By Joyce Erekson
Stopping the defending state champion and one of the top players in the state is not an easy task, but the St. Mary’s girls soccer team gave it a go Tuesday in a 2-0 loss to East Bridgewater in the Eastern Mass Championship game at Manning Field.
Spartan coach Jim Foley loaded up on defense, sending only one forward up for most of the game.
The strategy worked for nearly 72 minutes until Viking freshman Katie Smith finally slipped the game-winner past Spartan keeper Emily Stephenson (12 saves). East Bridgewater junior MacKenzie Vlachos, who has over 30 goals and is committed at this point to play at Syracuse , supplied some insurance a little over a minute later.
“We had to (play a defensive game),” Foley said. “They’re a high-scoring team with two of the best players in the state (Vlachos and Sara Lofstrom). We knew we had to play defense. It’s just one of those things. We knew if we played a normal game, as you can see, they can eventually break you down.”
Stephenson kept the Spartans in the hunt in the early going. Taylor Capozzi, who is normally a forward and one of the team’s top scorers, was back on defense. T
“We had some shots,had some chances. We were able to stem the tide as long as we could,” Foley said. “Then they just broke us down. They’re a great team.”
The loss put the brakes on a very good season for the Spartans (11-8-4).
“A few weeks ago if you said to me we would be in the Eastern Mass Championship game , I don’ t know. We kind of came into our own late in the season,” Foley said.
Foley said given the quality teams the Spartans face during the regular season, he knew if his team got into the tournament it could do something.”
“We made a great run. We just came up against a better team,” he said.
The Spartans launched their state title bid with a thrilling 1-0 upset win over fellow Catholic Central League foe Austin Prep. The Cougars, coached by Lynn attorney Tim Phelan, were the No. 5 seed, St. Mary’s was the No. 12 seed with a 7-7-4 record heading into the tournament.
St. Mary’s followed up with a 6-1 win over Lowell Catholic and a 3-0 win over Matignon to earn a spot in the Division 4 North final last weekend against Manchester-Essex. The Spartans pulled out a 1-0 win with Kaylin Deschenes scoring in the 69th minute.
East Bridgewater (21-2) will play Monson in the state final.