TAUNTON, Mass. – The Taunton boys soccer team didn’t win the battle of possession or have the most chances in the game, but it did have the advantage where it mattered most: the score.
The Tigers weathered a strong attack from Sharon, countering with two second half goals, including the game-winner in the final five minutes, to pick up a 2-1 win.
“For this team, it’s about a belief system,” said Taunton head coach Taylor Whitters. “They have to really believe in what they are capable of, because they are capable of a lot, this team has a lot of talent. It’s about being confident. This team in particular, they don’t give up. They are really embracing the “we” mentality over “me” and I think thats’ carrying them through.
“They are determined and resilient, and that showed today. We can’t come out flat like we did. But I couldn’t be prouder of the whole team for staying with it.”
With the game tied 1-1, Taunton senior Brett Beaulieu won a one-on-one battle on the left flank, dribbled into open space and drove a perfectly weighted cross into the senior. Junior Mateusz Hagemajer was in the right spot, heading it just under the bar through the keeper’s hands for the game-winner.
Sharon had the majority of the play, especially in the first half. The Eagles applied a ton of pressure in the opening 20 minutes but couldn’t solve the Tigers’ defense, anchored by Evan Melo and Liam Crowley, or goalie Nolan Melo (10 saves).
Senior Antonio El-Khoury had a nice rip from 25 yards out sail just over the bar, junior Isaiah Stessman drove a low shot from the top of the box off the post, and the Eagles had a couple of crosses go without an answer.
The Eagles finally broke through in the 26th minute when Stessman tucked a header just inside the far post off a nicely taken corner from senior Eli Berkowitz.
Before the end of the half, Taunton settled in some and developed a pair of chances on their own. In the 33rd minute, Hagemajer hit a half volley that was smothered on the bounce by Sharon keeper Ethan Kantor. Five minutes later, hard work from Jared Roderick nearly led to a chance for Hagemajer in the box but Sharon’s Daniel Gunduz interjected and cleared.
After some back and forth play in the early second, Taunton came up with the equalizer just over the midway point of the half. Beaulieu came up big again, gaining possession just over half and linking up with Colby Fernandes in the final third.
Fernandes took a touch into space before taking a shot from 25 yards out. The shot deflected off a player and hit off the inside of the post, just outside the reach of the diving keeper, to make it 1-1. It was Beaulieu’s first of two assists on the night.
“We rely on Brett a lot,” Whitters said. “He’s a very smart player and he’s very tactically aware. He’s very versatile so I can have him go in the middle to calm things down or he can be an attacking option out wide. He really sets a positive tone for us, he’s a workhorse out there.”
Sharon nearly responded right away when Berkowitz was played in alone in the 67th minute but Melo made a terrific one-on-one stop to keep the game level. Eight minutes later, Hagemajer had the winner.
“It’s deflating. We completely dominated that game, dominated the chances,” said Sharon head coach Bryan Kelly. “I’m in shock…we stopped running the last 10 minutes of the game. It was unlucky [Taunton’s] first goal took that deflection. But a break like that gives a team like that hope. We’re not a bad team…I know we’re 0-3-3 but we’ve dominated almost every single game we played.
“We’re missing by just inches and then we give up two lousy goals. It just completely annihilates us. We’re working our butts off, we’re dominating the midfield, we’re getting through balls but with no results. Their goalie was busy but we were missing the frame a lot. Everything was just a few inches off here and there. But give [Taunton] credit, they played their butts off and showed a lot of heart. They had no quit in them.”
Taunton boys soccer (1-1-2 Hockomock, 1-2-2 overall) is back in action on Monday night when it visits Franklin. Sharon (0-2-3, 0-3-3) is in action the same night, taking on Canton in its first ever night game at Sharon High.
2017 Record: 10-5-4 2017 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Danny Erickson
The Bulldogs have been one of the top offensive teams over the past two seasons, and that trend will likely continue with the personnel returning this season. The goal this season is to equal that success on the defensive end of the field.
