PEABODY -- Freshman forward Gabby Diorio's golden goal with 4:50 left in double overtime gave visiting Acton-Boxboro a stunning 1-0 win over reigning Division 1 girls' soccer state champion Peabody Sunday night.
The Tanners (17-2-0), who earlier this year were ranked as the top team in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, lost twice to the Colonials (10-6-3) this season.
''Beating [Peabody] once was a great achievement, but to do it a second time in playoffs on a field that they haven't lost at in a long time is absolutely magnificent,'' said Acton-Boxboro coach Lee Billiard.
''I'm bursting with pride for my girls right now. We had a game plan and they executed it well.''
However, the victory wasn't without controversy.
It appeared that a Peabody header in the first overtime crossed the goal line before being saved by goalkeeper Kelsey Bourne, but neither referee signaled for a goal and play continued.
''To us, at our angle, that ball was in,'' said Peabody coach Dennis Desroches. ''That should have been it. However, you know the refs don't make that call and it should have been made, especially with the ref on that side of the field. What are you going to do?
''We could have put it away late, but we were unable to finish. If we take care of that we don't have to worry about [what happened].''
Peabody had a string of 38 games without a loss snapped by Acton-Boxboro on Oct. 20.
Acton-Boxboro dominated possession in the first half, Sunday, but only managed three quality-scoring chances to Peabody's one. The Colonials' best chance in the first half came in the 27th minute, when Gigi Kourepenos ripped a shot off the crossbar.
The Tanners moved Boston College-bound striker Hayley Dowd (27 goals, 13 assists this season) to center midfield in the second half in an effort to better control possession. The tactic paid off, and with 2:10 to play in regulation, a shot from the Tanners' Victoria Digiacomo rebounded to Dowd in front of the A-B net, but her follow sailed just wide.
In the second overtime, the Colonials won the game after a free kick by Catherine Edmonds ricocheted off a Colonials player and then the left goal post before finding the foot of Diorio, who deposited in the back of the net.
''We talk about what we call the second phase -- picking up any rebounds or reacting from the first ball -- and Gabby did that perfectly,'' said Billiard.
''We came in and everyone doubted us and we had no pressure on us to win, but we did it and it's just awesome,'' said Bourne, who didn't believe the header in the first overtime crossed the goal line.
''I barely made the save,'' she said. ''What I saw was that my foot was either right on the line or maybe a little bit over it, but the ball has to be over it to be a goal, and I looked and I saw that I was just inside the post so I was so relieved. It was nerve-racking because the ref could have called it either way.''
Questionable calls aside, both teams played extremely hard for 96 minutes in 40 degree weather, which left coach Billiard very pleased with his girls.
''I think we've proved a lot of people wrong and shown that we can compete with and beat these kinds of teams. I'm absolutely delighted,'' he said.
The Colonials advance to play Westford Academy in the Division 1 North quarterfinals Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Westford.
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Then there are our fall correspondents:
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- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
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- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
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