With a trip to the state semifinals on the line, Andover’s Paige Gillette refused to crack.
The goalie turned in a whopping 32 saves, keeping unbeaten No. 1 seed Acton-Boxboro scoreless through regulation and two overtimes, and No. 3 seed Andover delivered in the penalty stroke shootout to earn a, technically, 1-0 victory and the Division 1 North championship at Reading High School.
“This was a tremendous effort by the team,” said Andover coach Maureen Noone. “I think tonight was the clicking point that they realized, no matter who we play, we have a good chance to win. I am so proud of this team. It was a great win.”
The Golden Warriors (16-2-4) advance to take on defending Division 1 state champion, South champ Somerset Berkley (22-0) on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in Braintree.
The star of the day on Saturday was Gillette, a junior first-year starter who had never played goalie until trying the position as a sophomore.
Gillette turned in a key penalty stroke save in the first half. Then, she iced the victory in the shootout, stopping Acton-Boxboro’s fourth shooter and scrambling to haul in the rebound and clinch the victory.
“Paige was on her head tonight,” said Noone. “A-B’s final shooter had a shot on the rebound, but Paige cleared it with her glove. She really made two saves on that play.
“To me, Paige is a throwback leader. She’s a three-sport athlete that’s as nutty as they come. She’s super athletic, genuine, never misses a practice. She’s in it to win it, and you can’t teach that.”
With their goalie dominating, the Golden Warriors came through in the shootout.
Andover’s Sydney Gregory, Hanna Medwar, Kate Gemmell and Heather Graham each delivered a goal as Andover won PKs 4-2.
Starring in the defensive effort for the Golden Warriors were Abby Miller, Alana Miller and Grace Ardito.
“Every game, someone else steps up,” said Noone. “We are so young, with five great seniors, that so many have done an amazing job. We were so sound on defense, and we did create a few offensive chances.”
A win on Tuesday would send Andover to the Division 1 title game for the first time since winning the championship in 2017. The Golden Warriors lost in the North finals last fall to Masconomet.
“Somerset Berkley is going to be tough,” said Noone. “They are the defending champs, and they have two boys on the team, so that creates some controversy. We will have to be at our best, play good defense and capitalize on our offensive opportunities. We’re excited.”
Andover 1, Acton-Boxboro 0 (PKs)
Division 1 North Final
Penalty stroke goals: A — Sydney Gregory, Hanna Medwar, Kate Gemmell, Heather Graham
Saves: A — Paige Gillette 32
Andover (16-2-4): 0 0 1 — 1
Acton-Boxboro (21-1): 0 0 0 — 0