Oliver Ames Edged By Silver Lake In State Championship

Oliver Ames girls soccer Lucinda Li Cotter
Oliver Ames junior Lucinda Li Cotter dribbles past a Silver Lake defender in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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 WALPOLE, Mass. — The Oliver Ames girls soccer team only allowed one goal against throughout its impressive playoff run.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, it was the lone goal of the Division 2 state championship game.

OA’s impressive season came to a close with a 1-0 loss to Silver Lake on Saturday afternoon.

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“We had four great games in a row and today we didn’t play our best, but that’s life and that’s soccer,” said longtime Oliver Ames head coach Britt Sellmayer. “You have to tip your hat to them. Everyone talks about Shea Kelleher, and how great she is, and she was today, but I think what gets overlooked is how great their back four is. Our front three is pretty good and their back four won the day, both halves. We generated some corner kicks but we didn’t generate any crosses into the area. They had some great players in the back that really shut us down.”

The Tigers rolled to a 4-0 win over Ludlow to start the postseason run and followed with a 3-0 decision over league rival Stoughton. After edging out Duxbury in the quarterfinals, the Tigers had a thrilling double overtime win over Grafton to reach the state championship game.

But this time out, Oliver Ames just couldn’t find its footing in the attack. They were limited on their through balls as Silver Lake’s center back combo did well to clear everything. The Tigers couldn’t get much going on the outside either. OA has had success getting down the wings and finding a target in the middle, but didn’t create many of those opportunities either.

“We also had an off day but that’s life,” Sellmayer said. “It’s a learning experience for our team. We’re young and we have a lot of players coming back, a lot to look forward to. Hanging around for 28 years, you keep things in perspective. Would it have been great to win? Yeah, but it was also great to be here. There’s a lot of teams that want to be here and we were.”

OA’s best two chances in the opening half were on corner kicks, but both of them were dealt with by Silver Lake keeper Abbey Cook.

Although OA keeper Janiya Matier was a bit busier, she wasn’t seriously tested much either, thanks to a strong defensive effort from the Tigers’ back four of Catie Wilson, Sophia Byron, Taylor deVos, and Molly Capece.

It was more of the same in the second half as Silver Lake continued to dictate play, but couldn’t get much through the back four, and when they did, Matier was there off her line. Senior Mary Cross also had a strong game in center mid, thwarting a handful of chances up the middle of the pitch.

“Sophia Byron and Taylor deVos did an outstanding job, Catie Wilson had a great game and has come a long way, and Molly Capece too,” Sellmayer said. “We made one mistake. I always talk about a great soccer game being 2-1…we didn’t get our two but they got their one.”

The Lakers finally broke the deadlock just past the midway point of the second half. Julia Lawrence connected with Grace Flaherty, and she played it wide for Cassidy Conroy. A service into the area dropped between the defense and the keeper, and Silver Lake freshman Avery DePaul raced to the ball first, touching around the keeper and firing a shot into the far post.

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OA tried to mount a comeback in the final minutes with Lucinda Li Cotter, Emma Gavin, Jenna Gilman, and Carly Gibson all trying to find a shot but the Tigers couldn’t register a final chance at an equalizer.

“This was a great season and it’s all about keeping in perspective,” Sellmayer said. “We beat some very good teams in the playoffs and we only gave up one goal in a five-game run, we just gave it up in the wrong game.”

Oliver Ames girls soccer finishes the season at 16-4-1.

Matier Saves, Gavin Scores, and OA Secures Spot in Final

Oliver Ames girls soccer
Emma Gavin scored six minutes into the second overtime to beat Grafton 1-0 and advance Oliver Ames to the state title game for the first time since 2007. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – As the game stayed scoreless into the second overtime, every ball into the box, every set piece, even the most low-percentage shot took on an extra edge of anxiety. Add in the cold and it was important that a goalie stay prepared because you never know when they might be called upon.

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Sophomore goalie Janiya Matier’s moment came in the 93rd minute. Grafton’s Olivia Campbell cut across the top of the box and hit a right-footed shot that was slicing into the upper 90. Somehow, Matier (six saves) got all the way across and managed to get to hands up into the top corner to push the shot to safety.

Three minutes after Matier saved the day for Oliver Ames, classmate Emma Gavin won it. Senior Jenna Gilman, who scored the winning goal in the first round and the quarterfinal, made a burst down the left wing and, for one of the first times in the match, was able to get all the way to the end line. She cut it back to Gavin racing into the box for a first-time finish and a 1-0 win in Tuesday night’s Div. 2 semifinal at Mansfield’s Alumni Field.

The goal secured OA’s first trip to the state title game since the Tigers won it all in 2007.

