When the 2017-18 season ended against Bloomfield (N.J.) College in the semifinal of the East Regional, Ryan Boulter was just two points shy of the 1,000-point mark for his college career. The former Mansfield standout and Hockomock League MVP, who scored more than 1,300 points for the Hornets, wasted no time in reaching the milestone this year. In fact, it took only one shot.
The Merrimack College senior forward made a back cut down the right side of the lane for an easy layup just 30 seconds into the season opener against Holy Family University (Pa.). “I wanted to get it out of the way early, but I didn’t expect to get it on the first basket like I did,” Boulter said in a phone call on Friday morning.
Despite the milestone not having the same level of pomp and circumstance that chasing 1,000 points does in high school, for instance the game continued without a break, Boulter recognized the magnitude of the achievement. He said, “I knew I was two points away and all of my teammates knew about it. They all congratulated me during the game and after the game. It was pretty special.”
Boulter led the Warriors with 19 points in the 69-50 win over Holy Family and was the 45th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point mark (junior guard Juvaris Hayes also reached that mark last season). The milestone meant even more for Boulter because coming out of high school there were questions about his ability to play at the Div. II level. He received few looks from schools outside of Div. III until longtime Merrimack coach Bert Hammel (who passed away this October) offered him the chance to come to North Andover.
“A lot of people didn’t really expect me to play Div. II,” Boulter admitted. “I had a lot of Div. III offers, but a lot of people didn’t really recruit me for Div. II except Bert, so it’s really meant a lot for me to score 1,000 points here.”
It didn’t take Boulter long to prove that he deserved the chance to play in Div. II. The 6-foot-7 forward came off the bench in 23 games during his freshman season, averaging six points per game and shooting more than 38 percent from beyond the arc. Boulter took off in his sophomore season under new head coach Joe Gallo (who took over when Hammel retired), earning third team All-NE-10 honors as Merrimack’s leading scorer at 18 points per game.
There were high expectations coming into last season and Merrimack largely lived up them as a team, winning 20 games, but Boulter was sidelined for a dozen games in the middle of the season with a foot injury. Despite the setback and dealing with the first significant injury of his basketball career, he was still second on the team with more than 13 points per game and shot more than 43 percent from three-point range.
“It was pretty frustrating, coming back and missing about two months and trying to get your legs back into it,” he explained. “Having to play off the bench and having to play a certain amount of minutes was something I had to get used to but at the end of the season I started to get my feel back a little bit.”
The injury provided extra motivation for this season. The Warriors were ranked second in the preseason NE-10 coaches poll, behind St. Anselm, are expected to challenge for the conference title, and to make a run in the postseason. After missing time as a junior, Boulter is ready to get back to the all-conference level he reached as a sophomore.
He said, “It was really painful not being out there with the guys and it motivated me this off-season to really focus on my body, get it right to play a full season, and get this team to where we know we can be at the end of the year.”
The reason that expectations are so high for the Warriors is the depth on the team. Boulter said that this team is the deepest he has ever played with. He explained, “Especially in the starting five, everyone can shoot, dribble, pass, rebound, and we’ve got three or four guys coming off the bench who can do the same thing.”
Watch highlights of Merrimack running its offense and you see players constantly switching positions, spreading the floor, making cuts to the basket, and stretching the defense all across the court. “It’s incredible because we don’t care about who’s the leading scorer each game, we just care about winning and focusing on our goals,” Boulter said.
The Merrimack system also looks very similar to the offense that Boulter was part of at Mansfield, where he and the Hornets compiled a 72-9 record over his career, reached a state title game (where Boulter, just a sophomore, hit three free throws in the final seconds to force overtime against Putnam) and two sectional finals.
Boulter carried that culture of success, and the knowledge of what it takes to win games, into his collegiate career.
“Coach (Mike) Vaughan, that’s what he drilled into us every day in high school,” he said, “just focus on winning. It doesn’t matter if you’re in class or on the basketball court just focus on winning and having that mindset that you’re a winner.”
He added, “It makes it fun, even in practice, to have a great group of guys who just care about winning and don’t really care about their stats and all that.”
Last winter, Mansfield won its first ever state championship and Ryan’s younger brother Tyler played a critical role in the Hornets’ tournament run. Ryan had several close calls, including the overtime loss to Putnam in the final and a pair of thrilling match-ups with loaded Catholic Memorial teams in the South sectional, and he was excited for his brother being part of the first Hornets team to reach the pinnacle.
