By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Junior Thomas McCormick scored in the 33rd minute and Oliver Ames was able to shut out Milton in a 1-0 win on Friday afternoon.
Senior Keegan Nutt used his head to flick on a ball over the top of the defense. McCormick was able to get a touch to it and get in front of the defender and rifled a shot into the net to make it 1-0 shortly before halftime.
“It was a tough game,” Oliver Ames head coach John Barata said. “That team, if they play in the Hockomock is not 9-10, they’re a very good team. Mike has done a good job with his guys. It was a good battle for us. You know the first game of the tournament is going to be hard. Now we get to play Hingham, again.”
Oliver Ames came out of the gates with a good pace and applied the pressure to the wildcats. A neat combo from Max Bamford to Thomas McCormick to Cam Vella results in a shot from 25 yards out but Vella’s bid bounced just wide at the far post.
Tigers’ goalie Jack Carroll was called into action 12 minutes in. Milton had a free kick from the corner of the area that was struck on goal from Josh Madden but Carroll covered his near post well to pull in the shot.
Just four minutes later, Romero danced his way past a pair of defenders and unleashed a shot from inside the area on a tight angle but Milton keeper Joe Morfin was there for one of his nine saves in the game.
Morfin was called into action with just over 15 minutes to play in the first half when pressure from Romero resulted in a deflected clearance. Morfin was forced to back pedal and get a hand to the ball as he was falling into his own net.
Carroll had to deal with a deflection himself just two minutes later when Stefan Richardson ripped a shot from the 18 yard line that deflected off a defender. Carroll was forced into a diving save at the far post to keep the ball out.
McCormick put the home side ahead in the 33rd minute and Nutt nearly doubled the lead just a minute later but Morfin was well positioned for the save.
It was mostly a back and forth battle in the second half and it wasn’t until midway through when Nutt took a pass from Jack Sheldon but his bid was right at Morfin.
Milton threatened just two minutes later when Madden whipped in a corner that was headed by Louis Fitzgerald but Carroll got down on the ball before a late slide.
While OA registered 10 shots on target, the Wildcats had six but were limited in the run of play thanks in large part to a strong effort from Max Ahern, Jared Mallers, Cam Johnson and Bamford.
“They did their job,” Barata said. “We had to play with guys forward. I thought the back three did their job with Cam Johnson in front of them did well. I thought we created more chances when we had Cardoza, Cam, Keegan, Romero and McCormick all up.”
In the 68th minute, the Wildcats had their best chance at an equalizer. On a long free kick, Alden Odmilson Rosa flicked the ball on and Richardson raced onto it. Before Carroll could slide onto it, Richardson touched around him and had a chance on goal but Romero was in perfect position and blocked the shot from going in.
It was a good spot for Romero, who had played mostly in an attacking role for the majority of the game. Late in the second half, Barata moved him back to defense, a spot where Romero has played in the past.
“Chris Romero is an MVP candidate, I think he’s certainly one of the best players in the league,” Barata said. “His versatility, not many players have it. You can put him at left mid or forward or center back and he does his job, three times too. He had the clearance, he chased the Herget Division MVP down to get the ball and then defended the shot that went on frame. I’m very lucky to have him.”
Oliver Ames’ next opponent will be Hingham, a team that the Tigers have eliminated in two straight tournaments, including in the D2 South Finals last year.
“We’ve seen them the last two years and we know they’re an excellent team, they’re awesome on the ball,” Barata said. “I think they won their league this year so they’re motivated and obviously they want revenge. It will be a tough game on Sunday.”
The Tigers will play host to the Harbormen on Sunday at 5:00 at Mustaco Stadium.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.