“We have had lots of success the past two seasons in scoring goals but we have not been stingy enough with allowing goals,” said Canton head coach Danny Erickson.
Hockomock League leading scorer Paul Corcoran is back for his senior season and has been one of the top producers in the final third over the past two seasons. His nine goals in 2016 helped earn him HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year honors and last year he led the Hock with 15 goals and 23 total points. He is joined by HockomockSports.com Best XI selection Griffin Roach in the midfield. Roach is one of the best two-way players in the league and will undoubtedly be relied upon to help both the offense (10 goals, five assists last year) and the defense. Simon Cruz is another player with a good amount of varsity experience that will likely factor in.
While the offense looks to be in good shape, shoring up the defense won’t be easy after losing starting goalie Abe Garber and center back John Agnitti. However, Erickson can rely on Paolo Ruggeri to lead the way in the back. Ruggeri has a ton of varsity experience and will be the quarterback of the defense, organizing and keeping the back four in shape. Junior Alejandro Correal will step in as the starting keeper.
2017 Record: 11-5-4 2017 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Joe Franchino
Foxboro head coach Joe Franchino isn’t afraid to talk about how confident he is in this year’s team.
“The Hockomock title is coming to Foxboro,” Franchino said.
Although Foxboro graduated a dozen seniors, the players that the Warriors do return are the reason why Franchino is so confident in this group. Starting up top, Foxboro has both of its strikers back, including leading scorer Shane VandenBoom. Last year, VandenBoom was second in the league in the regular season with 21 points, scoring 12 goals and adding nine assists. He will be joined up top by Dylan Barreira, who had a strong sophomore season.
In the midfield, everything will run through junior Joe Cusack. There aren’t many midfielders that have the poise on the ball that Cusack does and he will likely be the engine for the team. He isn’t the biggest player on the pitch but his vision is among the best and his ability to play balls over the top and through the defense make Foxboro’s offense very dangerous. Nic Beigel will complement Cusack in the middle to give the Warriors a solid 1-2 combo.
Defensively, the Warriors are hoping to see more of the same after only allowing 15 goals through 18 regular season games. The good news is that Foxboro has plenty of experience returning in the back with Matt Garcia, Brian Gardner, and Will Regan back in the fold. Franchino stressed that the team must put defense first and buy into the system, and then the team can go forward — an area the Warriors are very confident in.
2017 Record: 7-8-3 2017 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Brian Edwards
After missing out on the postseason by just one game, the 2018 Scarlet Hawks are laser-focused on making it into the state tournament and having a run at the division title.
Third-year head coach Brian Edwards saw his team go from four wins to seven over the first two years and is hoping that upward trend will continue in 2018.
“We are looking to build upon the lessons learned last year,” Edwards said. “We want to work on maintaining focus and closing games out this season. With many players coming back for their third varsity season we are hopeful that our experience helps us work towards our goals this season.”
One big reason for optimism is junior Walisson De Oliveira, who exploded as one of the best offensive threats in the league in the second half of the season. After playing in the midfield for half the year, Edwards moved De Oliveira up top and the move paid off big time. The striker scored 14 goals (second most in the Hock) and had three assists.
In the midfield, the Hawks boast a trio of talented and experienced players. Tiago Carvalho, Joao Boaventura, and Jordan Borges have all shown improvement over the offseason and will be counted on to handle the middle of the pitch. Seniors Joey Madden and Zach Brown return to anchor the defensive unit in front of senior goalie Cam Doherty.
2017 Record: 11-2-6 (Davenport Division Champions) 2017 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Geoff Burgess
Despite graduating over a dozen seniors from last year’s Davenport division-winning squad, North Attleboro head coach Geoff Burgess believes his team will be ready to defend its league title.
The Rocketeers will have to find a replacement for HockomockSports.com Best XI selections Gabe Pinhancos (center mid) and Brendan Matracia (goalie), as well as the entire back line, but Burgess does have options to fill the voids.
“I’m excited to see what this group can accomplish,” Burgess said. “We have a good nucleus of talented players and high expectations.”
