The Tigers, fresh off their third state final appearance in the past four years, have an entire new lineup after graduating two dozen seniors, including all starters and most reserves that played regularly.
In the first game with its new line up, Oliver Ames came away with a 3-0 win over visiting Stoughton.
“The kids have worked hard and that showed today,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “We can knock the ball around and play some soccer but we just have to mature a bit and grow up and gel as a group. I think as the season progresses we’ll get a little bit better each day.”
The Tigers took the lead in the 15th minute and then broke the game open with back-to-back goals inside the final five minutes of the first half.
“It definitely felt like a first game,” said first-year Stoughton head coach Joshua Aubin. “We haven’t played a competitive game in almost two weeks. I think everyone was a little nervous to start and it showed. They got that first goal off an amazing shot, one of the best you’ll see all year. But the second and third goals, they were on us. Turnover at midfield and quick counter and then a silly foul in the box. But those two goals, those are easy enough to fix so that’s encouraging.”
Oliver Ames established control of the play early and were rewarded by a terrific goal. Sophomore Anthony DaCosta found himself in space when a long ball came in from sophomore Matthew Nikiciuk. DeCosta was given the space to take a touch and turn, and without hesitation the sophomore rifled a nice shot from 25-yards out that beat the keeper and went right under the bar for a 1-0 lead.
After a bit of back and forth play for the next 20 minutes, the Tigers changed the complexion of the game in the final five minutes of the first half.
Junior Jonathan Freeman came away with a win just over midfield and quickly found the feet of junior Colin Milliken. Milliken turned and played a through ball between two defenders, allowing senior Sean Flaherty to run onto it and slot his shot him at the far post to make it 2-0.
Stoughton had its best chance of the half shortly after going down 2-0. Senior Fabi Ponce de Leon played a curling free kick into the area that was spilled but the rebound effort from Gabe Ribeiro was to the left of the frame.
OA quickly countered and attacked up the left side. Sophomore Brady deVos found some space in the area and tried to get by his defender but was hauled down.
The sophomore stepped up to the spot and calmly blasted his bid into the back of the net just a minute later, giving OA a 3-0 lead just minutes before the halftime whistle.
“I thought overall we were in control of the play but it felt like we were getting a little panicky,” Barata said. “We had some chances to score the next goal and we just hand’t so I think getting the second and third goals relieved some pressure on them.”
“The third goal really hurt, that 1-2 punch,” Aubin said. “But it’s stuff that we can watch film and try to correct. I thought they picked themselves up coming into the second half and were competitive.”
Trailing 3-0 in the second half, the Black Knights tinkered with their lineup in an attempt to get back into the game. While it meant trying to build more offense, it sacrificed some defense.
The Tigers were able to take advantage of that at times but couldn’t add onto their lead because of some stellar saves from junior keeper CCarter Gerome (11 saves).
Just six minutes into the second half, Milliken once again found Flaherty in behind the defense and the senior used a nice cut back move to free himself but his chance was turned aside by a terrific sliding save attempt from Gerome.
“We made some adjustments at halftime and I think it showed. I thought we were much more competitive in that second half. ,” Aubin said. “So we were a bit more offensive minded so we knew we’d give up some chances but Carter definitely stood on his head at times and kept us in the game.”
Stoughton’s best chance of the second half came in the 61st minute when Ponce de Leon put a free kick on frame but OA senior keeper Jacob Lerman made a move to his right to punch the ball out.
A minute later, OA nearly had another goal with Flaherty in alone but once again Gerome came up big to keep the Tigers off the scoresheet in the second half.
Oliver Ames (1-0 Hockomock, 1-0 overall) is back in action on Tuesday when it welcomes Taunton (0-1-1) to Muscato Stadium. Stoughton (0-1, 0-1) hits the road to take on North Attleboro on the same day.