A winning streak that has continued season after season and an average margin of victory of 5.2 goals per game this year has yet to create complacency in Erica Wheeler-Dubin and the Lowell girls’ soccer team.
So even though the Cardinals were buzzing dangerously in the O’Connell penalty box early in Tuesday’s Academic Athletic Association game, the senior wasn’t content to wait patiently for what seemed like an inevitable Lowell goal to come. The forward twice came back to gather loose balls in her own end before charging down the field for breakaway goals and then set up Angelina Wedemeyer for a third score as the Cardinals (11-0) beat the Boilermakers 3-0 at Franklin Field.
“We don’t ever take anything for granted just because we’re Lowell,” said Wheeler-Dubin, who has a league-leading 17 goals. “We know we’re going to have to play a smart and simple game every time out.”
The formula is certainly time-tested, as the Cardinals have not lost a league game in at least five years (71 games) and have won the last nine AAA titles. O’Connell (7-2-3) actually gave Lowell one of its toughest games during the dominating run the last time the two teams played, falling 1-0 on March 8. And while the Boilermakers were able to create a little bit of momentum with the wind at their back in the first half Tuesday, the Cardinals controlled the play throughout, attempting 46 shots to O’Connell’s five.
“We always try to play into the wind in the first half, because I have a lot of faith in our defense,” said Lowell coach Ernie Feibusch, who commended the play of fullbacks Katie Wheeler-Dubin (Erica’s twin) and Kenny Ludlow. “And with the pressure we were putting on them, I was hoping the goals would eventually come.”
Erica Wheeler-Dubin’s scored her first goal in the 27th minute, with the second strike coming in the 54th. On both scores she calmly slalomed through down the field before cutting the ball in with her right foot.
“I’ve been playing for a while and I’ve had a lot of experience with [breakaways],” Wheeler-Dubin said. “My coaches have always taught me to try and place the ball in those situations.”
It took extremely accurate shot attempts to beat O’Connell goalie Maricruz Gonzalez. Several of the senior’s 26 saves were spectacular, including a leaping deflection to deny Emily Anderson in the second half.
“She’s a cinch for All-City,” Feibusch said.
Despite the loss, O’Connell coach Bob Gamino said he would relish another opportunity to play Lowell for the league championship.
“They say the third time’s the charm, and I’d love to find out in the finals,” Gamino said. “The girls keep improving, and hopefully we’ll get that chance.”
Lowell 3, O’Connell 0