By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield junior Kevin Bouck picked a pretty good time to score his first goal of the season, giving the Hornets the lead with less than a minute to play in the first half.
Senior Jake Staples picked an even better time for his.
Staples got on the end of a long free kick from junior Max Gurnon, lunging in the area to get his head to the ball and find the back of the net to break a tie game with just over 10 minutes to play.
The goal would hold up over the final minutes and Mansfield picked up a 2-1 win over King Philip in the Second Round of the D1 South tournament.
“All three games that we’ve played have been anyone’s match,” Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan said. “There’s been a total of five goals in the three games, it’s always a hard fought game. They’re great. [Joe] Kellett to me is one of the best players around, he’s unbelievable. I can’t say enough about him or Cam [Mullins], they’re both great players.”
After a delay for continuation, the referee whistled KP for a high kick just before midfield. Gurnon hit a line drive ball right over the top of the defense and Staples sprinted in right behind and headed the ball in for the game winner.
“We’re not used to having someone like Staples do a diving header but you know, it was a beautiful goal,” Sheridan said. “We’re a deep team…certain guys in certain games. Staples was playing great in the first half and I put him back in in the second half and he scores that great game winning goal. Kevin only played the last eight minutes in the first half and scored the goal. He came off the bench cold too.”
It was a battle throughout the first half, and really throughout the entire game. King Philip sophomore Larsen Keys had the first chance of the game, taking a cross from junior Colby Koch but his shot went just wide at the far post.
In the 14th minute, Tyler Mann ripped in a cross that was dropped by Mansfield goalie Michael Kirejczyk but he was able to get a touch to the loose ball and it was cleared away.
Mansfield’s first chance came in the 19th minute as Jareme DiLirenzo muscled his way through KP’s defense and unleashed a shot from a tight angle but Brandon Ziolkowski was in position at the near post.
The Warriors dominated possession over the final 10 minutes of the first half, stringing together at least a spell of over a dozen passes before a cross was collected by Kirejczyk,
The Hornets first tally came from seemingly nothing as Sean Lanzillo blocked a clearance and quickly fed Charlie Rogers in. Rogers raced to the end line and then centered a cross back where Bouck easily buried it into the back of the net with less than a minute to play in the first half.
It didn’t take long for the Warriors to level the game in the second half, knotting the game at one less than four minutes in. Senior captain Joe Kellett came away with a steal at midfield, took a touch before sending Mann down the left flank. Mann did well with his hold up play, allowing Kellett to come on an overlapping run and he laid it off. Kellett took possession, raced towards the end line and hit a perfect low cross back across the middle and sophomore Mike Rowe slotted it into the corner of the net.
Midway through the second half, the Warriors thought they had earned a penalty kick. Mann took control in his own half and raced nearly 60 yards before being taken down from behind right on the edge of the area. The ref originally seemed to point to the spot for a PK but instead it was placed at the 20 yard line. Kellett’s ensuing free kick was unable to elude the wall and was cleared.
Staples’ goal came with just over 10 minutes to play and neither side was able to register a scoring chance in the remaining time, despite five long throw in opportunities for KP.
“A loss is always a sour taste in your mouth but when you have two good teams that battle it out, and that was one hell of a goal on that second one from Mansfield, it’s kind of hard to walk away and say you didn’t try to earn it,’ King Philip head coach Nick Gale said. “The kids left it all out there. It was a well deserved win on their part. Out of the three games we’ve played them, that was probably the best they’ve played.
“Our objective was to play good soccer and be the better soccer team. That’s the way we’ve been training and the philosophy we’ve followed. We wanted to beat them playing good soccer and I think we came up short. But we worked hard on it.”
KP finishes the season 8-8-3 overall. Mansfield is now 13-3-3 and will advance to the Quarterfinals of the D1 South tournament and will travel to #4 Needham on Sunday. The time is still to be announced.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.