Senior striker Joe Hilf was second on the team in points last year after scoring six goals and adding two assists and Big Red also has junior midfielders Dylan Corrigan (four goals, three assists) and James Sale back in the fold. All three have plenty of varsity experience and should be major factors for North this season. Junior Joey Coscarella will see more playing time as well this season.
Senior captain Evan Rosenberg will step in at center back to anchor the new back four. Burgess is also optimistic about his options in net with junior Kyle Briere taking over as the starter.
2017 Record: 5-9-4 2017 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Bryan Kelly
Only one year removed from winning the Davenport title, Sharon is hoping its versatility will help get them back to the top of what is shaping up to be a very competitive division.
“We have some dynamic players this year which gives us the ability to use different formations making it difficult for teams to plan for us,” said Sharon coach Bryan Kelly. “We have a rotation of players who can play two or more positions and play them well. If we stick to our game plan, we will be a tough team to reckon with.”
The Eagles have a strong core of returning players that Kelly can build off of. Ethan Kantor is back for his third year in goal and will be the leader of the defense. Alex Dias returns from a torn ACL to take up one of the outside back positions. Kelly expects Brendan Arnold and Daniel Gunduz to step up on defense this season.
In the midfield, junior Michael Baur (HockomockSports.com Second XI selection) will be a key piece and help the Eagles transition from defense to offense. Baur is also one of the more dangerous free kick takers in the league. Baur will work with the speedy Isaiah Stessman and Norway-transfer Viktor Schneider on the wings in the midfield.
Kelly is looking for junior Brian Higgins and Daniel Lillenfeld to form a dynamic partnership up top while Antonio Elkoury and Eli Berkowitz can step in and provide depth in both the midfield and up front.
After three straight years in the playoffs, the Black Knights had a down season a year ago but new head coach Joshua Aubin is anxious to get Stoughton back into playoff contention.
“This is definitely a team that is not afraid to get down and dirty,” Aubin said. “We’ve got some scrappy players who will not be backing down from the challenges ahead.”
Stoughton will be relying on its 10 seniors to set the pace this season, starting with captain Fabi Ponce de Leon. In his fourth year on varsity, Ponce de Leon will be the engine in the middle of the field and help facilitate things for the Black Knights. Aubin is looking for some new faces to step up around Ponce de Leon to take some pressure off the senior and give him some space. Fellow captain John Ortiz will be a leader for a defensive group that is looking to improve on last season.
All-Hockomock selection Carter Gerome returns as the starting goalie for the Black Knights.
“We do have a lot of athletes where we hope to be able to maximize on their individual abilities,” Aubin said. “We have a little bit of everything – some height, some speed, some strength, some physicalness, and some finesse.”
It took the Eagles less than 10 minutes to take the lead over the Bombardiers. Using one of their most reliable options, senior Tyler Hippler launched a long throw-in inside the attacking third that went over Attleboro’s keeper, deflected off sophomore Michael Baur, off the post and in for a 1-0 lead.
Attleboro registered its first chance of the game in the 18th minute when Devin Andre tracked down a long punt from keeper Nick Hasenfus, touched it wide for sophomore Michael Russo but his bid went just over the bar.
Big Blue’s momentum didn’t last long though. Just three minutes later, the Eagles doubled their lead. Sharon senior Marques Benton found some space at the top of the area, turned and ripped a shot that forced a diving save by Hasenfus. But Stessman pounced on the loose ball and buried it to make it 2-0.
“That’s the offense we’ve been expecting,” Kelly said. “During the OA game, we were kind of stagnant in our midfield and weren’t moving the ball well. So yesterday during practice we focused on moving the ball and keeping our formation and it showed today. We kept the ball on the ground, we were stringing together some passes together.”
Attleboro had a last minute chance in the first half when Connor Dunn struck a half volley inside the area, but Sharon junior goalie Ethan Kantor made an acrobatic save to preserve the two goal lead at the break.
