ARLINGTON — The Woburn High girls' soccer team came into the season with high hopes of challenging for its first Middlesex League title of any kind, and perhaps doing some serious damage in the state tournament.
It took a few games but the Tanners announced their arrival for the ML Liberty Division title chase with a 2-1 upset victory over leading title contender, Arlington, Wednesday at Peirce Field.
The Spy Ponders took the initial lead in the first half, but Woburn answered almost immediately to tie the game at 1-1.
Both teams fought hard to get the next goal and it turned out to be the Tanners, who scored off a free kick from co-captain Meadow Comeiro with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
"Honestly, I'm speechless," said Woburn coach Jenna DeSantis. "We haven't won a game on this field since I've been the varsity coach and I could not be prouder of this team. They played with grit, they played with heart. Everyone wanted it from the moment we stepped on the field today."
Quality chances were few and far between for both teams, but Arlington's best chances came in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Megan O'Sullivan had the first one when she sent a diagonal ball through the Tanner crease but her teammates could not get a foot on it for a finish.
It was O'Sullivan again with a really nice shot from about 25 yards out from the right post. The shot was perfectly placed underneath the crossbar, but Woburn goalie Nicole McNaughton made a fabulous play, taking a step back before leaping up to make the save. Had she not made that step, the ball would have been in the back of the net.
McNaughton and sophomore Taylor Buckley had been splitting goalkeeping duties in the earlier games, with Buckley playing the second half. DeSantis kept McNaughton in for the whole game and it worked out well.
"I have to say the player of the game was Nicole McNaughton," said DeSantis. "Unbelievable. She played out of her mind. She earned the second half outright. She knew the game plan going in, she had to be aggressive off the line, and she did just that."
O'Sullivan put another shot on net soon after and the Spy Ponders kept the pressure on for much of the second half, after a fairly even first half.
"You have to give credit to Arlington, they always play well," said DeSantis. "They are so well-coached but we deserved this one, today."
Cyndea Labissiere made her presence felt early on, racing past the Spy Ponder backline, chasing a through ball, for a breakaway, only to be stopped by Arlington goalie Chloe Keyes.
The Spy Ponders scored the first goal off a free kick by Jane Commons from the right side, near the Woburn bench. The kick took a bounce in the box and was headed towards McNaughton, when Adriana Smith ran by and head-flicked the ball over the goalie's head and into the back of the net.
Shortly after the ensuing kickoff, Jenna Taylor sent a through ball to Labissiere, who again beat the Arlington defense and was one on one with Keyes. This time Labissiere took advantage of the keeper coming well off her line and drilled a shot into the left side of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
Comeiro actually had two free kicks from mid-range, and each caught the crossbar above Keyes. The first one hit the bar, and Keyes was able to make the save on a rebound. On the second, with 9:10 left in the game, the ball hit the underside of the bar and caromed into the net off the head of Keyes, who was trying to make a play on it.
"We've been wanting captain Meadow to get on the board for points because she controls our midfield and does such an incredible job," said DeSantis. "She doesn't always get the points but she deserves this game-winner."
The Spy Ponders put substantial pressure on the defense down the stretch, and the Tanners avoided some close non-calls from the officials, but ultimately the defense kept the ball out of trouble and in the middle of the field, through the final whistle.
"I'm just incredibly proud of them," said DeSantis, whose team is now 3-0-2 overall, 2-0-2 in ML Liberty. "We showed what we are made of and what we are capable of. Arlington is always one of the best teams in the league and the Middlesex League is always strong, so to go out and get a win against Arlington, early, really sets the tone for Woburn girls soccer."
The Tanners go for their fourth win in a row, third within the Middlesex League, on Friday (4 p.m.) at Hollingsworth Field against Reading.