“I was very happy for him,” Boulter said. “He kind of had to live up to high expectation being my little brother, but I was really proud of him. He played his heart out and I was really happy that he won it.
“When I got there,” he continued, “I wasn’t really expecting to have the team really go far but [Coach Vaughan] really brings out the best in everyone and brings out that competitive nature in every practice. He really gets on us to get us where we want to be and he knows how great those teams can be. It’s amazing to see that program keep growing each and every year.”
It is only three games into the new season (Merrimack played Bentley on Saturday afternoon) but Boulter is already seeing signs that the Warriors can reach their goals this year – winning the NE-10 title and getting out of the East Regional. He pointed to the 72-42 win against Assumption on Wednesday night as an example of what the team can achieve.
“That’s probably the best defensive game we’ve played in my four years here,” he said. “If we focus on the defensive end for 40 minutes, then we’ll be very hard to beat because we know with our talent that our offense will come. If we can play as well as we did the other night on the defensive end then we can go really far this year.”
The season started with a personal milestone, but Ryan Boulter is focused on ending the season, and his Merrimack career, with an even bigger prize – the NE-10 title.
Ed. Note – Merrimack suffered a 65-59 loss at Bentley on Saturday to even its record at 2-2. Boulter scored six points in 37 minutes, shooting 2-of-6 from three.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The first game back in September was a surprising shootout, but the rematch in the pouring rain on Friday night at Alumni Field was more of what has come to be expected from battles between Mansfield and King Philip.
Defense was the story of the Div. 2 South final. The Hornets scored a touchdown on their opening possession but were held off the board for the remainder of the game, while the Warriors were held without a touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter.
King Philip came away with a hard-hitting 10-7 victory over its division rival, securing its third straight trip to the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
“There’s playing teams and then there’s playing Mansfield,” King Philip coach Brian Lee remarked. “You know what you’re going to get and it’s just how are you going to move the ball when they’re big and mean and tough and we’re just trying to find a way.”
Mansfield took the lead midway through the first quarter, taking advantage of a short punt to score its only touchdown of the game.
After a three-yard punt, the Hornets got the ball at the KP 37 but then backed up 10 yards on a pair of false starts. On third and 15, Aidan Sacco was able to pull the ball down and scramble for 16 and a first down. Two plays later, Sacco again found space to run and rumbled in untouched for a 16-yard score.
The ensuing kick was fielded at the one by Aidan Bender, but he returned it 47 yards out to midfield. The Warriors were unable to make it count, but the defense got the ball right back.
KP forced a Mansfield three-and-out and regained possession inside Hornets territory. Ryan Halliday (27 carries, 96 yards), with help from a defensive holding call, got the ball down to the 21, but Mansfield held firm and forced a 38-yard field goal from Cole Baker that cut the lead to 7-3.
Mansfield had a chance to add to its lead before halftime when it go the ball back at midfield. The drive started poorly, as Sacco was sacked by Halliday and Max Armour, but a personal foul following an incomplete pass gifted the Hornets 15 yards and a first down. Sacco then hit Cincere Gill for 20 yards down to the KP 18, but two plays later Gill fumbled and Bender recovered for the Warriors.
“When they didn’t score before the half, I thought we were okay,” said Lee. “We couldn’t have played any worse offensively and made some mistakes on defense, but if we could get into the half and make our adjustments and only be down four I thought alright that’s KP football, we’re fine.”
The third quarter continued the trend where defenses were in control of the game. Even without Vinnie Holmes at linebacker, Mansfield was getting big plays from Chris Copponi and T.J. Guy. KP was getting typically strong performances from Armour and fellow linebacker Jack Webster to stymie the Mansfield offense.
The score stayed the same heading to the fourth before KP finally got something going on the offensive side of the ball. The Warriors ate up six minutes with an 11-play, 51-yard drive to take the lead.
“We started just grinding it out, pounding it,” said junior quarterback Robbie Jarest about the go-ahead drive. “The line was doing really well, we were just grinding it out.”
Halliday continued to be the workhorse back, grinding out yards, including a two-yard burst to convert a fourth and one. On second and six, KP called for a bootleg from Jarest and he bounced it to the outside for 11 yards. On third and six, Jarest scrambled and managed to dive ahead for nine and another first down to the Mansfield 12.
On the next play, he hit David Morganelli just outside the goal line for a first and goal from about a foot, which Jarest finished off with a sneak.
The Hornets had 5:38 on the clock to try and get back the lead. Back-to-back nine-yard gains by Gill and Joe Plath got the ball out to the 43. After an eight-yard gain by Khristian Conner pushed the ball into KP territory, Mansfield took a chance downfield. Sacco tried to squeeze a pass in down the middle but it was picked off by Deric Casado at the 16.
