MANSFIELD, Mass. — The Oliver Ames boys soccer team felt it should have taken two points in its last league game, a draw at home against Stoughton, especially after carrying a lead into the second half.
The Tigers found themselves in a similar situation on Monday, and this time out made sure to put the game away.
Senior Mike MacAdam gave the visitors the lead less than 10 minutes into the game and sophomore Casey Milliken, who had the assist on the opener, buried a penalty kick late in the second half for a key insurance goal as Oliver Ames earned a 2-0 win in a key matchup with division foe Mansfield.
“Every game in the Hockomock this year is going to be that, a tough, gritty battle,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “In fairness, I thought we played well at many times tonight and I thought their goalkeeper made a number of terrific saves. Overall it was a good bounce-back game after Stoughton because we should have put that game away and we didn’t. So it was good to come here and get a gutsy win against a good Mansfield team.”
A week ago, Oliver Ames didn’t open the scoring until just before halftime. Against Mansfield, MacAdam’s opener came in the eighth minute of play. But in both contests, the Tigers controlled play and had a handful of chances to score more.
OA broke through just moments later as outside back Diego Rivera connected with Milliken in the middle, who promptly dribbled forward to attack the defense. He laid off a perfectly weighted through pass and MacAdam sprinted onto it, reaching out to blast a shot past the keeper from inside the area for an early 1-0 lead.
“Mike’s going to see a lot of minutes for us if he plays like he did today,” Barata said. “Mikey is kind of like that unsung senior that can really help us out.”
Milliken nearly had another assist in the 16th minute, connecting with classmate Andrew Martins atop the area, and Martins used a quick touch before ripping a shot that was gobbled up by Doyle off the bounce. A minute later, Milliken’s hard cross was knocked around before Hector Bucio got his right boot on it but Doyle was once again in position for the stop.
OA continued to press, this time it was sophomore Luke Churchill playing Dasilva in behind but Doyle came out and made a huge stop, pushing the bid over the bar in the 26th minute. Four minutes later, Doyle was at it again as MacAdam nearly returned the favor to Milliken, who cut it back onto his left foot inside the area only for his shot from in close to be denied and cleared by Mansfield defender Derek McGrath.
“We didn’t get into our style, [OA] runs around and cover each other all over, unlike we did,” said Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan. “We’re young, we’re inexperienced, and we’re learning, which is good. This is what happened against Wayland, we let them dictate everything and got away from the way we should be playing. We played great for three games, got better each game, but reverted back tonight.”
Mansfield was able to get a forward a bit more in the second half and had their first two real chances just minutes apart. In the 52nd minute, senior Aiden Steele won a battle after a service from Grady Sullivan and unleashed a left-footed blast from distance but OA keeper Drew Hall handled it on the bounce.
OA finally added its insurance tally in the 70th minute. Milliken was taken down in the area to earn the pen. He stepped up and converted with a clinical finish just out of the reach of an outstretched Doyle.
“We definitely learned from Stoughton…today, we gave up very little shots from anywhere on the field, we were converging very quickly,” Barata said. “In the second half, we tried to bring them out a little bit because we wanted to play the game a little bit more. So it was a little bit of a tactical shift on our end that allowed for a lot more open play. We’re trying different things because it’s early in the season, we’ll see what works and what doesn’t.”
Oliver Ames’ back four of Mercieri, Rivera, Bucio, and Jake Williams played well in the back while Luke Churchill and twin brother Craig Churchill were vital in the midfield. Anytime the Hornets tried to build out of the back, it seemed one of the Churchills was there to thwart it. And then when it came to OA’s heavy edge in possession, it was Luke and Craig that seemed to facilitate the majority of it.
“Luke is kind of the glue that keeps us together, he’s the lynchpin for us right now,” Barata said. “It’s a lot of pressure in that position but now we have two Churchill’s doing it together, which is great because they both were fantastic today. They won’t get much press — except for maybe this — that’s just the way it works sometimes but they’re so steady, very good players.”
Oliver Ames boys soccer (2-0-1 Hockomock, 2-0-2 overall) has another huge showdown on Wednesday as the Tigers welcome league-leading Attleboro to Muscato Stadium. Mansfield (2-1-1, 2-2-1) will look to bounce back on Wednesday evening when it hosts Taunton.