Oliver Ames Captures First Ever State Championship

Oliver Ames captains Max Bamford, Chris Romero, Keegan Nutt and head coach John Barata with the D2 State Championship. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)
Oliver Ames captains Max Bamford, Chris Romero, Keegan Nutt and head coach John Barata with the D2 State Championship. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Click here to purchase photos from OA’s celebration.
By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

LYNN, Mass. – When last year’s Div. 2 state title game ended, Oliver Ames players grabbed the runner-up trophy and raised it high in celebration of reaching the program’s first ever championship game.
When OA took the pitch on Saturday morning at Manning Field for this year’s state title game against Masconomet, the Tigers were not going to be happy settling for second place again.
The experience of last season paid dividends. OA bounced back from an early Masco goal to defeat the Chieftains 3-1 on three well-executed set pieces and clinched the program’s first state championship.
“Since we came here once, we knew how to play this game,” said OA coach John Barata. “It’s different; it’s a one-game season against a top team from the North.
“It’s a great feeling to win because it would’ve been horrible to come back-to-back years and lose again. The guys worked hard and they deserved it. We earned that win.”
Masco jumped into the lead in the 12th minute. A long throw from Alex Spaulding reached Josh Polakiewicz on the corner of the six-yard box and he flicked a header up over OA keeper Jack Carroll.
OA had lost the momentum after a decent start, but the Tigers utilized the experience of two straight runs to the South title and stayed in the game.
Senior Chris Romero equalized in the 19th minute when the Tigers were awarded a free kick just outside the box. It may have been a harsh call, but Romero did not mind as he curled his 20-yard shot past the despairing dive of Steven Heitzelman.
“They had all the momentum,” said Romero, “and we really needed the quick goal to get the momentum back, so I think it helped us pushing forward.”
Just five minutes later OA took the lead. Romero played an in-swinging corner kick that Heitzelman failed to hold. The ball dropped to the foot of sophomore Nathaniel Cardoza, who was in the right place at the right time to tap it in.
Cardoza also had the winning goal in overtime to win the South title for the Tigers. Barata said of the midfielder, “He is a very good player, diligent player. He’s a DI school’s dream and he’s only a sophomore. I’m very lucky to have him.”
Masco coach Jared Scarpaci noted, “The first [set piece], you don’t get a better free kick than that and you just tip your hat. The second one, I think we could have done a little bit better on that and that’s really when the momentum shifted.”
The Chieftains, who won the title in 2013 and have reached the state title game in three of the past four seasons (the last two in Div. 2), had their chances to equalize before the break. Shane Collins could not take advantage off of a poor clearance by Carroll to score into an empty net and then he set up Bryan Gilbert, who scuffed a shot while all alone in the box.
“They missed a couple of sitters that could have changed the game,” said Barata. “That’s the way soccer goes; I’ll take it.”
Carroll also came through with a big save to deny Blaise Romanowski in the final five minutes of the half, tipping over the Masco striker’s close-range effort off a free kick.
Seven minutes after the break, Romero showed his defensive prowess by heading out a Andrew Musiak corner underneath his own crossbar.
Barata explained, “You can see why he’s an all-state player. He starts on the left wing, scores a beautiful goal, he plays forward, and then we move him to the back and he was excellent at the back.”
In the 57th minute, OA sealed the title with another set piece that was straight off the training ground. Instead of playing an angled free kick into the box, Romero played the ball straight into the path of Matt Alvarado and the sophomore sent an inch-perfect cross into the box to a wide open Thomas McCormick, who nodded home the Tigers’ third.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Romero. “Alvarado down the line and crosses it for Thomas to head it in…perfect play.”
Barata credited the week of between games for allowing his team to work on set pieces and, as he explained, it “paid off” of Saturday.
“It worked like a charm today,” he said about the routine for the third goal. “We’ve done that a number of times and it’s gone over the bar, off the bar, off a defender, but today it was destined.”
Romero and the rest of his teammates charged towards the traveling OA fans at the final whistle, celebrating the first state title with friends and family. The Tigers reached their first sectional title in 2013, won the South for the first time last year, and now have won the state championship.
It has been a long and successful career for the OA captain and, when asked how it felt to get to this level, Romero responded succinctly, “It’s pretty awesome. It’s awesome to be a state champ.”
Click here to purchase photos from OA’s celebration. 
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

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Ryan Lanigan

Ryan Lanigan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of HockomockSports.com. You can contact him at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and follow him on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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