“I was so distracted by that save and then we go down and I looked and we scored and I was just like, oh my goodness,” Matier said after the game. “Hard work just pays off and we’ve been working very hard this whole season and we’ve definitely earned this and deserve it.”

When asked how she managed to stay ready to make that big stop when called upon, Matier explained, “Always making sure I’m paying attention in practice and just being myself. I’m so happy to be here and that was really crazy. I didn’t expect to get it! You have to keep on practicing and never giving up.”

This was the fourth clean sheet in four tournament games and OA coach Britt Sellmayer was full of praise for his defense after the game.

“My back four held on,” he said. “Molly Capece, Catie Wilson, they’re not year-round soccer players, they’re kids that show up in August, and they did a great job on the outside. Sophia Byron and Taylor deVos, our center backs, they just did enough. They’re super, super players.”

About the game-wining goal, Sellmayer added, “Emma ‘Big Game’ Gavin. This girl runs from 18-to-18, she does everything for us in the middle of the field.”

Grafton, which came into Tuesday’s match unbeaten, gave OA its biggest test of the tournament so far. The Gators, especially Bridget Kennedy and Elie Bristol, managed to keep OA from getting the ball out to the wings and bottled up every Tigers attack. Up front, Caity Tyldesley was causing OA problems by finding space in front of the back line to create.

Just five minutes into the game, Matier was called into action to prevent an early goal. Sophia Kling slid a through ball behind the OA defense to Campbell, but the OA keeper was off her line quickly and had no hesitation diving at the feet of the attacker to make the save.

Matier also made a good save on a long shot by Tyldesley and cut out a nice diagonal ball across the box that nearly found the feet of Gina DeBaradinis.

The first half hour belonged to the Gators, but OA started to find a foothold in the final 10 minutes of the half and got the ball to its front three of Lucinda Li Cotter, Jolie Diaz, and Gilman.

It was Cotter that would create the first look at goal by springing Gilman down the left. Her looped cross into the middle was headed wide by Gavin. A couple minutes before the break, Gilman again managed to find space on the left side and she picked out Cotter all alone inside the six, but Cotter was only able to get a flick on the header and it went wide.

“Let’s be honest, Janiya hard four or five big saves today and their goalie didn’t have a lot to do,” Sellmayer said about OA’s struggles in attack. “This Grafton team is a very, very good team, they move the ball very well.”

He continued, “It was one of those games, I just kind of had a feeling if we hung around something good was going to happen.”

Kling would get a chance to test Matier in the 50th minute when she latched onto a loose ball from the edge of the box. deVos would put a couple of long-range free kicks into the hands of Grafton keeper Shyla Kulesza, but it was increasingly difficult to create good scoring chances on either end of the field. Diaz would cause problems for the Grafton back line throughout the second half, but the final ball into the box wasn’t finding a black jersey.

OA’s best chance at a winner in regulation came with nine minutes to play. Diaz was on the left wing and cut the ball back to Cotter in the box. Cotter took a touch, turned, and laid a pass off for Gavin to run onto, but the shot went over the bar.

In the first overtime, the only chance of note was a long shot by Kennedy that Matier held onto comfortably. Gavin would take a chance from distance early in the second OT but that was similarly easy for Kulesza to hold.

Grafton seemed to have its spot in the final secured when Campbell let fly, but Matier’s brilliant save denied them. It was a match-saving moment that was soon followed by Gavin’s match-winning one. OA entered the season not quite knowing how good they could be, but three months later will have the opportunity to play for the D2 title.

“No clue,” Sellmayer said. “We lost our first game to Franklin then we won a couple games and I said, ‘Hey we could be pretty good.’ I came to practice every day, ‘Are we pretenders or are we contenders?’ We’re contenders.”

Oliver Ames (16-3-1) will face No. 10 Silver Lake in the title game on Saturday at 3:15 at Walpole High.

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Gilman’s Goal Sends Oliver Ames to D2 Final Four

Oliver Ames Girls Soccer
Oliver Ames beat Duxbury 1-0 behind Jenna Gilman’s goal late in the first half and another strong defensive performance to book a spot in the D2 Final Four. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – When the ball was cleared out of the Oliver Ames defense, it looked harmless. As the ball landed in between the last Duxbury defender and the goal keeper, everything seemed to be under control. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Jenna Gilman came flying into the picture.

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The defender had a 10-yard head start, but Gilman flew past her, forcing the goalie to quickly retreat into the box. It looked like a long touch might allow the keeper to come up with the ball, but Gilman managed to keep it alive and keep her composure. The senior forward pulled the ball to the edge of the box and dispatched a left-footed shot into the now vacant goal.

Gilman’s third goal in as many games would prove decisive, as the OA defense held Duxbury scoreless on Saturday afternoon at Muscato Stadium and the Tigers pulled out a 1-0 win to reach the Div. 2 Final Four for the first time in the new format.

