Seasons sometimes have a defining moment, and for the Tewksbury High girls soccer team, that moment may have come 15 minutes into the second half of the team's 6-1 win over Haverhill on Tuesday night.
After trailing 2-0 at halftime, host Haverhill seemed to have mounted a comeback when the Hillies scored to draw within a goal with 25:41 to go in the game. The large Haverhill crowd stood and roared its approval, but before the fans could even return to their seats, TMHS sophomore strikers Aly Spencer and Kashka Gammon took the kick-off down the field with a deft combination of passes, and Spencer found junior center midfielder Nicole Chaet wide open for an easy goal that restored the two goal lead just 12 seconds after Haverhill had scored.
Tewksbury went on to score four unanswered goals in the game's final 25 minutes, and the Redmen raised their record to 8-4 overall, 7-2 in the Merrrimack Valley Conference with a convincing 6-1 win.
Chaet finished with two goals and an assist, Gammon scored two goals, and sophomore Olivia Boudreau and senior Nicole McColgan scored their first career varsity goals as the Redmen came up with their most productive offensive outburst of the season.
Tewksbury's effort came in stark contrast to the team's last two games, a 2-1 "survival victory" over Bedford and a 3-1 loss at Amesbury. Against Haverhill, the Redmen played faster, more energetic soccer over the entire 80 minutes than they have in any other contest this season.
That may have had something to do with the fact that the TMHS girls were forced to stand in formation on the Haverhill pitch for over 40 minutes prior to the start of the game, as the Hillies engaged in an incredibly lengthy, self-indulgent Senior Night presentation. Each of Haverhill's 11 seniors, and her parents, was paraded out onto the field prior to the game, as the public address announcer read a lengthy biography of each player's life, starting back in their days of youth soccer and progressing tediously through to the present day.
The game, originally scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. start, kicked off several minutes after 8:00 p.m.
"I think that might have got them going," said Tewksbury coach Jeff Keefe of the long wait. "Haverhill's got a lot of seniors and they were doing their thing, but luckily we kept our energy pent up and we released it at the right time. We came out from the openig whistle exactly how you want 'em to do it. You can't ask for much more than that."
Gammon's first goal came just 10 minutes into the game on pass from Sara Semenza, and Chaet scored unassisted at the 18 minute mark, staking Tewksbury to a 2-0 lead.
Haverhill scored its only goal 14 minutes into the second half, but that only served to ignite the TMHS offense. Chaet scored her seventh goal of the season 12 seconds later, and Gammon scored her sixth goal of the season with 16 minutes to play. Boudreau and McColgan each scored in the final three minutes of the game.
"The girls were excited to be here," Keefe said. "You could tell from the sidelines and on the bench. Overall the chemistry was just flowing through. It was one of our best efforts of the season."
Chaet played no small part in that, as the junior center mid had her strongest game of the year. A former striker in her first two varsity seasons, Chaet appears to be settling in to her new role as the team's attacking center mid.
"When she's on she's really on," Keefe said of Chaet. "We ask a lot of her to be on both sides of the field. Having her involved in the offense and firing on all cylinders was great to see."
With eight victories under their belts, the Redmen need just one more win in their final six games to qualify for their second consecutive MIAA state tournament berth. They'll have a chance to nail that down when they play at Methuen on Thursday, but Keefe isn't looking that far ahead.
"We haven't even talked about the tournament," he said. "We're not concerned with anything more than Wednesday's practice.
"We're not so much worried about the rankings or the standings or the poiints," Keefe added. "We just know where we want to be as a team. If we're playing as well as we can we want to stay there and if we're not we want to improve on it."