There aren’t many strikers in the league with the amount of varsity experience that Foxboro senior Matt Angelini has. A four-year member of the Warriors’ varsity team, Angelini has improved each and every season and could be poised for a breakout year in 2021. He bagged a pair of goals as a sophomore and then was Foxboro’s leading scorer during last year’s abbreviated season with six goals, which was tied for the fourth-most during the regular season. He is very dangerous inside the box and has a knack for finding a loose ball or a rebound but he can also play with the ball at his feet; he’ll make defenses pay when given space outside the area.
King Philip lost a very large senior class to graduation but head coach Mike O’Neill has some veteran players to lean on, including three-year player Caleb Cassetta. Cassetta is a true box-to-box midfielder and we’ve seen over the course of the past two seasons just how skilled he is with the ball on his feet. He can help translate defense to offense and is a calming presence on the ball. When King Philip is looking to build its offense, it’s likely going to come through Cassetta at some point. Whether it’s just keeping possession, hitting the through ball in the final third, or having a go from distance, expect him to be the engine for the Warriors this season.
It could be a pretty big year for Mansfield senior Matty Hyland, both on the pitch this fall and on the court during the winter. Head coach Steve Sheridan said the midfield unit is the backbone of the team this year and Hyland is a big reason for that. He’s not only a great option in the air, which fits really nice in the Hornets’ attack plans, but he’s very smart with the ball at his feet. He will be tasked with pulling the strings in the central midfield. He showed last year the ability to link the defense with the offense. He can also drop back and be a key piece of the defense while smoothing the transition and solidifying the middle. We’ve seen it in the past and it’s bound to happen again this season: Hyland can be= lethal from distance. If defenses decide to sit back and give him space, he has no problem putting one on target from distance.
There isn’t much to say about Franklin senior Terry O’Neill that we haven’t already said sometime over the past two seasons, but that won’t stop us from doing so again here. A truly versatile player, O’Neill can play just about anywhere on the pitch, playing mostly in a holding mid spot as a sophomore and then dropping deeper to solidify the defense last season. One thing we’re looking forward to this season is the return of heading the ball. The players did a nice job adjusting to the rules modified by COVID, but heading is such a key aspect of the game and it’s certainly a big part of O’Neill’s game. He does a nice job really standing out in his box against set pieces, and on the other end of the pitch, he’s the one setting the offense up whether it’s with a cross, a set piece service, or a shot on a free kick.
Taunton had its already abbreviated season cut short last fall, only getting four games in early on in the season. That means there weren’t many players that were able to gain valuable experience, getting used to the speed of the varsity level. Junior Riley Rebello already had a full season under his belt, playing nearly every minute as a freshman. That will be huge for head coach Taylor Whitters and her Tigers this season because they have a very young roster. Whether it’s at center back — where he played the majority of his freshman year — or further up the pitch, which is what we saw more of recently, Rebello will be a key cog in the middle of the pitch. His versatility will be important too as he can step up front and score (like we saw in the season opener against Stoughton) and if the Tigers need to pack it in or park the bus to protect a lead, they have Rebello’s height and skill to rely on.
Canton could be poised for a big year with a strong core of players, including a pretty talented senior class that top goal scorers Jacob Crugnale and Erik Valdovinos plus the calming veteran presence of Dylan Baird. But if there’s one thing in common that recent division champs of the Davenport division have in common, they are among the top defensive units in the league. Canton has a strong core back there which is anchored by senior goalie Giovanni Ruggeri, who is entering his second year as the starter in net but has two years of experience after getting good minutes as a sophomore. We saw a big jump last year as Ruggeri played with a lot of confidence and came up with some big saves for his squad. Now a senior, Ruggeri will be one of the top keepers in the league and he does a nice job controlling his area. That will be key as opposing teams try to break the Bulldogs down and use set pieces to attack the back four.
There was a lot of spotlight on the Class of 2020 for Oliver Ames, and for good reason as that group led the program to back-to-back division titles, one in the Kelley-Rex and last year in the Davenport division. Losing over a dozen players is always tough, especially when they made up nearly the entire starting lineup. But one key piece to the puzzle is back for the Tigers in senior captain Mathias Taylor, who has two years of varsity experience under his belt and is hoping to lead a young and inexperienced group back atop the division. Taylor is very skilled with the ball at his feet and moves the ball well, he seems to always find space to be an option for teammates. He played striker for a lot of minutes last year so he can certainly get up field and be a threat in the final third, whether it’s with a shot or getting on the end of a service.
Milford has had some of the most gifted offensive players over the past couple of seasons from Hock MVP Walisson de Oliveira two seasons ago, Pedro Araujo in 2019 during the run to the state final, and most recently All-American selection Leo Coelho. But the Hawks have had some pretty good defenders during that span as well and senior Chris Tocci has been one of them. Now in his third year starting at center back, Tocci has gotten better each and every season. After being a big reason that the Hornets allowed just six goals last season (in 13 games), Tocci is back to anchor this year’s defense which looks to be a strong point for the Hawks. Tocci is like a quarterback in the defensive third, helping the backline keep its shape. He is strong in the air as well, often being the one to come up with a big clearance on corners or set pieces.
Attleboro sophomore Alex Vecchioli had a breakout season in his first year of high school, emerging as one of the most reliable options for the Bombardiers, patrolling the center of the pitch. His strong freshman season saw him lead the Bombardiers in goals scored. He’s a very confident player and very strong with the ball at his feet. Not only can he find teammates with nice through passes or balls over the top, but he can also go at defenders one-on-one and beat them. He showed off a strong shot last year and will be a dangerous option on set pieces for Attleboro again this season. Defenses will be keying in on him a bit more, so it will be interesting to see how he does against the added pressure.
Anyone who saw Sharon play a year ago knows just how important James Zhang was for the Eagles. Now a senior, Zhang patrolled the middle of the pitch for the Eagles a season ago, helping them transition from defense to offense and had some nice takes on goal from distance. Zhang can play anywhere up the middle, as he’s just as comfortable sitting back as a part of the defense as he is getting the ball at his feet and attacking opposing defenses. Zhang’s versatility is what really makes him stand out among his peers. If the Eagles need a goal, expect Zhang to be a top candidate to come up with the key play. Opposing defenses aren’t going to want to give him much space, especially in the attacking third. Expect Zhang to be an on-field leader this season for the Eagles.
2020 Record: 2-5-6 Coach: Peter Pereira
The Bombardiers seemed to get things in gear just as last season was coming to an end, finishing the season unbeaten in its final five games. But there won’t be much carryover to this year as Attleboro only has three starters back from a team that lost 14 seniors to graduation.
It will be a lot of new faces for longtime head coach Peter Pereira, who is still trying to fit the puzzle pieces together to figure out the best combination for his Bombardiers. Senior Cashel Stuger joined the lineup last season and will be a main part of the Attleboro defense this year with Lucas Marques, Ian Miller, and John Blouin all in the mix to see minutes. Junior Esvin Morales begins his third year on the varsity level and has the most experience at this level on the team. Morales is a crafty midfielder that is very dangerous in the attack and on set pieces. Seniors Liam Bischoff and Thomas Russo have good varsity experience and should see expanded roles this year.
Sophomore Alex Vecchioli exploded onto the scene last year, scoring a team-high four goals. He’ll join Morales to solidify the Attleboro midfield but he’s no stranger to getting forward and making some noise in the attack. Sophomores Tyler Rocchio and Brady Whitmarsh are battling for the starting position in goal while Pereira is looking for the likes of Connor Adema, Yannie Skortas, and Emilio Ticas to step up in the attack.
2020 Record: 6-3-3 Coach: Danny Erickson
Canton was the main challenger to OA’s division title win last season, playing tough against the Tigers in both matches. In fact, the Bulldogs’ lone losses were to both division champs in OA and Milford, the latter coming in the semifinal of the Hock Cup.
Canton has a large chunk of those players returning to the pitch for this season and a lot of them have multiple years of experience playing at the varsity level, which means expectations are high for Canton. OA has been the team to beat in the Davenport for the majority of the past decade but it looks like that could be different this year with how much skill the Bulldogs have.
There are veteran players all over the field, starting in the back with the anchor of the defense in senior All-Hockomock selection Giovanni Ruggeri, who returns as the starting goalie. Establishing a strong defensive group in front of Ruggeri will be key but the Bulldogs have a track record of getting better defensively as the season goes on. There is a lot of firepower going forward with senior Dylan Baird being the link in the midfield, helping the Dogs transition from defense to offense. There will be a lot of options in the attacking third with both Erik Valdovinos (three goals, two assists) and Jacob Crugnale up front (goal, seven assists). Junior Jake McCabe is also back after scoring three goals and notching two helpers.