“It was really hard to sit on the bench last year and watch,” said Gilman who missed out on last year’s postseason run with an injury, “but I’m just so happy to keep going this year and see how much further we can get.”

OA has made a habit of starting quickly in the playoffs. Seven of the team’s eight postseason goals have come in the first half. After scoring in the opening minute in the last round against Stoughton, the Tigers nearly repeated the trick on Saturday.

A slip in the midfield allowed Emma Gavin to win possession and she played the ball infield to Lucinda Li Cotter, who in turn sprung Jolie Diaz on the right wing. Diaz was clean through on the keeper but her shot from just inside the box would be right at the goalie.

“The trick to the game is to score right away because then you’re so confident and you can just hold them off,” Gilman explained. “We try to make plays all the time and have while doing it.”

Just a minute later, Sophia Byron had the chance to swing in her first corner of the match and caused havoc inside the Duxbury box. The ball landed inside the six and Gilman, Cotter, Taylor deVos, and Gavin all had chances to take a swing at it but each time the Dragons were able to get a block before finally clearing.

“That something that our coaching staff drive in,” said senior midfielder Mary Cross. “We always say the first five minutes, then when the first five minutes goes by we say the next five. We always go five minutes at a time.”

The front line of Gilman, Cotter, and Diaz has been terrorizing defenders all season and it continued against Duxbury. In the 23rd minute, Cotter picked up the ball in front of the Duxbury defense, turned and ran at her marker before forcing a save with a left-footed shot. Three minutes later, right back Catie Wilson sent a high ball into the box that Gilman did really well to bring under control before snatching at her shot and sending it wide.

In the 29th minute, Diaz looped a ball over the top of the defense. Gilman did well to win the battle for possession and get to the end line, but her low cross into Cotter was cut out just before it got to her strike partner.

“Our chemistry is great,” Gilman said of her partnership with Diaz and Cotter. “We love each other. We really do see each other as little sisters, it’s amazing.”

The Dragons were struggling to get anything going at the other end. OA keeper Janiya Matier was finally given something to worry about when Morgan Cheverie dangerously lined a 25-yard free kick diagonally through the box without a touch.

With the half winding down, OA continued to press for the opening goal. Rhiya Fisher won the ball in midfield and quickly got it forward to Cotter, who played Gilman in behind the Duxbury right back. Gilman’s deep cross picked out Diaz on the far side and she in turn crossed to Gavin in the middle. The ball was allowed to bounce and Gilman latched onto it but sent it just wide.

After controlling play throughout the half, it looked like OA would have to settle for a goalless draw at half, until Gilman’s speed and finishing turned the game on its head.

Duxbury came out for the second half determined to get back into the game and had its best spell of pressure in the match. Cheverie cut across the box on her right foot and forced Matier into her first save. A minute later, Megan Carney showed off her footwork in the box to elude deVos. Byron slid in to make an important tackle and Matier was bravely off her line to smother the loose ball.

Chances were coming at both ends of the field. Cotter hit a ball across the face of goal that was kneed over the bar for a corner. The resulting kick was parried by the keeper into the path of Carly Gibson, but her shot went just wide. After a mishit clearance on a back pass, Elizabeth Yucius had a wide open goal to aim for but put her shot the wrong side of the post.

In the 63rd minute, Diaz had a chance to wrap it up. Cotter again picked up the ball in space in the middle and fired a pass out to the left wing. The freshman forward ran at her marker, cutting inside onto her right foot and curling a shot towards the bottom corner only to unluckily see it come back off the post.

Duxbury was pushing, increasingly desperate to find an equalizer with each minute that ticked off the clock. But, the OA defense, which has yet to allow a goal in the playoffs, continued to hold strong and keep everything well outside the penalty area. Cheverie had one last shot but it was again from distance and easily held by Matier.

“We came a long way,” Byron said about the OA defense. “At the beginning of the season, we made some adjustments and from there we’ve kind of known what to do going forward. It’s all about keeping our composure and talking because we don’t want to get lost.”

She added, “Me and Taylor have done a really good job working together. We communicate non-stop and I don’t think a minute goes by where I’m not telling her where to go or what to do and same thing for her.”

The top seed was moving on and will get the chance to play in the state semifinal.

“It’s amazing,” Gilman said. “Being a senior, going this far this last year, it’s awesome. Being with this group of girls has been a great experience.”

Cross added, “Words can’t describe it. We’ve worked so hard and we’re so happy to be here.”

Oliver Ames (15-3-1) will face No. 5 seed Grafton in the Final Four at a date, time, and location to be determined.

