Three-peat! Hopkinton wins 3rd straight D-III girls’ soccer title

  • Hopkinton players jog across the field at Campbell High School with the Division III championship plaque after winning their third straight title with a 4-1 win against Campbell on Sunday. From left to right: Maddy Follansbee, Annie Higginbotham, Kaylee Murdough, Caitlin Clark (holding plaque) and Brooke Carlson. JEFF SULLIVAN / sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Hopkinton’s Ashlee Brehio (right, blue head band) celebrates with her teammates after scoring one of her three goals during the second half of Sunday’s Division III girls’ soccer championship at Campbell High School in Litchfield. Hopkinton won, 4-1, to claim its third straight D-III title. JEFF SULLIVAN / sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Hopkinton’s Ashlee Brehio dribbles the ball during Sunday’s Division III girls’ soccer championship at Campbell High School in Litchfield. Breehio scored three goals and Hopkinton won, 4-1, to claim its third straight D-III title. JEFF SULLIVAN / sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Hopkinton’s Annie Higginbotham (left) kicks the ball while Campbell’s Alex Wallenmaier (right) defends during Sunday’s Division III girls’ soccer championship at Campbell High School in Litchfield. Higginbotham scored a goal and earned her team two penalty kicks as Hopkinton won, 4-1, to claim its third straight D-III title. JEFF SULLIVAN / sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Hopkinton’s Ashlee Brehio (center) celebrates with her teammates after scoring one of her three goals during the second half of Sunday’s Division III girls’ soccer championship at Campbell High School in Litchfield. Hopkinton won, 4-1, to claim its third straight D-III title. JEFF SULLIVAN / sullivaneventphotography.com

Monitor staff
Published: 11/9/2020 10:10:28 AM

Two years ago they survived championship penalty kicks. Last year they struck first in sudden death overtime. For this year’s Division III soccer title, the Hopkinton girls took care of business in regulation.

“The last two years it’s been crazy, PKs and overtime, so winning in regulation this year, to just stop it right there, is awesome,” Hopkinton junior captain Annie Higginbotham said. “We were up by so much and then to win it by three goals is crazy.”

Higginbotham was ball-winning machine, Ashlee Brehio netted a hat trick off three set pieces and the Hawks claimed a third-straight D-III title with a dominating 4-1 win against Campbell.

Hopkinton rolled through the entire tournament this year with no-doubt wins against Mascoma (9-0), Kearsarge (5-0), Belmont (4-0) and Campbell. That playoff run came after a regular season that saw the Hawks go 3-4-2, but eight of those nine games against D-II teams, including six contests against Bow, Pembroke Academy and Merrimack Valley, which were three of the four D-II semifinalists this year.

“Being able to play those skilled and bigger teams from D-II really improved our play, and you could tell throughout the playoffs,” Higginbotham said.

Not that the Hawks really needed much help. They returned nine of 11 starters from last year’s team, and then added Academy players Brehio, a junior, and freshman Keegan St. Cyr when the U.S. Soccer Development Academy rules changes over the summer allowing Academy players to also compete for their high school team.

“It was June when I first found out I could play for Hopkinton this year, so I was really excited, it was all new,” said Brehio, who added that she did want to play for the high school team the last two seasons, as well, but said playing at the Seacoast United Academy Program, “helped me grow as a player and helped me get where I am now.”

Campbell also played a tough regular-season schedule, finishing 3-5-0 with the four losses coming against two D-II teams (Pelham and Hollis Brookline) and one D-I team (Alvirne). The Cougars had a pair of 2-1 games in their tournament run (first round against Trinity, semifinals against Raymond), but they had outscored their first four postseason opponents by a total of 15-3 going into Sunday’s final on their home field.

Campbell certainly looked ready for the championship when Karleigh Schultz lofted a nice cross to the far post that Josephine Oberto settled quickly and then slipped inside the post for a pretty goal that gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead in the second minute.

“That made us a little nervous, but knowing our team, we’re pretty good at getting back in the game and having our intensity rise as we go,” Higginbotham said.

The Hawks picked up that intensity almost immediately after giving up the goal. Caitlin Clark was orchestrating through the middle, Jess Carney looked dangerous on the wing, Maddy Carmichael was pressuring up top and Higginbotham, Brehio and St. Cyr were in the mix all over the place.

“A goal was definitely coming,” Breehio said, “we had tons of chances.”

It took time for all the chances to turn into a goal, but eventually they did when Higginbotham was taken down in the box and then converted the PK in the 32nd minute to make it 1-1.

“I keep my eye on the ref when I’m getting ready for the PK so I don’t look at the goalie or where I’m going to shoot and give it away,” Higginbotham said.

Even though his team was in control and the game was tied, Hopkinton coach Mike Zahn was still anxious at halftime.

“I was still nervous just because I didn’t think we were playing that well in the first half,” Zahn said. “And then in the second half I could see our energy level start to pick up and I think Campbell’s started to drop, and that energy brought us the next few goals, we were just all over them, so that was nice to see.”

The energized Hawks earned a pair of corner kicks in the second minute of the second half. Higginbotham took the first one, but Brehio took the second one and her kick floated along the goal line before dipping toward Campbell goalie Bailey Borque and going in for a 2-1 Hopkinton lead.

“I’ve scored on those before, I practice them,” Brehio said.

About six minutes later, Brehio was tormenting the Campbell goalie again. This time it was on a free kick from about 40 yards out with the sun shining in Borque’s eyes. Brehio lofted the ball into that sun and it came down just under the cross bar and through Borque’s hands to make it 3-1 with 31:14 left in the half.

And about six minutes after that, Higginbotham was taken down in the box again and the Hawks were awarded another PK. Zahn and Hopkinton assistant coach Courtney Benson decided Brehio should take this PK in case Borque had picked up on any of Higginbotham’s tendencies on the first-half PK. Brehio slapped the shot just inside the right post to complete her set-piece hat trick and give her team a comfortable 4-1 margin.

Hopkinton’s Kally Murdough and Maddy Follansbee led a defensive effort that mostly kept the ball away from goalie Emily Fleegle, who didn’t really have a chance on Campbell’s first goal but stopped the other two shots that were on her net.

“It was definitely a weird year with all the guidelines and having to wear masks and the different schedule,” Zahn said, “but our girls made the most of it.”




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