CHAMPIONS! Eagles dethrone Proctor in 3-0 victory

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RANDOLPH — It felt like the entire town of Arlington was at Randolph Union High School on Saturday, watching the Eagles finish off an undefeated season with a 3-0 win over No. 2 Proctor in the Division IV final.

One very important person, former coach John Werner, however, wasn't able to make the trip north, as he battles cancer. But he was on the minds of all the Eagles.

"This is a big one," said Arlington coach Aaron Wood as the celebration continued. "A long time ago, we put Wins for Werner on our T-shirts and on the backstop [at the Rec Park]. Everything we've done this year is about trying to win for him. He couldn't make it today, but I know he was watching us in spirit."     

The way the Eagles won goes along with Werner's motto, 'Losing is Not an Option.'

Proctor dominated play for the first 15 minutes, but some nice work by the Arlington defense and goalie Shaana Staab kept it scoreless. But the Eagles broke out with 14 minutes left in the half as Tess Belnap used some fancy footwork to get through the Phantoms' defense and then was 1-on-1 with Proctor goalie Rachel Stuhmueller.

"They were better in the first 15 minutes, but then Tess scores and 30 minutes, we're up 1-0," Wood said. "It was picture perfect, as technical as you could see on the breakaway. For someone who can kick it harder than anyone in the state, to walk in and slowly roll it in was so perfect. It completely shifted the game."

Belnap had two of the three goals, giving her a grand total of 44 tallies on the year. Haley Mattison scored with six minutes to go, her 32nd of the season, to seal it.

The Eagles took the single-goal lead to the half and early on Belnap was given a yellow card for dissent, but three minutes later on a run into the box, Mattison was fouled and a penalty kick was called.

A cool and collected Belnap easily converted to double the lead with 36:43 left.

"I was glad we have players on this team that can definitely make that shot," said senior Aimee Frank. "For Arlington, [winning the championship] means a lot, we did this for Mr. Werner, our motto is Wins for Werner. Our goals in the beginning of the season were to be undefeated and win states and improve and we accomplished every single one."

The score took the air out of the Phantoms and the play remained mostly in the Proctor end of the field. Mattison nearly scored with 13 minutes to go, but it was just wide.

A few minutes later, Proctor had its best chance of the half when Staab came out to get the ball in the six-yard box, but a weird bounce ended up at an Arlington defender's foot, who cleared it away.

The championship game was the first time this year that Proctor was shut out.

"They didn't have a real good chance to score in the second half. Our defense and keeper are so solid, I can't say enough about the group of senior girls that led us, those girls have worked hard their whole career and they deserve today," Wood said. "They've had a couple of rough years between soccer and basketball and they've been together for the long haul. They stuck together and I'm so proud of them."

Mattison sealed it for good with 6:04 left on a left-footed rocket to the near post from the edge of the 18-yard box.

"It's nice as a coach to have a 3-0 lead as time's clicking down," Wood said.

Arlington ends the season at 18-0 in Wood's first season as the head coach of the Eagles, taking over from his father, Dan, this year. The Eagles, who between the boys and girls teams won their 14th soccer title in school history, outscored their opponents 104-6 overall.

"To be able to do it with my dad means everything, my first year as the head coach," Wood said. "It might be his last year being involved at all, so to see it come full circle like that... he handed the reigns to me when he knew the team was going to be great and I'll be forever grateful."

But many thoughts went to Werner, who many consider the father of Arlington soccer.

"Arlington soccer wouldn't be what it is without John Werner," Wood said. "Hopefully we can continue that legacy. Today's win was for John and I'm proud that the girls took care of business and left no doubt who is the best in the state."


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