“We are so excited to head into the season,” said head coach Danny Erickson. “Our team has a very high ceiling for success and we are working hard to reach that ceiling. Couldn’t have much more difficult of an early-season schedule playing Franklin, OA, and Milford to open up the Hock so we will certainly be presented some very tall tasks right out of the gates.”
2020 Record: 4-6-2 Coach: Dan Ambrosio
Foxboro is leaning on a strong senior class, a group of talented returners, and a mix of new faces to try and make a run at the Davenport division title. The heart of the team will be with the senior class, including four-year player Derek Axon and midfielder Alex McGarry.
Axon has been on the roster since his freshman year and will start in net for the Warriors, leading the way for what head coach Dan Ambrosio hopes is a strong defensive unit. Foxboro has been on the lower half of the Davenport table in terms of goals against in each of the past two seasons but Ambrosio believes he has a strong defensive unit that will play well in front of Axon. McGarry, a three-year member of the varsity squad, will be a key piece in the middle of the pitch.
It’s not often a team gets a transfer with not only varsity experience, but experience playing in the Hockomock League. But the Warriors added Jorge Sanchez, who has two years of playing at Canton under his belt and could be a big boost for Foxboro. Senior forward Matt Angelini has improved each year with the program and will be one of the top strikers in the league while junior Alex Penders has impressed so far in the preseason. Sophomore John Hollis made a splash during the COVID-shortened 2020 season and could be poised for a breakout year for the Warriors.
“The group has done an outstanding job of coming together as a team,” Ambrosio said. “We look forward to playing the Foxboro way and competing to win the Hockomock regular season.”
2020 Record: 3-5-4 Head Coach: Fran Bositis
Hall of Fame head coach Fran Bositis is back on the sidelines for his 51st season in charge and he and his Panthers are anxious to get back to normal soccer after last year’s abbreviated season that featured rule changes that altered the game.
Bositis has liked what he’s seen so far in the preseason with the team improving after each training session and after each scrimmage. Having a trio of four-year players is an advantage that many teams won’t have so the Panthers will lean heavily on seniors Terry O’Neill, Tyler Powderly, and Aidan Griffith for their veteran leadership. There are a lot of upperclassman on the roster with seniors Jack Moran, Nelson Martinez, and Kevin Proenca all back in the mix after playing last season.
O’Neill, the 2019 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, is the spine of the team, patrolling the middle of the pitch. We saw early on in his career his ability to get forward and become a scoring threat but he also showed he can sit back and solidify the defensive unit. Both Powderly and Griffith provide a lot of speed on the outside. Junior Trey Lovell and sophomore Rex Cinelli earned some minutes a season ago while Bositis expects junior Will Krysak and sophomore Sean O’Leary to be steady contributors this season.
“I feel the outlook is bright as long as we continue to work hard and look to make small improvements every day,” Bositis said. “I also feel that we have very good senior leadership and that this will be important in helping our younger players develop.”
2020 Record: 5-4-4 Coach: Mike O’Neill
The Warriors graduated nearly its entire starting lineup, losing a total of eight players from the starting 11, along with five more seniors from last year’s squad, but somehow KP boasts a strong returning group of players.
That’s a credit to head coach Mike O’Neill, who has shown since he took over the varsity team that he will take full advantage of the depth of his roster, getting a lot of player’s minutes each season. Last year’s abbreviated season was no different; KP has half a dozen players back with varsity experience ready to make a run at the division title.
There are four captains: Caleb Cassetta, John Pfeiffer, Sean McCarthy, and Stephen Griffin, and all four bring something a little different to the table. Cassetta can do a bit of everything, from being the maestro of the midfield, to shoring up the defense, to sliding up front to score goals. Pfeiffer plays both defensively and in the midfield and provides key leadership, McCarthy is an aggressive outside back, and Griffin is a four-year member of varsity that can play in a variety of roles going forward.
Junior Matt Cargo could be poised for a breakout year in the midfield while senior Dan Fifolt is back in the mix to give KP at outside back. Junior Andrew Seropian has had a good preseason so far while sophomores Tommy Lomusico, Will Bowen, and Dermott Amorim are all competing to try and give the Warriors a boost on the offensive end.
“I think there is going to be a lot of parity in the Hock this year,” O’Neill said. “It will be difficult (as always) to win games. We graduated 13 seniors and 8 starters last year. That is a significant loss of experience on the field, but it also provides opportunities for younger players. I am excited to see which players will step into the available roles and have a breakout year.”
2020 Record: 6-4-2 Coach: Steve Sheridan
For years, Mansfield has been known as a defensive team that sets the tone with its physicality, taking advantage of set pieces on the offensive end to win games. Things might be a little different in 2021.
While Mansfield still boasts a strong defensive group, the heart and soul of the team is in the midfield. There is a lot of creativity in the group that features senior captains Matty Hyland and Danny Rowe along with juniors Grady Sullivan and Connor Palinski. The unit has impressed in the preseason, moving the ball around, combining to get up field and attack opposing defenses. Mansfield has traditionally used a lot of subs for its forwards under Sheridan and that looks like it will be the case again this year with senior Liam Anastasia and junior Dan Checkoway both in the mix.
Four-year varsity player Dylan Buchanan will take on a new role this year, making the switch to defense. His speed will make it tough for opponents to get in behind the Hornet back line. Senior Michael Caridi is another returner and he will join Buchanan in the back in front of senior goalie Jack Lasbury-Casey.
“This is the first time in a very long time that I can honestly say that the defense is not the strength of our team, the midfield is!!”
2020 Record: 10-0-3 Coach: Antonio Pinto
The target on Milford’s back this season will be bigger than ever as the Scarlet Hawks enter the season with three straight division titles; last year’s Kelley-Rex crown and two from the Davenport prior to that. While the Hawks are certainly in the hunt to make it four straight, they’ll do so without their best player from the past two seasons.
Last year’s Hockomock League MVP and lone Massachusetts All-American selection Leo Coelho graduated alongside nine other players that helped Milford won the Hockomock Cup last season. That class also included star midfielder Lucas Da Silva and 2019 playoff hero and goalie Leo Oliveira. While it might seem like the cupboard is a bit thin, the Hawks have reloaded with some new talent eager to win a title of their own.
Kevin Gomes has been on varsity since he was a sophomore and has plenty of varsity starts in net under his belt. He came off the bench in the Hockomock Cup and came up huge to help the Hawks take the win. Milford also has veteran centerback Chris Tocci back in the fold; Tocci is not only one of the most experienced backs in the league but he’s one of the most skilled and his prowess in the air is key for the Hawks.
Senior Avi Seri and juniors Arthur Tome and Hulanger Pires all took advantage of their expanded roles last season and will be key in the offense this season.
“We have a good direct style of play,” said head coach Antonio Pinto.
2020 Record: 3-6-3 Coach: Geoff Burgess
It was a good offseason for the Rocketeers, who used their time between seasons to improve their craft. North has developed a reputation for a defense-first-minded program over the past couple of seasons and the Big Red is sticking true to its colors in 2021.
The strength of the team lies in the defense with a lot of experience in the defensive third. Senior captain Brody Rosenberg will slide into a center back role and anchor the defense from there while sophomore Kaden Burns returns to his outside back position after picking up vital experience during last year’s abbreviated season. Senior David Floyd returns in goal this year after posting a 1.50 goals against average last season.
Connor Ward has been making plays in this league for a long time and look for that to continue during his senior season Ward uses his versatility and creativeness to orchestrate the Rocketeer push forward. Sophomore Carson Dameron is another returner in the midfield unit for North Attleboro; look for senior Jaad Ismail and juniors Griffin Rodden and Givany Carney to give North’s offense a boost.
“We have a great mix of experience and talent that will hopefully lead to a successful year,” said North Attleboro head coach Geoff Burgess. “The team really came together this summer at Camp Manitou and they really believe in each other. They really want to work hard to improve each day and are one of the most coachable groups we have ever had. We are all really excited to get back to normal soccer and see what this season holds for us.”
2020 Record: 12-1-0 Coach: John Barata
Oliver Ames spent the majority of the last decade at the top of the mountain in the Hockomock League, winning five Davenport division titles and two Kelley-Rex crowns since the league split. The Tigers are the defending champs in the Davenport and lost just one game (Hock Cup) last year, but this will be the biggest turnover that OA has seen in a long time.
Oliver Ames graduated over a dozen players, including nearly its entire starting lineup of a team that scored a league-best 59 goals and had a league-low five goals against. Not only did the Tigers lose a talented senior class, but a majority of the players were also either two or three-year starters, so there will be a lot of new faces getting playing time at the varsity level for the first time. Senior captain Mathias Taylor is the most experienced player back for the Tigers after getting a lot of time as a sophomore and starting last fall. His versatility will be key as the Tigers carve out roles for the new players; Taylor can control the play from the middle of the pitch, move up front as a dangerous attacking option, or sit back some to help solidify the defense.
