By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
SHREWSBURY – The Shrewsbury Girls 9-11 grade youth soccer team snagged a hard-fought victory in their league’s highest playoff tournament late last month.
Celebrating following a nail-biting game with an explosive finish, coaches, players and parents remained overjoyed.
“We feel really fortunate that we are able to come out on top,” head coach Jay McLaughlin said in an interview with the Community Advocate.
The team consists primarily of ninth-grade students looking for a spring soccer opportunity opposite their slate of high school games in the fall.
Participating in the local Midland Area Youth Soccer Association under the banner of Shrewsbury Youth Soccer, this squad played strong through their regular season.
From there, they moved into the playoffs, beating local opponents to ultimately emerge victorious in the league championship.
That, in turn, punched a ticket to the Massachusetts Tournament of Champions, pitting Shrewsbury against teams like Dartmouth, which it faced in the title game on June 27.
Already worn out by previous qualifying games earlier that day, Shrewsbury and Dartmouth engaged in a scoreboard staring contest of sorts, their 0-0 scoreless tie teetering on what McLaughlin described as “good goal scoring opportunities” by both teams.
For the vast majority of the game, those scoring chances never panned out.
Amanda Kalinowski changed that, however, with roughly five minutes left on the clock, hammering home a shot off the assist of teammate Helena Chernosky.
Shrewsbury locked down on defense and solidified the 1-0 win.
“The tensions were really high,” player Meghan Dowd said of the frantic finish. “Everyone just wanted it so bad. So, the compete level in those last five minutes was super up there.”
Championship or not, 2021 offered a unique backdrop for a soccer season. Now, players and coaches are just glad it happened.
Indeed, players missed out on a number of athletic opportunities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. That made the start of this now completed season feel extra special, McLaughlin explained.
“Part of it was just love of the game, and then part of it was a chance to get this group back together again and see how they would do competition-wise versus other girls in the high school age group,” he said.
Months later, players are now home enjoying their summer with trophies on their shelves, marking one of the first Tournament of Champions victories for a Shrewsbury team in several years.
“We’ve been playing together, some of us since we were five years old, so it was just a really great experience,” Dowd said.
Photos/Courtesy Scott Morris