Don't tell Paul Graham, Belmont High School's long-time Girls' Soccer head coach, that his team didn't deserve to win Wednesday's match with Middlesex League powerhouse Winchester High School who came to Belmont's Harris Field undefeated.
"I can't tell you how many times a fluke play or a missed ball has beaten us here," he said.
"You ask our girls if they didn't deserve that final score."
After playing on their back feet for a majority of the game and relying on senior goalkeeper Maria-Alice Menetas to make several game-saving saves, a Belmont offensive surge in the final 10 minutes resulted in a hand ball by a Winchester defender on the goal line in the final minute of the match.
The resulting penalty shot witnessed sophomore defender Lucia Guzikowski slot the ball pass the sprawling Sachems junior goal-keep Deirdre Macrorie in the 79th minute to secure the dramatic 1-0 victory over Belmont's archrival and provide a much needed win for the Marauders, who now stand 3-2 in the young season.
"I had a spot I was going to. It was the same spot I practice every time," said Guzikowski after the game. Despite her youth and limited varsity experience, "I sort of knew I would be kicking the penalty," she said.
"I knew what was needed of me and I'm glad my teammates knew I could do it," said Guzikowski.
Graham said he selected the 10th grader because she favors her left foot "and most goalkeepers don't see that many even in practice."
While praising his team's tenacity and work rate, Graham gave the game ball to his three year starter in the net.
"Ma (Menetas' name on the team) is the best goalie in the league, no doubt about it," said Graham, even despite a 5-0 crushing loss at Arlington earlier in the week.
"She reads plays better than anyone else on the field," said Graham.
And those skills came into play several times against Winchester's experienced forwards. On three occasions Menetas made outstanding saves on open shots at the net, robbing the Sachems' Alix Curtin twice, once with a diving save to the nearside post and the second by lunging at a charging Curtin to knock the ball off her feet deep in the second half.
Standouts Wednesday included Alexandra Cellucci and Olivia Lyons who anchored the backline with Guzikowski on the wing.
"Olivia may not play the prettiest game but she is someone who leads our defense and that's what counts," said Graham.
Playing every field player on his bench – "I had confidence in everyone on the bench from the seniors to the JV players" – Graham said the game turned when his team "started listening to what I was telling them" and "move the ball to the outside."
"When we go out there, I don't think anyone can match our speed," said Graham.
And it was a centering pass in the goalie box that resulted in the shot that was caught by a defender as it was heading to the back of the net.
"I hope the kids use this win to really begin to pick-it up for the remainder of the season," said Graham.