Hector Bucio is the other returner starter for the Tigers after earning some minutes after a sophomore, picking up some starts in the process, and will be a big part of the offense for OA. Michael Haikal also saw time on the field during the COVID-shortened season and will see an expanded role this year as one of the team’s captains. With new faces in the mix, OA is focusing on attacking with pace while stressing getting numbers behind the ball to defend against the tough competition in the Hockomock League.
“We are excited to be back playing regular soccer and looking forward to seeing how this very young and inexperienced team gels during the season,” said OA head coach John Barata. “We hope to win a couple games and get these underclassmen a lot of experience.”
2020 Record: 0-10-2 Coach: Jon Grant
It starts with the fundamentals for head coach Jon Grant and his Black Knights: an improved defensive effort to stay in games and better technical play to increase scoring games.
And so far, so good as Grant has seen improvement on both ends of the pitch throughout the preseason. Throughout each of the last two seasons, the Knights have shown glimpses and the goal this season is to string together consistent performances and limit the mistakes to keep Stoughton in the game. Captains Rhuan Carvalho and Joao Marotti, both seniors, give the Knights some experience up top as they battle against a tough Hockomock League schedule. Although Evan Khang and Kyle Grant as just sophomores, they saw a lot of time last season and will bring that experience and talent to Stoughton’s midfield.
Defensively, the Knights will turn to senior captain Owen Roddy to anchor the defense. He will be joined by classmate Val Pierre to try and solidify the Stoughton back line.
“Everyone is excited to be back out on the field and it will make it even sweeter as we add the competition of the season,” said Jon Grant. “This season we are looking to not beat ourselves by limiting our mistakes. This mentality will put us in a good position each game to compete. Combine that with great effort and a positive attitude and we have a pretty good recipe for success.”
2020 Record: 0-3-7 Coach: Taylor Whitters
The Tigers only played four games last fall due to COVID so there wasn’t much of an opportunity to pick up varsity experience for the younger players, which make up most of the roster for the 2021 season. The lineup will feature mostly juniors along with a group of sophomores so Taunton will lean heavily on the few players that have played at this level before.
That starts with juniors Riley Rebello and Joseph Renquinha, who both enter their third season apart of the varsity team. Rebello has seen time just about everywhere for the Tigers, including at center back, attacking mid, and up front at striker. The experience that both he and Renquinha possess will be key as the young Taunton team tackles a difficult schedule. Taunton is also looking for juniors Aidden Fitting, Quincy-Jones Sylvia, Conal Scully, and Jonathan Trinh to step into big roles right away.
Taunton will rely on a strong work ethic to try and put pressure on teams, using team speed to attack opposing defenses. The Tigers have been in a lot of close games — three of the for from last season, and 11 of their games in 2019 were decided by a goal or less. Taunton will be hoping to end up on the other end of those one-goal results this season to try and make a push for the postseason. Sophomores Javonte Fernandes, Delano Costa-Hanlon, and Joshua Letourneau, alongside junior Sete Deletoile, will be in the mix on their first year with the team.
“I am hoping for us to continue to mature this season and raise the bar a little higher each game,” said head coach Taylor Whitters.
MILFORD, Mass. – The heavy duty fans at the end of each bench were doing little to combat the heat in the gym, but for second-seed Milford the bigger issue in Monday evening’s Central quarterfinal was the defense being played by 10-seed King Philip.
During the regular season, the Hawks swept both meetings with the Warriors but KP was buoyed by its road win over Nipmuc in the opening round and was set on frustrating Milford, extending plays as often as possible. In the end, Milford’s offense, led by star hitter Felipe Guerra and junior middle Chris Tocci, had enough firepower to pull out a 3-1 (25-18, 21-25, 25-17, 25-13) win.
“I thought our first 10 points or so of the match were really good and I was hyped and then it kind slowed down,” said Milford coach Andrew Mainini. “The instant excitement of a playoff match wore off quick and I think with the heat they were tired and unfocused. That caught up to us, but I think we rebounded after that.”
KP coach Emily Tkowski said of the Warriors’ improvements in playoffs, “The communication has been a lot better. Things just kind of fell into place for us. Our outside hitters really dominated [against Nipmuc]. Today they didn’t have much of a performance, our passes weren’t really there to get them to the outside, but they were a huge help for us.”
Early in the opening set, it looked like the pattern of play from the regular season was going to continue. Milford jumped out to a 9-4 lead with Guerra getting an early kill and ace and two kills from Julio DaSilva. After Guerra smashed a hit from the back row and Tocci hung in the air for a kill in the middle, Milford seemed to have things in control, but KP was not going to go quietly.
Hits on the outside by Josh Saintilus and Thomas Beck got the Warriors back into the first set, pulling as close as 18-15. KP took advantage of a mishit to close the gap again to 22-18, but Milford found a little rhythm with setter Valdir Aragoso feeding Tocci for a kill and then picking the right pass for a blast by Guerra. DaSilva closed the first with an ace.
The KP defense seemed to pick up with the start of the second set. Libero Billy Hessler and setter Aidan Lindmark led the way on the back line, but all of the players stepped up to extend plays and put pressure on the Hawks to make the perfect pass and perfect hit to get points.
“My libero really stepped up these past few games,” Tkowski said of Hessler. “He’s gotten so much better this season where he really tries to get a touch on every ball no matter how hard it’s hit.”
She added, “I wish we weren’t playing defense so much and we didn’t have to be so scrappy. I felt like we were always trying to come back from behind and that’s a hard way to play.”
Jeremy White had back-to-back kills to put KP up 7-6, but Tocci sparked an 8-0 run that had Milford up 15-10 and seemingly on the brink of taking control of the match. KP kept fighting back. Two swings from Beck and one from Nick Basile got the Warriors within one. An ace by by Beck tied things up at 16-16.
After Milford libero Jose Nugra chased down a ball to set up a Guerra kill, the Hawks took an 18-17 lead, but KP rattled off three straight points to regain the advantage. A Guerra ace had Milford up 21-20. Yet again, KP rallied with five straight points, all on Milford errors, to even the match at one set apiece.
“Their defense in that second and third set was crazy,” Mainini said. “They got a hand on everything we were hitting. It wasn’t always a perfect pass but they were to back each other up.”
KP had momentum heading into the third set and Milford looked increasingly frustrated. Saintilus had a kill and an ace, as the Warriors took an early lead, but Guerra crushed a kill right into the body of Hessler that got the bench fired up.
While the hitting drew the biggest cheers, it was a strong service game that turned the match around for the Hawks. Junior Oscar Orellana took over with Milford up 11-8 and he served seven straight points, including three aces, to push it to a double-digit lead. Saintilus scored from the back line and Carson Mitteness had a block to try and stem the tide, but Orellana’s run had flipped the momentum of the match and KP never really recovered.
Guerra picked the line with a kill and then snuck a serve in the back corner to close out the third set and put Milford on the brink of a spot in the semis. After his performance in the third, Orellana got the ball to start the fourth and got Milford out to a 5-0 lead.
“His serve wasn’t overpowering but he was just hitting open spots and spots where there was some confusion,” Mainini said. “He totally got us a big lead in that third set, which was crucial.” About starting with Orellana at the service line in the fourth set, Mainini added, “It’s actually not what we usually do but after that third set we couldn’t switch it up from there.”
The Hawks wouldn’t pass up the chance to put the Warriors away. Milford never let KP get any run together in the fourth, Tocci going back-to-back on kills to make it 17-6 and then going back and forth with Guerra to push Milford to a 23-10 lead.
“Consistency is the name of game,” Mainini explained. “If your passing isn’t there, then nothing else is consistent. Ours was a little spotty. Chris played a pivotal role for us because if the passing was off he followed the setter and kept the ball in play strategically. Having them (Chris and Felipe) in tandem was really big for us today. “
Tkowski said, “I was really hoping when we won that second one we could carry through with the momentum but Milford’s really a great team and they really turned it on.”
Milford (16-3) will host six-seed Wachusett on Wednesday evening in the Central semifinal. It is Milford’s third straight semifinal appearance. The Hawks are trying to get to the final for the first time since winning back-to-back sectional titles in 2012 and 2013.