On third and eight, again KP turned to its quarterback on a bootleg and Jarest weaved his way through the Mansfield defense for nine yards and a dagger first down that sealed the win.
“Robert gave us a little wrinkle at the end that was just enough,” said Lee. “That’s kind of what we do at KP, just enough. He’s really done a great job stepping up, taking the coaching, and I’m really proud of his efforts.”
No one was quite sure what to make of this KP team at the start of the season. With no returning starters on offense, this didn’t seem like a Warriors team that could make it back to the state title game, but here they are again booking a trip back to Gillette Stadium with eyes on a three-peat.
“It’s a very different team and it’s presented challenges along the way but they still have the same theme, which is keep believing, keep working,” Lee explained. “The one thing that stayed from the last two years is their work ethic and their belief that they can pull it off.”
He added, “We have heart, we have guts, we have teamwork, and we use it on this team better than anybody. Anybody can be a hero on a different play.”
King Philip (8-2) will face Franklin on Thanksgiving Day and then take on North champion North Andover in the Div. 2 title game. Mansfield also finished the season at 8-2 and will finish its season with its Thanksgiving Day rivalry game against Foxboro at Fenway Park.
In the first overtime period alone, the Hornets fended off five long throws from the Lions’ throw-in specialist Larissa Williams.
While the Hornets limited Newton South’s restarts in the offensive third in the second overtime, the Lions finally got a throw-in in the final minute and cashed in. Williams’ long throw-in was cleared back to her on the sideline, and she delivered a service into the area that Audrey Lavey headed into the net, giving Newton South a 3-2 win over Mansfield.
“We kept bending, bending, never breaking but the last one they finally find the free header,” said Mansfield head coach Kevin Smith. “Hats off to [Newton South], they are a fantastic team. The corners, the long throws….they were very dangerous and put us under pressure. We just couldn’t find that release pass. We had opportunities, we had a couple open nets we just couldn’t put it away.”
Mansfield had a pair of leads in the game, but the Lions had an answer each time, the second strike coming just seconds after the Hornets had regained the lead.
In the first overtime, the Lions applied the majority of the pressure with five long throw-ins, but the back line of Emily Vigeant, Mikaela Maughn, Erin Daniel, and Kerina Geminiani did an admirable job of handling it in front of keeper Caty DeMassi.
Newton South also had a pair of corner kicks in the first 10-minute span of golden goal, which is how the Lions tied the game in the second half, but Mansfield’s defense did its job.
While playing compact in the back, Mansfield’s best chances came on the counter attack. In the 86th minute, Sydney Mulkern nearly played Steph Kemp in behind but a nice play by the Newton South keeper cleared it away.
In the second overtime, Kemp made a nice run to the outside, got a touch around her defender and delivered a tempting ball into the area but there weren’t any Hornets in the vicinity.
“That’s the only thing you can do,” Smith said of the counter attack. “We couldn’t find a way to release the pressure in the midfield. When we got the ball up front, we were trying to make the pass too quickly and we weren’t there because it’s a 60 yard run with tired legs.”
The Lions nearly had the game-winner in the 94th minute when Cassie Lee snuck in behind the defense but DeMassi was quick off her line to thwart the opportunity.
Mansfield had a bright start to the match, having the majority of possession and keeping the ball in its attacking half. In the 12th minute, Daniel nearly opened the scoring with a well-taken one-timer from 30 yards out but the ball smacked off the cross bar, and Katie Garvin’s header on the rebound was saved.
The pressure paid off in the 28th minute as the Hornets Tok the lead. Cassidy McMahon delivered a corner kick to the far post and Melissa Reef rose up and headed the ball back across the goal inside the post for a 1-0 lead.
But the lead only lasted four minutes, as the Lions took advantage of a Mansfield miscue. In the defensive third, a miscommunication allowed Lee to get in between the defender and the keeper, blocking the clearance. The loose ball popped back to Lee’s foot and she buried her chance, sending the teams into half tied 1-1.
Mansfield regained the lead just over 10 minutes into the second half. Bryn Anderson settled a throw from Geminiani and gained just enough space to launch a high cross to the far post. McMahon skied into air and headed the service under the bar and into the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.
Similar to the first lead, it didn’t last long. Newton South quickly marched up field and earned a corner kick, and Lucy Jenks nodded in a cross from Maia Madison to make it 2-2 in the 52nd minute.
