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Bellingham Girls U12.8 Division II Soccer Team Wins Massachusetts State Championship

(PRWEB) June 28, 2006 -- On Sunday, June 25th, a group of 11- and 12-year-old girls from Bellingham went to the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst to do something no soccer
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 team from Bellingham has ever done before -- win the state championship. Sunday’s 2:00 PM game against division rival Southboro was the final match to the three-day tournament which pitted the best of the best from around Massachusetts against each other.

 “  We always knew they were the best, and now they have the title to prove it.  
To qualify for the Massachusetts Tournament of Champions (MTOC) Tournament, the Bellingham Polar Bears needed to finish in first or second place in their division during the regular soccer
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 season. Of the nine games played in the spring, Bellingham lost only one to the Southboro Express. After a tough season against teams from Newton, Weston, Natick, Foxboro, and Southboro, Bellingham earned a first-place finish and Southboro came in second, earning both teams a spot in their Boston Area Youth Soccer
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 (BAYS) conference playoffs to see which two teams would advance to MTOC. The Polar Bears defeated the Wellesley Breakers 5 to 2 in the BAYS semi-finals, then faced the Southboro Strikers in the BAYS finals, where Bellingham won 2 goals to 1. Division rival Southboro Express won the wildcard spot in the BAYS tournament, and both teams advanced to MTOC.

Twelve teams representing ten Massachusetts soccer conferences (Berkshire, Boston Area, Coastal, Essex County, Midland Area, Middlesex, Nashoba, Pioneer Valley, South Coast, and South Shore) earned a spot in the Girls U12.8 Division II MTOC tournament.

MTOC began on Friday, June 23rd under oppressively muggy conditions, but the Polar Bears kept cool. Game one was against New Bedford, who fell to Bellingham 3 goals to zero. Later that afternoon, the Bears faced off against Hull, a team that hadn’t lost a game the entire season nor in their first game of MTOC, until Bellingham stormed an overly muddy field soaked from all of the afternoon rain and finished with a second 3-0 victory. On Saturday, Bellingham played against West Brookfield and won 2-0, clinching the number-one seed going into Sunday’s semi-final game. Though Bellingham was focused on their own games, they never took their eye off of Southboro Express, who also won all three of their tournament games with shutouts, earning them the number-two seed.

On Sunday, Bellingham came to play, as did their semi-final opponent, fourth-seeded Groton-Dunstable. In a very physical and exhausting match, Bellingham managed a second-half goal to put them up one to zero. For the rest of the game, the Polar Bears held onto their narrow lead by focusing their efforts on defense. When the game-ending whistle blew, the Bears looked to the sideline and saw the Southboro Express waiting -- they, too, had won their semi-final match.

When game-time came, Bellingham huddled up as their coaches and parents looked on, and the team talked, cheered, and worked each other into a frenzy. At kickoff, it was clear the Polar Bears had no interest in second place. During the regular season, the playoffs, and up to the finals of the MTOC tournament, Southboro Express gave up only five goals. By halftime of the championship match, the Polar Bears had already added two more to that number. During the halftime break, the Bellingham players and coaches saw victory within reach, but stayed focused -- there were 30 more minutes to play, and Southboro wasn’t going to lie down. Ten minutes into the second half, the Polar Bears were penalized for a hand ball in their own goal box, and Southboro capitalized on the penalty kick to bring the game within one point. With renewed life and a lot of soccer left to play, Southboro Express was threatening, but Bellingham pushed back and managed to score another goal with less than ten minutes left to play. Up by two, the strategy was all defense, and as the seconds ticked away, the state title was quickly becoming a reality.

When the final whistle blew, the Polar Bears had defeated the only team to beat them in 2006, and they had done something no soccer team from Bellingham, boys or girls, from any age group had done before -- they were state champions.

“These girls have worked so hard all season, and they played with all of their hearts this weekend,” said Ed Fraine, head coach of the Bellingham Polar Bears. “We are so proud of them, and this state championship is a testament to their skill, teamwork, and determination. We always knew they were the best, and now they have the title to prove it.”

The Bellingham Polar Bears are: Megan Allen, Andrea Boisvert, Maureen Deorsey, Emily Doherty, Danielle Fraine, Kelli Gibbons, Erin Huntley, Kaitlyn Marlborough, Kristen Merrill, Bridget Munnelly, Panayiota Tsiounis, and Taylor Wilson. Ed Fraine, Russ Boisvert, and Jeff Belanger are their coaches.

About the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association
The Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association (Mass Youth Soccer) is the official representative of the United States Soccer Federation (US Soccer), the national governing body for soccer in the United States, and United States Youth Soccer Association (US Youth Soccer) in Massachusetts. At the international level, Mass Youth Soccer is a member of the Federation Internationiale de Football Association (FIFA). FIFA is the worldwide governing body for soccer and is responsible for organizing, developing, and promoting the game of soccer throughout the world. Despite the size of Massachusetts, Mass Youth Soccer is the second largest of 55 state youth soccer associations. Mass Youth Soccer membership is made up of more than 185,000 players and 24,000 adults. Members are affiliated by more than 427 separate soccer organizations throughout the state. Each summer, Mass Youth Soccer holds the Massachusetts Tournament of Champions.

About the Massachusetts Tournament of Champions (MTOC)
The Massachusetts Tournament of Champions is a season-ending tournament in the under 12 through under 19 age groups, bringing the leagues together every summer to determine the best of the league champions. Each of these leagues establish their own guidelines, including league playoffs, to determine their representatives to this tournament. The leagues that participate in MTOC are: Berkshire, Boston Area (BAYS), Coastal, Essex County, Midland Area (MAYS), Middlesex, Nashoba, Pioneer Valley (PVJSL), South Coast, and South Shore. This tournament attracts about 2,500 players, 1,000 coaches, referees, and administrators, and more than 10,000 spectators.


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