Below are the official 20020 Hockomock League Boys Soccer All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Kelley-Rex Division MVP
Leo Coelho, Milford
Kelley-Rex Division All Stars
Joey Soucy, Attleboro
Jackson Singer, Attleboro
Ethan Cain, Franklin
Terry O’Neill, Franklin
Evan McEvoy, King Philip
Aidan Lindmark, King Philip
Ajae Olsen, King Philip
Evan Eames, Mansfield
Tommy Lanzillo, Mansfield
Michael Jeans, Mansfield
Leo Coelho, Milford
Lucas Da Silva, Milford
Chris Tocci, Milford
Davenport Division MVP
Colin Milliken, Oliver Ames
Davenport Division All Stars
Giovanni Ruggeri, Canton
Jacob Crugnale, Canton
Abdul Barrie, Canton
Erik Valdovinos, Canton
Max Beigel, Foxboro
Justin Silva, North Attleboro
Kevin Louhis, Oliver Ames
Colin Milliken, Oliver Ames
Brady deVos, Oliver Ames
Mathias Taylor, Oliver Ame
Matt Nikiciuk, Oliver Ames
Anthony DaCosta, Oliver Ames
Bryce Nathan, Sharon
Alex Vecchioli, Attleboro
Jorge Sanchez, Canton
Matthew Angelini, Foxboro
Ben Moccia, Franklin
Cole Breen, King Philip
Eric Sullivan, Mansfield
Leo Oliveira, Milford
Matthew Conley, North Attleboro
Drew Nickla, Oliver Ames
Matthew Baur, Sharon
Nolan Gerome, Stoughton
Riley Rebello, Taunton
Oliveira had to exit the game with an injury early in the fourth quarter and in stepped Gomes, who came up with a colossal save on an indirect kick from inside the area as Milford claimed the cup with a 2-1 win on the road to finish the season undefeated.
“We know they are a powerhouse, always a top team, always a state championship contender…so this game to me is like a district final,” said first-year Milford head coach Antonio Pinto. “For me, these were the two best teams in Eastern Mass. and they put on a show. It was a back-and-forth game, chances both ways, full of excitement, and I couldn’t be more proud of Milford, and couldn’t be more proud of OA for the battle they put up.”
The Hawks scored twice in the opening 10 minutes of the second half but the Tigers pulled one back before the end of the third quarter to set up the frantic finish.
A low cross from Oliver Ames’ Brady deVos in the 78th minute was first touched by a Milford defender before Gomes handled it, giving the Tigers an indirect kick inside the box near the end line on the right side, about 10 yards from goal. Colin Milliken touched the ball in play and Matthew Nikiciuk blasted a rocket from close range but Gomes stood tall and pushed the ball over the bar to keep the Hawks ahead.
Milford boys soccer Oliver Ames boys soccer
“Me and Leo love each other, we practice together every day,” Gomes said. “Right when I saw he was hurt, I knew I had to do it for him. Because last year against Nauset, he did the same for me. He won it for us. He was upset from the injury but I wanted him to leave happy so I told him I got this, I was going to do it for him. I just had to be confident, calm down, and play my game.
“It was a close play but the angle they were in, there was only one way they could try and get it in and it was all power. So I had my teammates marking, lining up in front where they could and I just had to be confident and be strong when I approached it. It was the best feeling after saving that.”
The ensuing corner bounced around the box twice but was finally cleared away. OA had another attacking free kick a minute later but the service sailed wide. Chris Tocci came up with key clearances in the final seconds as OA continued to press.
Milford boys soccer Oliver Ames boys soccer
“It was a great game, a lot of fun,” said OA head coach John Barata. “Just one or two things separate the teams in a game like this. We hit the crossbar, they cleared a ball off the goal line and the game changes completely if those go in. Two nice goals [from Milford] but not goals we’ve given up all year. The challenge for us is the way it happened. The loss isn’t bad because it was a fantastic game, definitely a state final atmosphere, and we’ve been in them before so we know, and that team is excellent.
“The boys are a little more disappointed because of the errors. It wasn’t that they were dominated…sometimes it’s better to lose a game being dominated and not one that at times, you were on the front foot and better. But they have special players…their two best players put the two daggers in.”
After a scoreless opening 40 minutes, the Hawks took the lead less than five minutes into the second half. Senior Leo Coelho helped the Hawks transition into offense by splitting a pair of defenders and feeding a pass to Lucas Da Silva, who took a touch and was fouled five yards outside the box.
Coelho took the free kick, bending a left-footed shot towards the far post and just under the bar and out of the reach of OA keeper Drew Nickla.
Just six minutes later, the visitors tacked on another goal. A big clearance from Julio Dasilva was tracked down by Lucas Da Silva, and he was able to beat a defender along the right sideline before launching a high arching ball that eluded the keeper and fell just under the bar into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Milford boys soccer Oliver Ames boys soccer
“Two phenomenal goals from two phenomenal players,” Pinto said. “They can flip a switch and turn the game around in a second. If Leo gets half a chance, he can make it a goal. And Lucas scored from no angle, he didn’t have any options inside so just chipped it.”
Nickla came up with a big stop on a Coelho free kick in the 54th minute and the Tigers came back down and found the back of the net on the other end. After being dispossessed, OA senior Kevin Louhis tracked back to steal the ball back. He took one touch forward before unleashing a rocket that found the top left corner from 35 yards out to make it 2-1 in the 58th minute.
Although neither team scored in the first half, there were still chances from both sides. Milliken unleashed a blast in the 7th minute that was swallowed up by Oliveira. And minutes later, Milliken put another shot on goal that was denied and Dillon Cupples had a bid on goal but Avi Seri was there for the Hawks to clear it off the line.
Just seconds later, Nikiciuk rifled a free kick from 40 yards out that hit off the crossbar and stayed out.
“We knew they’d be a top team…we said if we could give them a game we’d be happy and I think we did more than give them a game but we’re not happy [with the result],” Barata said. “It’s sad for the seniors but ultimately, if you have to end this year…when we look back, we went 12-1, won the division, and played the team who was probably picked to win it all this year. And we had a chance to play, what a blessing.”
Milford boys soccer finishes the season without a loss at 10-0-3, with two of the draws coming on cancellations. Oliver Ames finishes the season at 12-1.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – For all intents and purposes, the Milford boys soccer team clinched its third straight division title on Tuesday evening.
But this is 2020, and nothing is quite as straight forward as years past.
The Scarlet Hawks scored once in each half to earn a 2-1 win over Mansfield, leapfrogging the Hornets in the standings. The win puts the Hawks at 6-0-1 and a total of 13 points while Mansfield sits at 5-2-2 and 12 points. The teams play again Thursday, and as it stands now, the Hornets could jump back ahead, but the Hawks have two games in limbo against Taunton.
As of Tuesday night, Milford’s matchups with Taunton were not officially canceled, but all indications point to no makeup games, meaning a pair of 0-0 draws and two points for the Hawks, which would secure the division title at 15 points.
“We don’t care who we play, we’ll play anyone anywhere because we love competition,” said first-year head coach Antonio Pinto. “Obviously the situation with Taunton made it a little harder with points because we don’t know exactly how it will play out…but the kids are treating every game like it’s their last because we don’t know when it could end. Every game, we’ve had the mentality that each game is like a state final because for these seniors it could be the last time they play with each other, with their friends.”
Milford boys soccer Mansfield boys soccer
Upon review, the host Hornets would certainly like a second chance to start each half. While Mansfield came out of the front foot, it let a pair of good scoring chances slip away inside the opening two minutes. And to start the second half, the Hawks needed less than two minutes to double their lead by converting a penalty kick.
“The whole first half wasn’t very good for us,” admitted Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan. “We let them do what they want to do and they got in our heads. Finally, in the fourth quarter, we got a little into their heads. We changed some things up at halftime to try and get going…I didn’t see anything on the penalty kick, hopefully, the video shows me something about it. It didn’t look like one from where we were.”
Pressure from Hornet senior Michael Jeans created a turnover in the attacking third and a chance in the are for sophomore Aidan Steele but Milford senior goalie Leo Oliveira was quick to react and intervened before a genuine bid on net.
Just a minute later, a service to the far post from senior Evan Eames found juniorMatt Hyland but once again Oliveira was there for the stop.
Chances were aplenty for both sides throughout the first half but the Hawks slowly started to assert themselves and take control of the play. It started with their first real chance on net which resulted in the first goal of the game.
A quick combination from seniors Lucas Da Silva and Leo Coelho resulted in a pass to the far post where sophomore Arthur Tome was left alone and he latched onto a shot with the inside of his right foot, tucking a shot inside the far post for a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.
Mansfield nearly equalized three minutes later, a combination from sophomore Connor Palinski and junior Dan Rowe with the latter rifling a shot on net that was denied by a one-handed save from Oliveira.
An errant pass out of the back from Oliveira nearly resulted in the equalizer but the keeper was able to recover quickly and get down to stop a low bid from Hyland. And in the 29th minute, Oliveira once again was called into action, this time denying a bid from Grady Sullivan from a step inside the area.
“We went with a keeper change for this game, going with Cheeseburger [Leo Oliveira],” Pinto said. “He’s our big game keeper, every year he always steps up in the big games. Cheeseburger does a good job coming out and commanding the box, and that’s what we needed in this matchup. He stepped up big for us, he didn’t just do well coming off his line, he made some saves that were spectacular.”
