Since the East Boston girls soccer team lost to Brighton in last year's Boston City League championship, it wanted revenge. On Thursday afternoon, the third-place Jets beat first-place Latin Academy, 1-0, to win this year’s championship, its first since 2006.
To senior captain and forward Maria Vargas, the underdogs’ win did not come as much of a surprise. The Jets were eyeing the trophy before the season started.
“Getting to the City League championship is going to take a lot of practice and a lot of time. But we have time; we just need to be patient,” she said in August. “If we’re all committed, we’ll be able to win.”
Vargas’ prediction was correct. Unlike his captain, East Boston coach Richard La Cara wasn’t so sure his team would be the champion.
“We’re nervous, but excited,” La Cara said prior to the game. "We’ve made it to the finals a couple times, but haven’t won in six years. We’re relying on our defense and goalie.”
Most of the first half was a tug-of-war between both teams, each equally possessing the ball and exhibiting strong defense.
Then speedy freshman forward Mariah Roberts made a long run with the ball and Latin Academy’s defense failed to keep up. Roberts scored in the lower left corner in the 25th minute.
“I felt relieved when I scored the first goal,” Roberts said. “I was so happy. I thought they would come back, but we just communicated, worked together and had great defense.”
Latin Academy tried to rally. Senior forward Virginia McCaughey, senior midfielder Tianna Johnson, and even junior defender Jillian Eweka all had shots on goal, but they could not beat goalkeeper Brittany Brancato.
“I think we did really well,” Eweka said. “We had the ball on their side for most of the second half. We have nothing to be ashamed of, we’re just sad.”
This was Latin Academy’s first season competing in the City League, and Eweka and coach Nick Kamberidis said they were proud they made it to the final.
“We just couldn’t score,” Kamberidis said. “They played excellent defense and buried our chances. Hats off to [East Boston,] they deserve it.”
Despite getting a bucket of water dumped on his head in the chilly weather after the win, La Cara still looked like he was in disbelief.
“When we started in August,” he said, “I never thought this would have happened. With Latin Academy and New Mission in the league, we knew the season would be very difficult.”
“But I just have a great group of girls, and today we avenged our loss.”
East Boston and Latin Academy will compete in the state tournament this weekend.
East Boston will take on Westford at East Boston Stadium on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Latin Academy will face Bishop Fenwick at Reservation Road on Saturday at 2 p.m.
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- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Zolan Kanno-Youngs -- A former captain of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School football team and a current second-year Ujima Scholar at Northeastern University, Kanno-Youngs is the color commentator of the mens basketball team and a writer for Northeastern's campus newspaper, the Huntington News. He joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at KannoYoungs.Globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @KannoYoungs.