In the 67th minute, DeMassi made a terrific play off her line to deny the Lions of a partial breakaway.
In the 70th minute, Mansfield nearly went ahead again. Kemp played McMahon wide, and she centered her pass but Anderson couldn’t get her foot on the cross in front and Mulkern saw her chance for over the bar at the far post.
And in the 75th minute, the Hornets had a free kick from straight away from 20 yards out but couldn’t get the shot on frame.
“After their first goal, you could tell we were deflated and they had some momentum going for them,” Smith said. “We just couldn’t find our energy. We got it back at halftime and scored the goal to go up. I didn’t think we dropped after their second goal, I thought we still had opportunities, we just couldn’t find it. Their keeper made some nice plays, their defense was smothering. Our defense played great too. But they found that last one.”
Mansfield girls soccer (15-3-4) graduates 19 seniors from this year’s team, a group that made its mark on the program. The Hornets won three straight Kelley-Rex division titles, the first three in program history. In their four years, the varsity team went 54-12-12.
“It’s a special group, I’ve known most since they were 5 or 6 years old, since they were little kids,” Smith said. “They are like my daughters.”
But the Hornets couldn’t break through, and the pressure came just a bit too late as #11 Brockton used a pair of first half goals and added a third one on a counter attack midway through the second half to secure a 3-0 victory over #3 Mansfield.
The Boxers, a team much better than your typical #11 seed, had complete control over the first 40 minutes of the game. Brockton had a lion’s share of the possession and neutralized Mansfield’s attempts to get up field.
“They have a hell of a lot of talent over there,” said Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan.
While the Boxers didn’t create a ton of goal scoring chances, they did capitalize on the opportunities they did have. After controlling the game of the opening 15 minutes, the visitors found the back of the net to go ahead.
After earning a free kick along the right flank, Brockton’s Luis Spinola served the ball to the near post to teammate Leonardo Teixeira. Teixeira had his first touch blocked down but tracked it down and fired in a shot at the near post on a tough angle to make it 1-0.
While Mansfield began to work its way into the game some, earning its first corner and first real attacking throw in, the Boxers struck again in the 33rd minute. Vanilton Xavier and Teixeira combined to get Xavier out wide. After using a cut back to avoid two defenders and centered it back to Teixeira, who headed in a ball he played up to himself.
“They played a little bit more aggressive,” Sheridan said, as compared to the regular season meeting between the clubs. “They were passive the first time, they didn’t play aggressive until the second half. In this game, they came out from the get go with a lot more gusto than the first time. We came out timid but we settled down. After the lightning break, we took it too them. We just couldn’t put the ball in the net.”
Mansfield’s lone chance of the opening half came off the foot of junior Colin Caridi, who blasted a low shot from 20 yards out but it slid wide at the far post.
“First, we had to keep the ball,” said Brockton head coach Herminio Furtado about defending Mansfield. “As long as you keep the ball, you’re safe. Second, don’t give them throw ins, they love that. We’d rather play from the back and if we lose it, just try to win it back instead of playing it out and giving them throw ins. It was about possessing and being conservative.”
The second half came to an abrupt halt just over minutes in because of a lightning delay. After the teams cleared the field, play resumed 36 minutes later. After the delay, the Hornets ramped up the pressure.
Mansfield had three straight conner kicks in the 38th minute, but only the final one had a chance on goal with Luke Savoie’s header saved on a bounce.
While Teixeira didn’t play a lot of minutes for Brockton in the second half, he did have a chance in the 51st minute but Mansfield junior keeper Cam Bovey made the stop.
While the Hornets pushed numbers forward, the chances on goal didn’t pile up. Instead, the Boxers were able to strike on a quick counter attack. Edson Lopes played Joel Arsenault wide but as soon as Lopes released the ball, he took off sprinting forward and was rewarded for his run as Arsenault slipped a ball in behind and Lopes touched it around the keeper for a 3-0 lead in the 60th minute.
“They only [broke us down] a couple of times.” Sheridan said. “The third goal, we were pushing numbers up and had less guys in the back…2-0, 3-0, 4-0…didn’t matter, we had to go for it.”
Mansfield’s best chance of the game came a minute later as Luke Devine flicked a ball in behind on a header and Savoie fired a hard low shot across the goal but it hit off the far post and rolled across the goal line, somehow staying out and keeping the Hornets scoreless.
Mansfield boys soccer finishes the season 13-3-5.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield won its third straight league title this fall, and its first outright championship in program history, so the Hornets are no stranger to regular season success. But, in the state tournament, Mansfield has been knocked out in the first round each of the past two seasons.