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Quick Start Leads OA Past Stoughton and Into Quarters

Oliver Ames girls soccer
OA senior Jenna Gilman celebrates after scoring the second goal in a 3-0 win over Stoughton in the D2 Sweet Sixteen. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – When you’re the underdog, the team that is new to the playoff experience, the team on the road facing the top seed and league champion, you want to make sure to stay close early in the game. You want to keep within touching distance to build confidence and let the favorite start to fell the pressure.

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Stoughton went into Wednesday afternoon’s visit to Muscato Stadium with that game plan, but it last all of 40 seconds before Oliver Ames opened the scoring. The Tigers would add two more within a minute and then kept the Black Knights at arm’s length for the final 70 minutes to secure a 3-0 victory and a place in the Div. 2 quarterfinal.

“They came out gunning for us,” said Stoughton coach Jon Grant. “They came out very fast. They came out very clean and they capitalized on every moment. I tip my hat to them, they’re a phenomenal team. They basically punched us in the mouth the first 10 minutes and then we battled and battled and battled. It’s hard to comeback from a three-goal deficit.

Before the crowd had even gotten settled into the bleachers on a chilly night, OA was on top. Emma Gavin picked up the ball in space in the midfield and slid a pass out to the right wing for freshman Jolie Diaz to run onto. Diaz carried the ball to the end line and then cut the ball back to Gavin, who was making a late run into the box and smacked it past Stoughton keeper Katrina Varnum (seven saves) with a first-time shot.

Eight minutes later, OA doubled its lead on a very similar goal. This time it was Lucinda Li Cotter on the right wing and she dribbled her way to the end line and fired a low cross to the edge of the six-yard box where Jenna Gilman was waiting to power her shot inside the post.

Less than a minute was off the clock before OA had put daylight between itself and the visitors. Diaz again provided the assist with a hard-hit cross into a mass of bodies in the box. Varnum made a diving parry on the pass, but only managed to knock it to the feet of Carly Gibson, who made no mistake with another unerring finish.

“We had senior night here and it was 0-0 and we spent the whole night in their half, but they’re so hard to break down,” said OA coach Britt Sellmayer. “You have to get to the end line and get the ball across because you’re not going to beat [Katrina] high. The first two goals were low and Carly’s was just a bullet through a crowd.”

Holding onto a 3-0 lead took some of the impetus away from the Tigers, who were content to hold the ball and continue looking for its dangerous front three of Cotter, Gilman, and Diaz.

The rest of OA’s chances in the first half came from set pieces. Taylor deVos forced Varnum into a save with a 35-yard free kick. Another deVos delivery, this time from a better angle, went straight across the box to Gavin at the far post, but the sophomore midfielder could only find the side-netting.

Stoughton was struggling to create anything going forward, which wasn’t helped by an injury to sophomore Emma Tran midway through the half. OA keeper Janiya Matier was forced into only one save, on a ball that ricocheted off the knee of Makenzie O’Connor. The Black Knights almost forced an opening in the final minute when Morgan Cook slid a pass into Shayla Ford, but Matier was off her line quickly to collect on the slide.

Coming out of the break, OA nearly added to its lead. A ball in behind the Stoughton defense let Gavin have a chance from close-range, but Varnum was able to smother it. Seconds later, the ball was recycled out to Gibson, who forced the Stoughton keeper into a nice diving stop to her right.

Stoughton had more possession and more of the territorial advantage than it did in the first half, but the Black Knights still struggled to create any chances of note. The OA back line of deVos, Sophia Byron, Catie Wilson, and Molly Capece was impenetrable.

“First half we had to basically stop the bleeding, we had to stop them from scoring,” Grant explained. “In the second half, it was okay lets see if we can get some offense going. We were able to get a little more forward in the second half, but their counterattack, they dump and they’re fast and they’re good. They capitalize on any mistake.”

In the end, OA managed the second half well, making sure to keep the game from getting dramatic in the closing minutes. After a loss at this stage last year, the Tigers were determined to get to the next round.

“We talked about that,” Sellmayer admitted. “Having Jenna gives us an edge and having Jolie gives us pace up front.” When asked about managing the lead late in the game, he added, “It wasn’t as efficient in terms of containing the ball, but we didn’t give them any corners kicks, they had a couple scary chances. They’re a real physical team and we wanted to match it but didn’t want to foul.”

For Stoughton (8-8-4), this season marked the first playoff appearance in 14 years and has the potential to be a jumping off point for a talented sophomore class that makes up a good chunk of the team’s starting lineup.

“Phenomenal,” said Grant. “Absolutely night and day from last year. The work ethic has been phenomenal, the leadership from the seniors has been phenomenal, they’re going to be missed. We do have a young crew coming up and hopefully they can match the leadership that’s been there, but this has been a good building block for the next two years.”

Oliver Ames (14-3-1) will host the winner of Canton and Duxbury, who meet on Thursday, in the quarterfinal on Saturday at a time to be determined.

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