It was championship Saturday for Harwood as both the girls’ and boys’ soccer teams were playing in the D2 Vermont State Championships at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction. The first game of the day pitted the #4 seed Harwood girls against #2 Milton while the #3 Harwood boys’ team took on #9 Rice later in the day.
Photos: Jeff Knight
The Harwood girls’ ended Milton’s 5-game shutout streak but fell short in the end falling 2-1 to the Yellowjackets. Later in the day the Harwood boys’ team went toe-to-toe with Rice for almost 100-minutes before finding a golden-goal winner in the second overtime making the Highlander boys’ State Champions for the 2023 season.
Girls’ D2 State Championship
The girls’ match saw a back and forth first-half with some of Harwood’s best opportunities including solid shots by Lindsay Boyden and Eloise Lilley and maybe Harwood’s best opportunities which came from a header off the bar from Carmen Lafayette and a backpost pass from Lilley to a sprinting Quinn Nelson whose outside of the foot shot hit the outside of the post. Both teams goalies stepped up and kept the match scoreless going to halftime. Harwood keeper Anna Brundage tallied nine-saves while former Highlander turned Yellowjacket Ella Scharf stopped eight on the day.
In the second-half Milton hit the ground running and pressed the Harwood defense and found their opener about ten minutes into the half on a pass behind the Harwood defense that setup Milton’s Savannah Monahan. Milton added a second about 12-minutes later on a rebound from a great save by Brundage that fell to Milton’s Cianna Tomasi.
Harwood didn’t stop pushing even two-goals down and finally got their opener with five-minutes left on a cross in-front of goal from Lilley that was deflected in by a Milton player. Harwood kept pushing but in the end Milton controlled the ball as the final whistle blew ending a great run for the Highlanders.
Boys’ D2 State Championship
In the afternoon match Harwood and Rice went toe-to-toe for almost 100 minutes before Harwood sophomore Brycen Scharf volleyed a pass from Steel Nelson past the Rice keeper sending the large Harwood fanbase in attendance into a mass celebration.
Harwood started the day strong pushing the Green Knights on their heels time and again but were unable to break past the Rice defense. Rice mustered some opportunities but the majority of the opener was Harwood trying to find the right key to the Green Knight lock, including four headers in the opening 20-minutes that just missed their mark.
The Highlanders kept the pressure on as halftime came with both teams still searching for an opening goal. The second-half started the way the first had ended with Harwood pressuring Rice but coming up just a step short. Harwood’s best opportunity came on a penalty kick in the opening ten-minutes of the second half that was pulled wide left by Harwood co-Captain Eamon Langlais.
Rice who had been contained found their openings in the second half and turned the momentum in their favor with a 15-minute mid-half flurry of attempts. Harwood’s defense and young keeper Finn Kramer rose to the occasion making a series of blocks, catches and punches to keep the Highlanders in the match.
Harwood rallied and again controlling the ball for the majority of the half until Rice made a push in the final five minutes of regulation time forcing Kramer into some of the biggest saves of the day, tipping a shot over the bar, punching clear a cross and stopping two more shots before a wild shot slowed things down and both teams looked ahead to overtime.
Harwood has been no stranger to overtime matches this season, but all of those ended in a stalemate. A draw at the end of time would have sent the match to penalty-kicks.
Overtime was a back-and-forth affair with Rice gaining momentum on a series of shots culminating in a Rice yellow-card foul on Kramer as he made a save. Harwood had another apparent foul in the box as a Rice defender appeared to trip Steel Nelson as he was fighting for goal. It was waved off by the referee and the teams kept going at each other.
As the clock ticked down to the last ten-minutes a shoot-out was looming ever more present with both teams unwilling to bend and unwilling to give in.
Gray skies that had been hanging over the field all day eased and some rays of sun soaked the field and spectators as Harwood pushed and pushed but kept finding the Rice defense up for the challenge. Then at the 99-minute mark Harwood won a corner. Junior Jack Greenwood took the kick sending it to the far side of the box where Nelson brought it down then with a flick changed direction back toward the goal and lofted a pass forward to where Scharf was standing surrounded by Rice defenders. As he had done many times during the season Scharf got a bead on the ball and volleyed it out of the air and with the twist of his hips redirected the ball past the Rice keeper and into the back of the net.
As the ball hit the back of the net the Rice players collapsed and the Harwood players raced to the corner flag where their fans were amassed to smother Scharf in a Championship pig-pile.
Exhausted and exuberant the boys’ team ended their Saturday with a firetruck parade through Waterbury cheered on by fans and families.
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