Grafton girls’ U12 soccer team takes first at Mass. tournament

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(Back, l to r) Coach Eric Westcott, Abby Davis, Paige Kennedy, Ainsley Donagher, Ella Alves, Sophie Kling, Ella Belton, Abby Scanlon, and Coach Keith Nevins; (front, l to r) Josie Hamilton, Sierra Westcott, Riya Dalal, Savannah Nevins and Lily Wiegersma
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Grafton – On the weekend of June 28-30, the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association held its annual Massachusetts Tournament of Champions (MTOC) during which 172 top Division 1 and 2 town-based travel teams from 10 regions in age groups U12-U19 competed for top teams in the state.

Grafton’s Division 1 U12 girls represented the Midlands Area Youth Soccer region, edging out strong competition from towns Sutton, Shrewsbury and Uxbridge in post-season playoffs to earn their tournament spot.

A dozen teams competed in three groups in the girls’ U12 Division 1 bracket. Grafton won games against Sandwich (5-1) and Wilmington (2-0) and tied Lynnfield (1-1) to take the top spot in their group in order to advance to semi-finals, where they beat Ludlow (2-0).

As expected, the final game against Hingham who had won all four of their previous games was a long, hard-fought battle. Ultimately, a strong defense and an incredible save by goalie Riya Dalal kept Hingham scoreless, while an equally strong push by midfielders and attack kept pressure on Hingham until the lone Grafton goal by Ella Alves early in the second half clinched their victory. Extra long injury time meant the girls had to hang onto their narrow lead for almost a full 30 minutes.

Coaches Keith Nevins, Patrick Scanlon and Eric Westcott attribute the girls’ success to strength overall as a team – the way that they back and encourage one another and work cohesively as a unit, and to support on and off the field by the parents.

“It has been a great pleasure to coach these girls,” said Nevins. “I’d have to say team chemistry is very big and this team has it in spades.  That’s the major reason they won MTOC and became the top U12 team in the state.”

The team effort was evident in the final tally for the weekend: goalie Riya Dalal supported by a solid defense by Sophie Kling, Josie Hamilton and Sierra Westcott only allowed two goals against in five games; midfielders Ella Alves (three goals), Paige Kennedy, Ainsley Donagher (three goals) and Ella Belton (one goal) led the attack out of the back; with pressure up front from strikers Abby Scanlon (two goals), Savannah Nevins (two goals), Abby Davis and Lily Wiegersma crossing the ball from the corners on the assists. Team member Jojo Mailloux, who contributed to the team’s successful season, was unable to attend the tournament.

While many Grafton teams have been invited to MTOC and competed successfully at all levels – earning spots in the semi-finals and finals, the Grafton Girls U12 team was the first in Grafton Soccer Club’s recorded history to emerge victorious as MTOC champions.