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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
In September of 2016, local youth soccer stars Maddi Peck of Westwood and Rachel Herman of Dover and their club team, New England Football Club (NEFC), set a goal to get to the finals of the 2017 national tournament. Ten months later, Peck and Herman not only met their goal, but also completed their almost yearlong quest with a 13-U national title.Hours upon hours of hard work and dedication throughout the year led NEFC to a New England ’04 championship back in June, qualifying this group of the most elite youth soccer talent from Massachusetts to Maine for nationals in Westfield, Indiana from July 13-18.
The tournament featured more than 150 teams from 99 different clubs. Including NEFC, 22 made it to Indiana after winning their respective regions. In Indiana, NEFC took on teams from all over the country, including clubs from Florida, Texas, Illinois, and Oklahoma.
Despite battling through much adversity and having to deal with multiple sets of significant injuries (broken leg, sprained clavicle, hyper-extended elbow) NEFC was able to complete their goal and battle their way to the national finals.In their championship contest against California, Peck, a defender, delivered an assist on NEFC’s first goal on a fast break. The game would remain tied at two at the end of regulation and require sudden death overtime. Following two scoreless extra frames, penalty kicks would ultimately decide the fate of the national championship.
NEFC sank four of their five penalty kicks to edge out California for the 3-2 victory, claiming the national title for 13-U.
Peck, a rising eighth grader at Thurston Middle School in Westwood, and Herman, a rising eighth grader at Dover-Sherborn Middle School, will be playing together next season as part of the local professional women’s soccer team Boston Breakers’ youth academy.
Congratulations to Maddi, Rachel, and NEFC on this incredible accomplishment.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.