Despite a spirited second half effort and a saved penalty kick, the Tigers were unable to complete their upset bid, suffering a 1-0 loss to the Warriors after a late goal.
The top-seeded Warriors extended their unbeaten streak to 44 straight games to advance to the D2 South Final against Milford. The last time Nauset lost was in the D2 South Semifinals in 2017 via penalty kicks to OA.
“I think the second half was much better than the first,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “I think they took it too us for about 50% of the [first] half, then the rest of it was a little more back and forth. We had some chances but they had more dangerous chances. They are a strong team. They are fast, they want to impose their style of play and they were able to do that. They a very good team, John [McCully] has done a great job. They are #8 in the country for a reason, they are no joke.
“I thought we played very well and have a lot of guys that will learn from this experience. They’ll remember how this felt, and the extra work that it takes. We had one or two bad mistakes and they punished us for it. Overall, I thought it was a great second half for us.”
The lone goal came in the 73rd minute of play. A ball over the top found Nauset’s Anthony Lovati, who controlled the ball and took a touch forward despite OA’s plea for handball. Lovati connected with Shavar Champagnie in the area, who was quickly met with a pair of OA defenders on his back.
Champagnie alertly played the ball back to the top of the area where senior Sebastian Headrick calmly ran onto it and placed a shot through traffic and into the bottom corner for the eventual game-winner.
The Tigers quickly switched to three in the back, throwing numbers and services forward, but the Nauset backline used its height to prevent any balls in behind. OA had a corner in the final seconds and put all of the players in the box, including the keeper, but were unable to get on the end of it before a Nauset clearance.
“For the most part we dominated,” said Nauset head coach John McCully. “Don’t get me wrong, Oliver Ames made it difficult for us. It was very difficult for us to get any rhythm today because we’re used to ball dominance. We didn’t have a lot of that, even though we controlled at times. And 0-0…it would have been a crying shame [if we didn’t win].”
OA keeper Drew Nickla was called into action in the 12th minute when Nauset’s Connor Cushing delivered a service to the back post that was met by Lovati but Nickla was perfectly positioned and tipped the bid over the bar.
While changes were hard to come in the first, Oliver Ames’ best opportunity came in the 19th minute. Anthony DaCosta played classmate Kevin Louhis wide on the left flank. Louhis used his speed to beat his defender before poking a cross to the edge of the six-yard box, but the service was in-between DaCosta and Dillon Cupples and a Warrior defender was quick to clear.
Nauset had two golden chances before the end of the half but couldn’t convert. William Schiffer got on the end of a throw-in from Lovati but his chance smacked off the crossbar. Just under 10 minutes later, Nathan Watring set Schiffer up right in front but his shot was over the bar.
Louhis had the first good chance of the second half in the 54th minute. After working his way around a pair of defenders, he cut near the top of the 18 and ripped a left-footed shot but a Nauset defender was able to reach out and make the block. OA’s lone shot on goal came off the foot of Louhis with a low shot from distance that was saved.
“We actually built up in the midfield well at times, but the challenge was then you run into a wall of six in the back,” Barata said. “And they weren’t soft, they come through hard. Ultimately I thought we did well, I am pleased with the guys. I am sad for the seniors because they’ve done a lot of good work for the program. But I thought they went out in a great blaze. It was a close game, they scored with seven minutes left in the game. Problem was, there was no time to bounce back. We pressed, we put everyone up for that last corner but they have a lot of big bodies in there.
“I think the guys did a really good job playing the game and they should leave here with their heads held high. They’ll learn and then we’ll come back, we’ll bounce back.”
The Tigers held the Warriors without a good chance in the run of play for the majority of the second half with strong play from defenders Matthew Nosalek, Jonathan Freeman, Brady deVos, and Harrison Ahearn, along with center mids Matthew Nikiciuk and Colin Milliken. Nauset had a free kick from 20-yards out denied by the wall, and Nickla came up huge with a save on a low shot to his right on a penalty kick in the 64th minute.
“We were a little worried with the long throws and set pieces against a strong team but today he was pretty outstanding and stellar on all the throws and set pieces,” Barata said of Nickla. “And the PK was a great save.”
Just under 10 minutes after the penalty stop, the Warriors cashed in for the lone goal of the game.
Oliver Ames boys soccer finishes the season at 15-4.
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