Milford boys soccer Mansfield boys soccer
The Hawks started to gain some momentum before the half as junior David Desa intercepted a pass out of the back, leading to a counter chance that saw Coelho link up with Tome but his shot was denied by Mansfield keeper Eric Sullivan. Just minutes later, Hulanger Dias Pires won an important battle at midfield that ended up in a blast off the foot from Desa but Sullivan was equal to the task.
Milford started fast in the second half, using a nice combination down the left side to get Tome the ball. Tome used a quick touch to get around the defender before being taken down just inside the area and the refs awarded the visitors a penalty kick. Da Silva stepped up and confidently deposited a low shot into the bottom right corner for a 2-0 lead in the 42nd minute.
“At halftime, we made some changes and the players reacted well,” Pinto said. “Mansfield had only allowed one goal against going into tonight so we knew if we wanted to score, we couldn’t let them get organized. It had to be quick touches, quick passes, quick flicks…just like we did to open the second half, and then Arthur made a nice move to draw the penalty. That’s how you beat them, you can’t let them get organized you have to attack quickly and that’s how we got both goals.”
Mansfield nearly pulled one back in the 53rd minute when Tommy Lanzillo laced a direct free kick destined for the top corner but Oliveira timed his jump perfectly and tipped it over the bar. Another free kick bid from Lanzillo in the 65th minute was originally spilled by Oliveira but he quickly pounced on the loose ball in front.
The Hornets finally cashed in on a direct free kick attempt in the 67th minute as Rowe blasted a shot from atop the area into the top corner at the near post to make it 2-1. Mansfield’s best chance at the equalizer came in the 75th minute when a ball over the top was chested on by Dylan Buchanan to Sagar Koul but his low shot was easily handled. Last ditch efforts were turned away by Milford center back Chris Tocci.
“They pressured us and didn’t give us much space to play our normal game so we had to adjust and make everything a little quicker,” Pinto said. “We have a bunch of Brazilians playing in the cold so it took us a little while to get warm. But that was a fight, no matter who they play Mansfield is always going to give you a game just by their style so you have to fight the entire way.”
The teams will clash again on Thursday as Milford hosts Mansfield for a 6:00 PM kickoff.
Milford, 2 @ Attleboro, 0 – Final – After a scoreless first 40 minutes of play, Milford found the back of the net twice to earn two points on the road. The Hawks scored once in the third quarter and once more in the fourth. Junior Avi Seri put Milford ahead on an assist from classmate Chris Tocci, and then a fourth quarter goal from Felipe Guerra (from Victor Botelho) made it 2-0.
Sharon, 0 @ Canton, 2 – Final
Foxboro, 1 @ Oliver Ames, 4 – Final – Oliver Ames scored a pair of goals on both sides of halftime to earn a series sweep of visiting Foxboro. Kevin Louhis (from Dillon Cupples) opened the scoring for the Tigers, who had four players find the back of the net. Brady deVos doubled the lead before the break on a pass from Matthew Nikiciuk. Nikiciuk (from Anthony DaCosta) and Colin Milliken (penalty kick) scored in the second half for OA.
Franklin, 2 @ King Philip, 1 – Final – King Philip leveled the match just before halftime but Franklin came out and took the lead back with an early goal in the second half and held on to even the season series between the two rivals. Ben Moccia converted a feed from Tyler Powderly in the 26th minute to give the Panthers the lead but Tadhg Keller answered in the 35th minute on a long free kick to make it 1-1 at the break. Franklin’s Ethan Cain (from Charlie Amante) scored the game-winning goal in the 46th minute and the Panthers held on the rest of the way.
Taunton, 0 @ Mansfield, 1 – Final – For the second straight game, Mansfield scored the game-winning goal in the second half to earn two points against Taunton. Aiden Steele scored off a corner from Ethan Scholes for the lone goal of the game. Jack Lasbury-Casey earned his first shutout in his first career start. MHS coach Steve Sheridan said Colin True had an amazing day in the midfield and both Evan Eames and Michael Caridi played well defensively.
Stoughton, 0 @ North Attleboro, 0 – Final
Attleboro, 4 @ Milford, 5 – Final – After failing to find the back of the net in the first three games of the season, Milford edged a shootout against Attleboro to pick up its first win. Dani Atherton proved difficult to contain, scoring four goals for the Hawks, while Jillian Michelson added a goal and two assists. Briley Harnois had a goal and three assists for the Bombardiers, giving her six points in two games this season. Atherton got her first of the night four minutes into the game and added a second before halftime. Michelson also got one in the first half but Bethany Alves (first career goal) and Cassondra Stuger, both assisted by Harnois, kept Attleboro within one at the break. Atherton added two more in the third quarter, while Harnois got one, as Milford led 5-3 heading to the fourth. In the final quarter, Harnois set up Jamie Davies for her first varsity goal, but the Hawks held on to take the two points. Milford coach Lou Colabello called the win “a good morale boost” heading into next week’s games with King Philip.
Canton, 3 @ Sharon, 1 – Final – Canton scored twice in the fourth quarter to pull out a win on the grass at Sharon, stay perfect on the season, and remain two points ahead of the pack in the Davenport division. Mekhala Costello, Olivia Rodman, and Gabriella Herivaux scored the goals for the Bulldogs. Sarai Costello had two assists and Emily McCabe had one helper. Sharon played well throughout, keeping Canton’s attack at bay for the bulk of the game. Wendy Wooden had the goal for the Eagles.
King Philip, 1 @ Franklin, 2 – Final – Franklin scored twice in the first quarter and held off a late charge by the Warriors to earn a hard-fought win in the rain and stay perfect on the season. The Panthers wasted no time getting on the board, as Sydney St. Marie scored after 90 seconds. Eight minutes later, St. Marie set up Anya Zub to double the lead. The lead remained two goals until the fourth quarter. Ava Tormey got KP back within one as she knocked in a rebound, which was the first goal the Panthers have allowed this season.. The goal sparked the Warriors and they put the Panthers under pressure for the final 13 minutes, but Franklin’s defense held on for the win. Julia Bertone and Rachel Welch combined to make seven saves for Franklin, while KP keeper Emma Glaser made nine saves.
Mansfield, 2 @ Taunton, 0 – Final – The Hornets earned their first win of the season behind the first career goals for Amira Walcott and Olivia Homsi. Olivia Salisbury and Kelsey Hubler combined for a second clean sheet in as many days. Mansfield had plenty of chances, forcing Taunton goalie Isabella Anslow into 20 saves.
North Attleboro, 7 @ Stoughton, 1 – Final – Steph McKenna and Emma Pratt continued their impressive weeks, each scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist, as the Rocketeers won for the second straight game and stayed unbeaten on the season. Coming off a hat trick on Wednesday, McKenna scored a pair of goals and assisted one, while Pratt scored one (her third of the week) and had an assist. Tess Collins added a goal and two assist for North, while Maggie O’Brien and Lily Adams scored their first varsity goals. Brayden Rice, Charlotte Moynihan, and Caroline Ferrin had assists.
Mansfield, 158 @ Oliver Ames, 155 – Final – Oliver Ames picked up its biggest win of the season, knocking off a previously unbeaten shorthanded Mansfield squad. Senior Logan Domenico made a 15′ putt for a birdie on the 8th hole, finishing with a match-low score of 35. Senior Kosta Spiliakos, junior Jake Kaplan, and freshman David Rogers all shot 40 for the Tigers. For Mansfield, Ryan Dow and Joseph Gormley each had a team-low round of 39n while Cian Goulet and Nate Morreale each carded a 40.
2019 Record: 6-9-3 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Peter Pereira
One more goal scored or one goal less allowed could have changed the entire outcome of the 2019 season for the Bombardiers, who suffered six one-goal losses and three draws. Now with more varsity experience under their belts, Attleboro is aiming to surprise some teams in the hunt for the Kelley-Rex division title this season.
Longtime head coach Peter Pereira is counting on that experience to translate into leadership on and off the field. Senior goalie Zackary Brown is back in net for the Bombardiers and is showing more confidence inside the area. Senior Joey Soucy is making the transition to defense and will play alongside classmates Jayden Lockhart and Andrew Fasoldt. Junior Cashel Stuger is also back in the mix defensively while seniors Henry Marini and Alejandro Jimenez could factor into the defensive unit as well.
Jackson Singer emerged as a strong option in the midfield in his first season with the Bombardiers and should be a big piece again this year. Singer will pair up with Hugo Henriquez to give Attleboro an experienced duo in the heart of the pitch. Seniors Ben Fasoldt, Emilio Amaya, and Tyler Sar will all be apart of the midfield while juniors Tom Russo and Emilio Ticas should see valuable minutes for the Bombardiers. Freshman Alex Vecchioli has shown a lot of versatility so far and could play in a variety of roles.
