By DAN NUNN
LYNN — The Hornets thrilling girls’ soccer season came to an end at the hands of the rival Lynnfield Pioneers 3-1 in the Division 3 North Final at Manning Field in Lynn on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore Marissa Zarella scored the lone North Reading goal.
It was a defensive struggle for the first 32 minutes, but with a little over seven minutes left in the first half both offenses came to life. In the 33rd minute the Pioneers’ senior captain Emily Scollard opened the scoring by sending her corner kick directly into the net.
Four minutes later, with Hornet goalie Katarina Hassapis hugging the post, poor defensive marking left Lynnfield junior Abbie Weaver wide open. Pioneer freshman Lizzie Shaievitz completed a throw-in that landed near Weaver, who headed the cross into the yawning cage to quickly make it 2-0.
With under two minutes remaining North Reading’s defensive players let themselves down, once again allowing Weaver to score another easy goal. Pioneer senior defender Kelley Nevils was credited with the assist.
It looked like the game would be 3-0 at the half, but in the waning seconds the Hornets finally got on the board. Lynnfield senior captain and goalie Hannah Travers coughed up a rebound off Hornet senior captain Tori Brown’s initial shot and Zarella was there to put the ball into the open net.
“I nearly lost almost 10 years of my life when they popped that one in,” commented Lynnfield’s head Coach Mark Vermont after the game.
The deficit was 3-1 at the half. The North Reading defense tightened up in the second half but couldn’t sustain much offense. The Pioneers played lock down defense and cruised to victory.
“A two-goal lead is the toughest lead in sports,” acknowledged Vermont, who 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.”
Lynnfield’s senior captain Paige MacEachern concurred with Vermont. “They played a physical game but we just worked through it,” said MacEachern.
Although it was a disappointing end to the 2014 season, the girls can take pride in advancing to the finals for the first time in 10 years. They were seeded ninth in the bracket with a regular season record of 10-6-2 while the Pioneers entered the tournament seeded third (12-4-2). North Reading went on to win its first three games in the series, which included a 5-1 win over Greater Lawrence, a 1-0 overtime victory versus Newburyport and a 1-0 regulation shutout over Swampscott, before bowing to Lynnfield in the finals to finish the 2014 campaign 15-5-2.
Lynnfield advanced to the state semifinals on Wednesday night against Dedham, the South champions, played in Brockton. The winner of this game will challenge the winner of the game between Central champion Nipmuc and West champion Wahconah at WPI this coming weekend. The date and time will be announced on www.miaa.net.
Reporter Dan Tomasello contributed to this report.