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O'Bryant, East Boston advance to girls' soccer championship in dramatic fashion

Posted by Ryan Butler  October 28, 2013 06:47 PM

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East Boston's Vanessa Mejia handles a pass Monday afternoon. Behind her two second-half goals, East Boston was able to beat New Mission, 2-1, to advance to the City Championship. (Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe.)

Both semifinal games in Boston City League girls’ soccer kept the crowd on their toes Monday afternoon despite a bitter gusting wind at Madison Park.

And each game had quite the ending.

East Boston beat New Mission, 2-1, with two second half scores, and O’Bryant upset top seeded Latin Academy, 3-2, in overtime to solidify this year's city championship set for Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s amazing, really,” O’Bryant coach Jason Joseph said after his team pulled off an improbable comeback late. “It wasn’t a perfect game today, but the girls did everything I asked. There were times that our offense clicked well, and there were times our defense clicked too. But our freshman goalie Amanda Leyton-Nolan made some key saves and kept us in it.”

With less than a minute remaining in regulation, O’Bryant was facing almost certain defeat down, 2-1, at the hands of Latin Academy. But a breakaway goal from Keena Nicholas proved to be enough to send the game into overtime. Midfielder Caroline Adduci made a great pass to set up Nicholas’s run.

“I got a nice pass and found myself wide open,” Nicholas said. “So I shot it home.”

Less than 10 minutes into overtime, it was Nicholas again who played the hero when she scored to give her team a 3-2 win and championship berth.

“Winning today means everything,” Adduci said. “As a team we’ve really worked hard this year to get here, so I couldn’t be happier.”

But O’Bryant wasn’t the only team at Madison Park’s athletic complex today to pull off an impressive comeback.

On the neighboring field, East Boston struggled early to maintain any offensive rhythm against New Mission and found themselves down, 1-0, at the half.

“At halftime I reminded my players that we’ve still got the whole second half,” East Boston coach Richard LaCara said. “And they came out and did it. They’ve played with total heart, all year long. Our goal has always been to win the city championship.”

East Boston’s sophomore forward Vanessa Mejia scored both goals in the second half to give her team the opportunity to play Wednesday against O’Bryant. Her first strike came with 30 minutes remaining in the game, while her second came thirteen minutes later.

“I’m so happy to make it to the championship,” Mejia said. “We’re going to keep working hard as a team. And just keep trying as hard as we can.”

Wednesday’s game is sure to be a thriller. In early September, O’Bryant lost to East Boston 5-1, but both teams have steadily improved since their last showdown.

And both coaches know it’ll be a battle Wednesday afternoon.

“I mean, with only one day of practice in between, tomorrow will probably be fun and loose,” Joseph said. “We’ll tie up some loose ends in preparation, but they’ll need to rest too.”

LaCara and his pumped up team stayed afterwords to watch O’Bryant’s dramatic finish with Latin Academy, and he told his players to use it as an opportunity to learn about their opponent.

“It didn’t matter who we were going to play,” LeCara said. “Wednesday will be a tough game.”

The 2013 girls’ city league championship between O’Bryant and East Boston will take place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Madison Park.

Ryan M. Butler covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @butler_globe or @BPSspts.

About Boston Public Schools Sports Blog

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.