Sharon came close to adding a third just over five minutes into the second half but Hasenfus had a big answer. Sophomore Viktor Schneider’s low cross found the feet of Baur inside the area, but a tackle from Nathan LaPlume forced it free. Hippler jumped on the loose ball and placed his shot in the upper corner but Hasenfus timed his jump perfectly and knocked it away.
The save proved big for Attleboro as the Bombardiers cut the deficit in half just four minutes later. Russo launched a big clearance off a Sharon corner and junior Will Halben was able to flick the ball behind the defense. Halben then tracked down the loose ball, taking advantage of a miscommunication between a Sharon defender and Sharon goalie, touched it wide and finished into the open net to make it 2-1.
The Bombardiers nearly pulled level three minutes later when Aidan Lanc put a half volley on goal, but Kantor was positioned well.
Two minutes after Andre had his floating header stopped by Kantor, the Eagles found the game winner. After a first corner we cleared away, Baur whipped a cross into the near post and Stessman – who was on the bench for the majority of the second half as he eases into game form – made the run and connected with a header to make it 3-1.
“We have a bunch of young players so when we can score off a set piece, it’s a bonus,” Kelly said. “Our second goal and our last goal to ice it, those are the goals we want to see. But set pieces are big too, a lot of teams score on set pieces in this league. If you’re not scoring on them, you could be down. You take away the set piece goals and it’s a 2-2 tie.”
With Attleboro pushing almost all of its players forward, Sharon’s Antonio El-Khoury took advantage and tucked his shot into the far corner in the 80th minute.
On the final play of the game, Attleboro sophomore David Medeiros hammered home a corner from junior Eli Araujo to make it 4-2.
Sharon boys soccer (2-1-1 overall, 2-1 Hockomock) is back in action on Friday when it opens its Davenport schedule with a visit from Foxboro. Attleboro (0-2-1) is on the road for the second straight game, visiting King Philip on Friday.
2016 Record: 8-7-5 2016 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Danny Erickson
After playing a good handful of juniors and sophomores during the 2016 season, the Bulldogs look to be an experienced group heading into this year. Leading the way will be senior and two-time captain Jake Verille, who leads the Bulldogs from the middle of the pitch. Fellow captain Abe Garber is back for another year in net and senior captain John Agnitti with anchor the defensive line.
Verille, a HockomockSports.com Best XI selection last season, has been one of the top playmakers the past two years. On top of Verille’s offensive ability, Canton also returns junior Paul Corcoran – the team’s leading scorer (nine goals) and the HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. Alongside Corcoran, the Bulldogs have a slew of juniors with varsity experience including Griffin Roach, Simon Cruz, Paulo Ruggeri and Avery Minkin that will all factor into the attack.
“We are confident that we will be able to keep the ball and attack this year,” said Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “The chances should be created, but we will need to finish. We will also need to defend as a group of 11 MUCH better than we did last season.”
2016 Record: 6-9-4 2016 Finish: Reached D3 South First Round Coach: Joe Franchino
After graduating just five seniors last season, head coach Joe Franchino brings back the majority of squad that had just one loss in its last eight regular season games in 2016. However, two of those five players – Anthony Barreira (two-time Best XI selection) & AJ Bubencik (now playing at Mass. Maritime) – were four year players and will be tough to replace.
The good news is that while the Warriors were young a year ago, a good portion of the team has at least a season of varsity experience under its belt. Senior captain Shawn McNamara, now in his fourth year starting for the Warriors, will lead the way along with fellow captains Matt Rongione and Ryan Kelley. Senior Cam Cass also has plenty of experience and will be relied upon as a playmaker. Junior Shane Vandenboom had a strong sophomore season and will be an important piece in the midfield along classmate Nic Beigel and senior Hussiein Kafel.
Seniors Bobby Harrison will be the starting goalie for the Warriors.
“Coming into my third year, I am confident the team has bought into the system and I’m really looking forward to see how they compete,” Franchino said. “We have experienced senior and junior classes with a couple of sophomores to watch out for. We may not have a target on our back but when it’s all said and done, I believe we have the team to win! I believe in this group and really excited to see what they accomplish.”