Up front, Attleboro will be relying on a combination of speed, tough, and work effort as they challenge opposing defenses. Depending on the pairing, Attleboro will be able to attack in a variety of ways. Seniors Justin Lurssen and Connor Paquin as well as juniors Liam Bischoff and Yianni Skordas will all see time in the attack. Sophomore Esvin Morales emerged as one of the top attacking threats a year ago and will be among the top finishers in the league.
“We have a good group of seniors and hope that this experience will pay off,” Pereira said. “We believe we will have a more competitive, more mature, and more balanced team.”
2019 Record: 4-12-2 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Danny Erickson
The Bulldogs were very young during the 2019 season with just a half dozen seniors on the squad, but that meant plenty of young players were able to gain valuable on-field experience at the varsity level. Now the Bulldogs will be looking to contend in a very competitive Davenport division in the shortened 2020 season.
The defense will be the backbone of the team this season as the Bulldogs have a lot of experience at the centerback position. Senior captain Matt Giglio is back for his third year with the squad after being a key piece in each of the previous two years. He will be joined in the middle of the defense by Will Keefe, who anchored the Dogs’ backline last year and earned All-Hockomock honors.
Junior Dylan Baird had a breakout sophomore season and will be one of the main pieces in the midfield. After a down season for Canton on the offensive end as a whole last year, Baird’s presence in the midfield will help create opportunities going forward. Up front, the Bulldogs are counting on senior Colton Marliani to be a go-to scoring threat.
Canton already suffered a big blow as senior captain TJ McCabe, who has been with the squad since he was a freshman, will miss the season due to injury. On the flip side, the Bulldogs are getting a boost with the addition of Abdul Barrie. Barrie played in the youth leagues in Canton but will make his CHS debut this fall and could make a big impact for the Dogs.
“I think the rule modifications will challenge us all equally,” said longtime Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “But after a week or so of training, to me, it’s still soccer.”
2019 Record: 7-8-3 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Dan Ambrosio
The Warriors had a sour taste in their mouth at the end of last season, losing the last game of the year to miss out on the playoffs. While Foxboro won’t have the chance to get back to the postseason this year, the Davenport division title is certainly in reach.
Foxboro graduated a couple of stalwarts (Joe Cusack, Dylan Barreira, Will Morrison) that were important pieces of the squad in each of the last couple of seasons, but there are plenty of experienced players back from last year’s seven-win squad plus a handful of new faces anxious to make their mark. Seniors Max Beigel and PJ Frost will give the Warriors plenty of leadership and experience, especially in the midfield and attacking third. Foxboro will look to play quick, using the counterattack to hit on the break.
After giving up nearly two goals a game a season ago, the Warriors are aiming to tighten up the back as they navigate through a very competitive Davenport division. First-year head coach Dan Ambrosio is also counting on new players like John Hollis and Ryan Flaherty to make an impact during the shortened season.
“We are a tight-knit group who like to have fun playing the game and look forward to representing our school and town,” Ambrosio said.
2019 Record: 9-7-4 2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Fran Bositis
With returning players in most areas of the pitch and a trio of top midfielders in the Hockomock League, the Panthers should be in the mix for the Kelley-Rex title, although it could be one of the most competitive seasons since the league split into two.
With just 10 games and all six teams in the Kelley-Rex possible contenders, there is little margin for error. The Panthers will be put to the test right away as they take on Milford, who won the Davenport two years in a row and went to the D2 State Final last season, in the opening week. But longtime head coach Fran Bositis has plenty of talent on his roster to try and make a push for the division title. It all starts in the midfield with a trio of returning starters in Ethan Cain, Tyler Powderly, and last year’s HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year Terry O’Neill.
All three bring something different to the table which will make Franklin’s midfield among the most dynamic in the league. Powderly’s speed on the wings will give defenses fits while Cain will bring plenty of creativity as the Panthers push forward. O’Neill won’t be able to dominate in the air like he did a season ago thanks to the new modifications that ban headers, but the junior is also such a calming presence with the ball at his feet and will help Franklin keep possession. Ben Moccia, who started in the midfield a season ago, is moving up top to the number 9 spot, while Charlie Amante, Ryan Witt, Jack Moran, and Kevin Proenca will also see time in the attack.
The Panthers have some new faces in the defensive unit. Will Fox is the lone returning starter and has impressed in the early stages of the season. Sam George, Robbin Tappin, and Karl Gruseck will all factor into the Panthers’ defense while Aidan Griffith, Nelson Martinez, and Connor Scagliarini will be options for Bositis to play either defense or in the midfield. Newcomers Trey Lovell and Rex Cinelli could see valuable minutes right away. Former Panther standout goalie Freddie Backmann, who is without a season at Regis College, is mentoring Luc Boudreau, this year’s starting keeper for Franklin.
“I think that we have a very good group of athletes (soccer players) who have worked real hard in preparation for this season,” Bositis said. “I know that they are all excited to be playing and that they are looking forward to competing against the other Kelley-Rex teams and putting themselves in a position to challenge for a league championship.”
2019 Record: 8-5-6 2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Mike O’Neill
King Philip was the surprise team of the 2019 season, overcoming a large amount of inexperience to take third in the Kelley-Rex and qualify for the state tournament. While the Warriors won’t sneak up on anyone this season, the skill and experience they return should put them in the mix for the division title.
Second-year head coach Mike O’Neill has strong players in all areas of the pitch, starting with senior captain Evan McEvoy. A four-year player with the program, McEvoy is coming off a breakout season in 2019 and will be among the top midfielders in the league. He will control the pace for the Warriors from the center of the pitch, working with fellow captain Alex Leon, who will use his speed to patrol the wings and get in behind the defense. Both Caleb Waxman and Stephen Griffin made an impact last season and should see expanded roles in the shortened 2020 season. Sophomore Matt Crago is a new face that could make a splash in his first year.
The Warriors should have one of the top defenses in the league again this season. Senior captain Aidan Lindmark is back in goal and his distribution skills will factor in heavily to how KP plays out of the back. Jeremy White had a strong 2019 season at center back and will bolster the Warriors’ backline when he returns from injury. In the meantime, four-year player Ajae Olsen, who is normally patrolling the wing or up top, will have his versatility on display as he slides into the centerback spot.
“Our players and coaches are thankful that we are at the point where we can have a season,” O’Neill said. “So much work and sacrifice have gone into getting the Hockomock League schools to this moment. I’m looking forward to some excellent and competitive soccer. I expect every game to be extremely competitive – there are no easy games in the Hock. Five wins may win the division.”
2019 Record: 6-7-5 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Steve Sheridan
With just 10 games scheduled for the season, every game – from the first to the last – is going to be important. No one understands that more than the 2020 Hornets, who came up just short of the state tournament last year. After a slow start, Mansfield became one of the toughest teams to beat down the stretch, finishing on an eight-game unbeaten streak that featured an upset of division champion Oliver Ames but came just one point shy of postseason play.
With the postseason not in the picture for this year, the focus shifts on the division title. The Hornets are hoping to carry the momentum from the end of last season into this year. Mansfield will have a mix of veterans and inexperience in its defensive unit. Senior captain Evan Eames will be the centerpiece of the group alongside classmate Michael Jeans, who missed all of last season due to injury. Sophomores Grady Sullivan and Nate Kablik round out the Hornets’ back four while senior captain Eric Sullivan will take over starting in goal.
Senior captain Tommy Lanzillo will run the show from the center of the pitch, helping the Hornets transition from defense to offense. Lanzillo is strong with the ball at his feet and will help distribute as the Hornets hit on the counter. Senior Colin True and juniors Matt Hyland and Dan Rowe will join Lanzillo in the Hornets’ midfield. Junior Dylan Buchanan is back for his third year with the squad and will play up top alongside Aiden Steele.
2019 Record: 18-1-2 2019 Finish: D2 State Finalists Coach: Antonio Pinta
Milford arrives in the Kelley-Rex division with a huge target on its back. Coming off back-to-back Davenport division titles and a trip to the D2 State Final a season ago, the Hawks enter their new division as the favorite. But game in and game out, Milford can expect to get everyone’s best.
First-year head coach Antonio Pinto might be new to the varsity position but has been with the program during this successful run as an assistant and JV coach. It will all start with the reigning HockomockSports Player of the Year and Hockomock League MVP Leo Coelho, who can play just about any position on the pitch at a high level. If there is a need to shut down a high-powered offense, you might see Coelho playing defense. Or if the Hawks need a boost offensively, he can just as easily move up front and provide creativity in the final third.
The Hawks are far from a one-trick pony with both Lucas Da Silva (eight goals, seven assists) and Joao Pedro Da Silva (six goals, three assists) back in the mix this season. Replacing the Hockomock’s leading scorer in Pedro Araujo (25 goals, 11 assists) will be tough but we saw the Hawks do just that when Araujo took over for former HockomockSports Player of the Year Wallison de Oliveira.
