have experienced their share of adversity the past few years. In addition to falling in the Division 3 North finals to Newburyport last year, the Pioneers missed the state tournament in 2012 and fell to Georgetown in the 2011 Division 3 North semifinals.
“There was a different feeling coming into the game,” said Vermont.
“This is what we have been working on since day one. They wanted to get it done and they did. I am so proud of the girls. They worked so hard and they deserve it.”
In addition to winning the Division 3 North sectional championship, Lynnfield was able to end the so-called Manning Field curse last week after defeating Triton in the D-3 North semifinals and North Reading in the finals. The Pioneers have either been eliminated in the Division 3 North finals or semifinals at Manning Field four out of the last five years.
“It feels fantastic that I won’t have to come back here until next year,” Vermont joked.