2016 Record: 4-10-4 2016 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Brian Edwards
The Scarlet Hawks are looking to take the next step in year two with Brian Edwards at the helm. After just four wins a season ago, Edwards is hoping that the experience gained by his younger players will translate into more success this time around.
Midfielder Andre Oliveira will be a key piece for Edwards and the Scarlet Hawks, helping both the offense and defense. Oliveira’s ability to transition from defense to offense will be key for the Scarlet Hawks this season. On the defensive side of the ball, senior Jacob Balzarini is back in the center of the defense. After getting plenty of time in that spot last season, Balzarini will be the anchor of the backline this year. On top of Oliveira and Balzaini, Edwards is looking for new players to step up and make an impact.
“I’m looking for us to be a team that stresses balance,” Edwards said. “I am hopeful that the experience many of these guys gained last year translates into more success in the standings. I am also excited to see what the new guys bring to the squad. There are a bunch of hungry young players that want to make their mark on this team and in this league.”
North Attleboro boasts over a dozen seniors on the 2017 version of the Red Rocketeers and head coach Geoff Burgess is hoping that experience will translate into success on the field.
Leading the way will be senior and 2016 HockomockSports.com Second XI selection Gabe Pinhancos, who has been Big Red’s field general for the past couple of seasons. Josh Rodriguez and Ryan Pasquel are also back this season to help bolster the midfield. Junior Joe Hilf and senior Jeff Gale will be relied upon to pace North Attleboro’s offense.
Big Red’s biggest strength could be in the back, having a defensive unit with plenty of experience. Noah Barney and Zach Matracia both saw significant time and will be joined by classmates Andrew Fontaine and Kevin Aguilar. That defensive unit will be in front of senior goalie Brendan Matracia.
“I am hoping that we are going to be a team on the rise this year,” said Burgess. “I have a strong senior class and we’ve had a good summer and an even better preseason.”
2016 Record: 11-4-4 (Davenport Division Champions) 2016 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Bryan Kelly
The defending Davenport division champs will boast a large senior class (14) but will also rely on some younger players as they look to win back-to-back Hock titles.
The Eagles’ tri-captains will provide leadership in each part of the pitch, with senior center back Shubo Roy-Chowdury on the back line, senior Tyler Hippler leading the midfield and senior Spencer Hall up front. Sharon’s attack will bolstered by seniors Marques Benton and Andy Reyes-Jones, who both saw plenty of time up top a year ago. Meanwhile, sophomore Michael Baur is back after a standout freshman season and classmates Isaiah Stessman, Brian Higgins and freshman Brice Nathan will all play a role in helping the Eagles go forward.
Maybe the biggest advantage the Eagles have is returning keeper Ethan Kantor. The junior had a terrific season in net a year ago and will be the backbone of the team’s defense.
“With a solid defense that is smart and has speed, we should be able to keep up with fast offenses while not losing the capability to support a potent offense,” said SHS head coach Bryan Kelly. “Overall, we are solid from goal to forwards, it just depends on if we can put the ball in the back of the net.”
2016 Record: 8-9-2 2016 Finish: Reached D2 South Preliminary Round Coach: Chris Suchorski
Stoughton will be looking to make it back again to the postseason, this time under first-year head coach Chris Suchorski. The Black Knights just made it in a season ago but it marked the third straight year for the program.
Suchorski is tasked with replacing 12 seniors that graduated from last year’s team. However, all of the players he is returning all saw varsity time last season and that should soften the blow dealt by graduation. Senior Tyler Melo (six points) is back and will likely be a vital part of the Black Knights’ midfield and attack. Junior Fabio Ponce de Leon (six points) begins his third season on varsity and will once again be one the Black Knights’ top offensive options. Brian Peoples also returns as one of the team’s top playmakers.
The biggest question could come with the back four, as the Black Knights must find a replacement for 2016 Best XI selection Goddy Fombe, who anchored the back line the past two season the sweeper position.