Defensively, the Hawks will be strong up the middle. Junior Kevin Gomes returns to start in goal for the Hawks after getting valuable experience there during last year’s season and deep playoff run. And junior Chris Tocci is back in the heart of the defense at centerback after a breakout sophomore campaign. While the new regulations will certainly challenge the Hawks defensively with heading and slide tackling banned, Milford should have a big advantage offensively because of their strong possession skills.
“I’m very excited to be out there with the guys this season,” Pinto said. “We are ready to play no matter what the rules and conditions are! We’re ecstatic to have a season.”
2019 Record: 9-7-4 2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Geoff Burgess
The Rocketeers and head coach Geoff Burgess have found a recipe for success over the past couple of seasons and will be looking to replicate that again this year. Defense always comes first for the Rocketeers, who allowed just 0.68 goals per game last year. While every team is being forced to make changes because of the new modifications due to COVID-19, the Rocketeers might be affected more than most with heading, slide tackles, and shoulder-to-shoulder challenges banned.
But the Rocketeers have adjusted during the preseason and will be relying on defense and goalkeeping once again this season. Replacing two-time HockomockSports Best XI selection Kyle Briere in net won’t be easy but the North Attleboro is turning to junior David Floyd, who is one of the most athletic players on the team this season according to Burgess. The Rocketeers also boast one of the best centerback combinations in the league with seniors Justin Silva and Donovan Carter back in the fold this year. With a season of experience playing together, it will be tough for teams to find ways to get by the defense anchored by that duo.
While defense remains a top priority for the Big Red, that doesn’t mean North isn’t a dangerous team in the attacking third. As they’ve shown over the past two seasons, speed can kill. Relying on the counterattack and set pieces for the majority of their offensive chances, North brings back senior forward Matt Conley (one goal, five assists) to try and beat defenses with his speed and skill. Junior Connor Ward will have a lot to say about the pace the Rocketeers play at as he orchestrates the team from the center of the pitch.
“With an abbreviated season and a large senior class, we hope to challenge OA for the league title,” Burgess said. “This will obviously be a huge challenge but our defense will be tough to breakdown and you can’t lose if the other team does not score.”
2019 Record: 15-4-0 2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal Coach: John Barata
Oliver Ames has reached the D2 State Final three times since 2014 and with a large group of experienced and skilled players back from last year’s team that went 15-4, another trip to the finals might have been in the cards for 2020. But with postseason canceled due to COVID-19, the Tigers are looking to make as big of an impact as they can.
After a four-year stint in the Kelley-Rex, one that included a pair of division titles (2017 and 2019), the Tigers are back in the Davenport division where they won five titles in the first six years after the Hockomock split. OA brings back nine players that either started or saw a good amount of minutes on the pitch last year, highlighted by HockomockSports Best XI selections Colin Milliken, Brady deVos, and Kevin Louhis. Milliken will help the Tigers transition from defense to offense from his center mid spot, Louhis will be a go-to option on the offensive end, and deVos is back to anchor the defense for the second straight season.
The Tigers will have plenty of options to go along with Milliken (10 goals, 14 assists) and Louhis (4 goals, 9 assists) in the attacking third. Jimmy Keane (six goals, one assist) bolsters the midfield while Anthony DaCosta (six goals, one assist) has improved each of the past two seasons and will be a handful for opposing defenses. Senior Matthew Nikiciuk really emerged as a force in the middle of the pitch last season and will be a big part of the offense, especially through set pieces. Both Mathias Taylor and Dillon Cupples burst onto the scene a year ago and will be in the mix as the Tigers push forward.
Senior goalie Drew Nickla returns in net after a strong year in 2019. The Tigers graduated the most from the defensive unit so the early challenge will be developing chemistry quickly in the backline. Head coach John Barata is also looking for Ben Cohen, Michael Haikal, and Hector Bucio as viable options for the Tigers while sophomore Jake Williams and freshmen Ryan Linhares, Joey Carney, and Diego Rivera are new faces to keep an eye out for.
“We are looking forward to competing this fall and enjoying the opportunity to grow as people and players,” Barata said. “This is a unique situation for a very unique group of players and we are going to make the best of it and play the best soccer we can. These young men are fantastic and we are going to have a great time this season regardless of the on field results…but we hope to have a few of those too!”
2019 Record: 6-7-5 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Scott Nathan
The Eagles enter the 2020 campaign with a chip on their shoulder, coming up just one point shy of the state tournament a year ago. While Sharon can’t make up for that with a tournament appearance this year with the playoffs canceled due to COVID-19, the Eagles can certainly make some noise while challenging for the Davenport division title.
Sharon said goodbye to a handful of experienced veterans including Michael Baur, Brian Higgins, and Isaiah Stessman, but first-year head coach Scott Nathan has a group of proven players plus a bunch of news faces eager to make their mark. Senior captain Bryce Nathan and junior captain James Zhang will lead the way both on and off the pitch this year as the Eagles compete for the Davenport crown.
Bryce Nathan is one of the most versatile players in the league, playing anywhere from defense to striker during his tenure with the Eagles. Zhang, fresh off an impressive sophomore campaign, is very confident with the ball at his feet and does a nice job distributing from the center of the pitch. Sophomore Matthew Baur is back in goal after getting a varsity season under his belt. Rhys Davis and Brandon Mauricio highlight a list of returners defensively while Coby Jacobson, Samid Khandaker, Adam Landstein, Aaron Livshin, and Daniel Zagoren are all back with varsity experience as well.
The Eagles will focus on a sound defense first before transitioning into offense. Patience will be key this year as Sharon looks to make the most of each opportunity as they push forward. Brady Daylor, Malachi Diaz, Adam Eastman, Daniel Fishman, Amjad Kordab, Jack Landstein, Rohan Prakash, Elliot Pototsky Nicholas Rincon, Aaron Tamkin, Jeffrey Xiang, and Tony Yang are new to the varsity level and will be looking to make an impact on the pitch for the Eagles in 2020.
“The game will be different…for players, coaches, referees, and fans,” Scott Nathan said. “I am just happy for the boys that they have the opportunity to play the game they love!”
2019 Record: 3-13-2 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Jon Grant
With a year of experience under coach Jon Grant, the Black Knights are aiming to have a bounce back year and compete with the top teams in the Davenport division.
There were plenty of bumps in the road during the 2019 season but Stoughton certainly showed some bright spots, including wins over Mansfield and Canton. Now the Black Knights will try to compete in each game and string some results together. Captain Nolan Gerome returns in goal for Stoughton and is among the best keepers in the league. Opposing head coaches have raved about saves Gerome has made over the past couple of seasons and he will be the anchor of the Black Knights’ defensive unit.
Playing in front of Gerome will be senior captain Ryan Sears and junior Owen Roddy, who both played valuable minutes last year. With a good amount of experience and skill in the back, Stoughton is hoping defense will be a cornerstone for the 2020 season. Grant is looking for Rhuan Carvalho to be a top playmaker for the Black Knights, distributing from the center of the pitch to create some offensive chances.
“Our goal for this year to improve on last season,” Grant said. “This year the players came in to the short season fairly well conditioned and with a great attitude. All the players are so grateful to have this opportunity to be back out on the field. This will definitely help us in this short season.”
2019 Record: 2-9-7 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Taylor Whitters
It’s easy to look at Taunton’s record from a season ago and make assumptions, but upon further review, the Tigers were in just about every game they played. Five of the nine losses were decided by just one goal and the Tigers had a league-high seven draws; one goal either way and the Tigers were that close to a spot in the tournament. It goes to show how competitive the league was and how important each goal is.
With a strong nucleus of players back from last year’s squad, the playoffs wouldn’t have been such a far reach for Taunton this season. But with the postseason not in play, the Tigers will shift focus on being a darkhorse in the Kelley-Rex division title hunt. The new modifications will make it tough for all teams when it comes to defending, but it will also benefit something that Taunton has plenty of: speed. The Tigers plan on utilizing their pace on both ends of the pitch, getting behind the defense on one end while using their speed defensively to fend off opposing offenses.
Taunton will be strong up the middle with senior Travis Nunes back in the heart of the pitch and sophomore Riley Rebello back to anchor the defense. Senior Hunter Cabral will give the Tigers flexibility by playing in both the midfield and up front. Head coach Taylor Whitters is looking for sophomores Joseph Renquinha Jr., Aidden Fitting, Quincy Jones-Sylvia, Jonathan Trinh, and Nathan Keenan to all be in the mix this season.
“Despite everything that has occurred in recent months, we have one of the most versatile and technically sound teams that Taunton High School Boys Soccer has seen in a long time,” Whitters said. “This group of young men have the number one factor in the success of any team: chemistry. They have the willingness to play for the team, not for themselves. I feel with their talents, abilities, and desire to work together as a unit, we will be a team to watch in our division this season.”