This group of seniors (of which there are 19 on this year’s roster) had not seen the second round since they were freshman year and they were hungry to add a playoff run to their league accomplishments. That hunger was intensified by Saturday evening’s opponent in the Div. 1 South opener at Alumni Field, as King Philip upset the Hornets in overtime two seasons ago.
The Hornets scored twice against the wind in the first half (and arguably against the run of play) and held on with a typically stout defensive performance to shutout the Warriors 2-0 and advance to the South quarterfinal.
“We definitely wanted to win,” said Mansfield senior Steph Kemp. “We weren’t willing to leave this field without a win. All of us seniors, the whole team, everyone worked together. We didn’t want this to be our last game and it showed.”
King Philip (12-5-2) opened the game with the wind at its back and the Warriors used it to put the hosts on their heels early on.
Inside the opening 10 minutes, Abby Baker had the first chance of the game for KP. A throw in from the left side went off the shoulder of Mansfield defender Mikaela Maughn and Baker forced keeper Lauren Whitman into the first of her six saves. Just two minutes later, Avery Snead threaded a pass to Ally Stanton, who laid it into the path of Chloe Layne but the shot lacked power and Whitman saved.
“We had some great chances, but didn’t finish,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “That’s the tale of this game. I thought we dominated in the first half and didn’t get anything from it and they had two shots and put them in. That’s the difference in the game.”
Despite the pressure from the Warriors over the opening half hour, it was Mansfield that got the game’s first goal with its first shot on target. Kemp battled KP defender Olivia Berry on the right side of the box and managed to squeeze it loose into the middle where Cassidy McMahon ran onto it and was able to side-foot it past keeper Taylor Butler.
The Warriors came right back with a series of chances. Snead rose highest to head a long free kick from Makayla Griffin but Whitman was there for the save, then right back Lauren Anderson fired a long pass up top to Layne, who flicked it into the path of Jenna Hitchen on the left side but again it was saved. In the 37th minute, KP’s forwards combined again – Stanton to Snead to Layne, but the junior’s finish was just wide.
Two minutes later and the lead was doubled. A throw in from the left side was flicked by Sydney Mulkern to Melissa Reef at the corner of the box. The senior midfielder spun past her marker and onto her right foot before curling an unstoppable shot into the top corner for a 2-0 advantage.
“That’s a goal that she’s been staying after practice for a whole week just to work on,” Mansfield coach Kevin Smith explained. “She says that she gets so many of them and to see her hard work pay off is really cool.”
Mansfield got the wind in the second half and it almost paid immediate dividends when Bryn Anderson got to the end line and cut it back for Kemp, who blazed over the bar.
Even into the wind, the Warriors looked dangerous in attack. Baker touched one on to Layne, who fired over and then she had a second chance with a half-volley from a Faye Veilleux throw in but couldn’t get enough power on it to beat Mansfield’s second half keeper, Caty DeMassi. Hitchen set up Snead in the middle but she also sent her shot over the bar.
In the 62nd minute, Anderson drove forward from midfield but her shot from the edge of the box was inches over the crossbar.
In the final 20 minutes, Mansfield locked down on the defensive side. Maughn and fellow center back Emily Vigeant were keeping a constant eye on Snead in the middle of the field, while freshman Katie Miller was tasked with following Layne as closely as possible. Reef added to the defensive shape from midfield and outside backs Mulkern and Kerina Geminiani were always on the cover.
“Wow,” Smith said about the complete defensive performance of his team. “We had to be very organized.” Pichel added, “The wind was against us [in the second half] and they did a great job defending. It was a hard hole to climb out of.”
Both coaches raved about the play of their opponents and both admitted that Saturday did not feel like a first round game. “Two giants went at it and one is left standing,” said Pichel. Smith said, “It felt like a sectional final.”
The Hornets allowed a league-low eight goals this season and that defensive strength was evident as they closed out the game and protected a two-goal cushion. At the final whistle, the whole team raced to the far end of the field to celebrate the win.
“It’s definitely relieving and it’s exciting,” Kemp said. “We haven’t been in this position since freshman year and even then not a lot of girls were on the field, so it’s our first time being through this all 19 of us senior together. We’re excited to just go on and see what it feels like to be in the rest of the tournament.”
She added, “I was tired from coming off the field but I managed to make that sprint all the way to Cat.”
Mansfield (14-2-4) will travel to face No. 4 seed Bridgewater-Raynham on Monday in the sectional quarterfinal.