Team: Milford Boys Soccer
2019 Davenport Division Champions
2019 Division 2 State Finalists
Some of the most talented individual players to compete in the Hockomock League together came together as a team and orchestrated one of the best seasons on the soccer pitch this decade.
The 2019 Milford boys soccer team was full of gifted players that formed one of the most dangerous attacking groups over the past 10 seasons. One question coming into the season was the defense but throughout the season, the Hawks got better and better on the defensive end and only allowed one goal in four South sectional tournament games. The combination of a deadly offense and a solid defense propelled the Hawks to their first state final appearance in two decades.
“I think the thing that made this team very different was the fact they really enjoyed playing the game together,” said head coach Brian Edwards. “In training, they would typically have a lot of fun and while it was sometimes very challenging to keep them on task, they genuinely enjoyed the game. More importantly, they genuinely enjoyed helping one another achieve something. They are a very special group of guys and their work rate was something that always blew me away.”
The Hawks went unbeaten throughout the regular season, which didn’t feature any non-league games. Milford rallied for a last-minute goal to tie Foxboro and battled to a 1-1 draw with North Attleboro late in the season; Milford picked up 14 wins including one over a talented Oliver Ames squad and went on to win the Davenport division title for the second straight season.
The likes of Pedro Araujo, Joao Pedro Da Silva, Jordan Borges, Lucas Da Silva, and Hockomock League MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Leo Coelho helped the Hawks average over three goals per game, notching a league-best 56 goals in the regular season. On the flip side, senior Dan Santos anchored a defensive line along with classmate Nuno Mestre and new faces freshman Gabriel Godoy and sophomore Chris Tocci. Senior Carlos Terrinha was one of the most reliable players sitting in the six role. Leo Oliveira and Kevin Gomes split time in net, allowing just one goal per game in the regular season.
“Another thing that made them special was their belief in themselves and one another,” Edwards said. “They had a level of confidence that I loved to see as a coach. One other piece of the puzzle was their ability to tackle one challenge at a time. They did a great job of not looking ahead and getting distracted. As a coach who is slightly obsessive over preparation, it was something that made my job a lot easier. I think about the Nauset game and the preparation that went into it. We scouted them three times and we put together a game plan that I felt gave us a very good chance of beating them. The guys really committed themselves to proving that they could beat a team that many people felt was one of the best in the country. We weren’t surprised that we beat them because we knew we had the ability to execute a plan that we felt was solid.”
The postseason featured a 6-0 blasting of Catholic Memorial, a hard-fought 2-0 decision over Dartmouth, and Coelho gave the Hawks a 1-0 win over Bishop Feehan in overtime. In the South Sectional Final, the Hawks hosted perennial state power and nationally ranked Nauset. Despite giving up a late equalizer in regulation, the Hawks prevailed. After switching goalies for overtime and penalties, Leo Oliveira made a terrific save in the shootout and the Hawks made all five attempts with the freshman Godoy scoring the winner as Milford advanced to the state final.
“One of my favorite memories of the season is the moment Leo Oliveira made the PK save on the fourth Nauset attempt,” Edwards said. “It was the single most exciting moment of a soccer game I can remember. I think the last time I lost my mind like that was when [Adam] Vinatieri hit the 45 yard game-tying kick against the Raiders in the Blizzard Bowl back in January of 2002. Leo stepped up in the middle of Double Overtime in a Sectional Final and made the play of the game.”
After an incredible run through the south sectional, the Milford boys soccer team had an uncharacteristic showing in the final, surrendering five goals (including the game-winner in overtime) in a goal-heavy 5-4 loss to Winchester.
WORCESTER, Mass. – Every time that Milford went forward, it looked capable of scoring a goal, but every time that Winchester lined up an attacking set piece on the other end of the field it looked just as likely to find the back of the net.
It made for a thrilling, end-to-end Div. 2 state championship game at Worcester State’s Coughlin Field. In the end, it also meant heartbreak for the Hawks.
Winchester got a free kick on the left side of the Milford box seven minutes into the first overtime period. The first ball in was half-cleared but Aras Kaya reacted quickest and was able to knock in the game-winner, handing the Sachems a 5-4 victory and the state title. It was the fourth goal that Winchester had scored from a set piece and denied Milford its first ever state championship in its first appearance in the final in 21 years.
“Winchester played really good today,” said Milford coach Brian Edwards. “They were very proficient, they were very effective in what they did and we were not. We were uncharacteristically sloppy with set piece defense.”
He added, “I’m really proud of how hard my guys played this season, but we didn’t deserve to win this game given how we played.”
Milford grabbed control of the ball right from the opening whistle and had the game’s first good looks at goal. Joao Pedro Da Silva hit a long, angled ball behind the Winchester left back to free Pedro Araujo, but the senior forward was unable to hit the target under pressure from the last defender. Just a minute later Lucas Da Silva went close with a shot to the near post.
Although it was the Hawks with the early chances, it was Winchester that grabbed the first lead. William Hofheinz hit a long free kick that went all the way through the box to Diego Diaz at the back post. Diaz had time to bring it down, look up, and slide a shot to the far corner.
The Sachems held onto the one-goal lead for 20 minutes, nearly doubling it when Kevin Gomes was forced into a diving save on a 25-yard shot by Ben Von Halle.
In the 34th minute, Milford sprung into life. Araujo got free on the right side and hit a cross into Leo Coelho that was cleared by the last defender. A minute later, Araujo again went to his right and skipped past his marker. This time he loped into the box and got all the way inside the six before chipping a shot over the keeper and into the corner.
Just about a minute later, the Hawks jumped in front for the first time. Joao Pedro Da Silva raced down the left side, leaving his defender in his wake, and then hit a deft toe poke that left the keeper stranded and snuck in off the far post to make it 2-1.
Jordan Borges had a chance down the right side to add to the lead just before halftime, but the Hawks went into the break with the lead.
“In the first half, I thought we were very disorganized,” Edwards explained. “We fought back, we fought back, scored those two goals at the end of the first half to make it a game but I don’t think we started playing well until we got to the end of the second half.”
That lead only lasted three minutes into the second half. Hofheinz curled a 30-yard free kick to this near post and the ball snuck in after the keeper lost track of his positioning in the goal and, thinking the shot was going wide, allowed it to bounce past him.
Milford came right back just five minutes later and regained the advantage. This time it was Lucas Da Silva on the left and he got all the way to the end line and was brought down as he tried to cut a pass back into the middle. The ref pointed to the spot and Araujo stepped up to score his second of the game and put the Hawks up 3-2.
In the 53rd minute, the Hawks were again guilty of not clearing a set piece and allowed Winchester to equalize. This time the bouncing ball went in off a Milford player at the back post.
Four minutes later, the Sachems were in front. Von Halle created the chance when he jumped on a poor clearance and he sent a ball in from the right side that Diaz was able to bring down at the far post. The forward roofed his shot, giving backup keeper Leo Oliveira no chance.
Injuries cropped up for the Hawks throughout the game, as Coelho, the league MVP, was forced to the bench and senior right back Nuno Mestre also missed a bulk of the second half. Eduardo Castro and freshman Arthur Tome played well off the bench, but those were key pieces that Milford was without down the stretch.
The Hawks went into desperation mode in the closing minutes and played some of their best attacking soccer of the game. It took until the 74th minute, but the pressure paid off. A long throw from Dan Santos bounced in the box and was met by Carlos Terrinha, who was able to turn it in first-time from close range.
Edwards said, “These guys have a lot of guts, otherwise they wouldn’t be here today. They’re here for a reason. This has been the best team I’ve ever coached and not just for their playing ability but for their character and their tenacity and their grit.”
With the joy of an equalizer and a raucous fan section at that end of the field, Milford found a second gear for the final few minutes. A Chris Tocci long throw to Araujo almost turned into a winner, only for the Sachems to crowd out the chance. Joao Pedro Da Silva had a great look off a corner, but his goal-bound shot was blocked at the last second.
“The last 10 minutes were how we should’ve been playing the whole game,” Edwards admitted, “and it wasn’t enough because when you play a good team like that you can’t wait 70 minutes to start playing good soccer.”
Borges forced a save from the Winchester keeper five minutes into the OT period and Milford looked the more likely to score at that stage, until the Sachems earned a free kick. After defending set pieces well all tournament long, the Hawks couldn’t find a way to stop one last chance and fell just short of winning an elusive first title.
“Any set piece near the area, a team that is big and strong they’re going to have chances and unfortunately we didn’t do a good enough job denying the chances and we didn’t do a good enough job defending them. We didn’t execute,” said Edwards.
Milford finished the season at 18-1-2, outscoring teams 71-22 along the way. Edwards, a former soccer player at Milford, called it a historic season despite the loss in the final.
“It’s nice to give the town something to talk about,” he said. “We take the name on the front of the jersey very seriously. We take a lot of pride in how we represent ourselves, how we represent the town, and how we represent our school.”