But just making an appearance wasn’t enough for the fourth-seeded Tigers. In fact, Oliver Ames did something that very few teams have been able to do in the South Final over the last decade: they pushed the Red Raiders to the limit.
Oliver Ames twice rallied from one-set deficits, including a late comeback in the fourth set to force a decisive winner-take-all fifth set. But second-seeded Barnstable showed why they are considered the best program in state history, grabbing an early lead in the final set and never looking back to secure a 3-2 (25-17, 23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-9) win and the program’s 10th straight D1 South Sectional title.
“I told them to take it one point at a time and to enjoy it because this could be it,” said Oliver Ames head coach Chelsea Cunningham. “Even though it was, this was the best they have ever played. I’m so proud of all of them. I couldn’t ask for anything more. They played so calm, they celebrated together and they picked each other up. And every set was close. After the first set, we evaluated every situation and how we wanted to approach it. The girls persevered under a lot of tough pressure. To even go to five, it was phenomenal to watch and we got to entertain the crowd.”
In their decade of dominance, Barnstable has dropped a total of just three sets in the sectional final game. New Bedford forced the Raiders to five in 2010 while Bishop Feehan grabbed one set in the 2014 final. Barnstable hadn’t dropped a set in the sectional final in the past four years.
“We’ve gone to five every match, I couldn’t believe it,” Cunningham said. “We’ve just taken it one point at a time in every match. We switched it up on the offense to makes sure everyone was an option and to just prepared that the ball was going to come back over. They were feisty, they were prepared…we were an underdog, no one expected us to go this far. And the girls just fed off that energy.”
OA showed early on they were ready to compete by keeping pace as junior Jordan Bennett placed a tip over the block for a kill, then forced a two-touch on a strong serve, and junior Caroline Flynn (10 kills) forced an error after a good hit to bring the Tigers within two, down 11-9.
Barnstable responded with a 6-2 run and ended up taking the first set 25-17.
But the Tigers responded in a big way, opening the second set with a 7-0 run, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game. Senior Ryley McNeeley tossed a kill off the block, senior Allie Kemp (36 assists, 11 digs, two aces) landed an ace, and senior Jordyn Vella (six blocks, five kills) came up with back-to-back blocks to give the Tigers the early lead and the momentum.
The lead ballooned to 14-6 when senior Jordan Bosse (11kills, two aces) landed two kills in a three-play span, and Flynn hit above the block and to the floor for a kill, forcing Barnstable to take their second timeout early in the set.
Barnstable made it interesting early by cutting the deficit to three at 14-11 but Oliver Ames answered with a 7-3 that included two blocks and kill from Vella, another ace from Kemp, and a block kill from Bosse that denied a right-side attack from the Raiders.
Oliver Ames looked primed to even the score at one apiece when it went up 24-17 behind a net call, but the Raiders showed why they are so difficult to beat with flawless play over the next six chances. Barnstable won all seven of those points, helped along by a pair of OA errors, to get within one down 24-23 but a service error allowed OA to clinch the point and the set, making it 1-1.
“That’s a great program, Chelsea has done a great job,” said longtime Barnstable coach Tom Turco, who won his 700th game with the victory. “This is probably one of the biggest sectional championships that we’ve won.”
Barnstable built an early 8-5 lead in the third set but OA wouldn’t break, responding with a 6-2 run that featured a kill and ace from Bosse and two kills from Flynn to take an 11-10 lead. The teams traded points for a good chunk of the set, with the teams tied at 11, 12. 13, and 15. Barnstable gained the slightest advantage with a quick 5-1 run as junior Caroline Kiehnau gave the Raiders a huge boost with a handful of kills off Tiger blocks.
Oliver Ames got with three on three occasions, down 21-18 after a nice tip kill from Bennett after a big dig from Alison Barth (40 digs), down 22-19 after a kill from Flynn, and down 23-20 on a nice spot push from Flynn. The Tigers even got within two at 23-21 when Sarah Morley delivered an ace and at 24-22 behind a Bosse kill, but a nice dump by the Barnstable setter on the second touch caught OA off guard for a 25-22 win in the third set.
The fourth set played out similarly to the third, but even closer throughout. Barnstable led by two early on by an ace from Bosse, two kills from Bennett, and a kill from Flynn on a nice back set from Kemp helped OA tie it at 11-11.
OA jumped in front by two on a huge block from McNeeley on an outside attack from Barnstable and a kill from Flynn for a 13-11 advantage. OA remained a point ahead while the teams traded points but Barnstable finally earned consecutive points helped by a service error to make it 20-20 to force a timeout.
“I just told them its a game to five, and I asked who’s going to get there first? They told me that they were and that’s exactly what they did,” Cunningham said. “We committed to it as one and it was awesome.”
Barnstable took three leads, 21-20, 22-21, and 23-22 but the Tigers refused to give up. Bosse and Bennett had black to back strong swings for kills, and then Bosse got a kind roll off the top of the net, falling over into Raiders’ territory for a 25-23 win, forcing a fifth set.
The experience of Barnstable paid off as they picked up an early lead. After Vella put OA up 1-0, Barnstable won eight of the next points that featured two blocks from the Raiders and two balls that fell just out of the reach of OA defenders.
The Tigers played well after the switch with Bosse getting a kill and Bennet landing a big block and a kill, but Barnstable also played well and extended its lead to 13-6. In true fashion to how they played the entire match, OA still didn’t fold as a hitting error and a double block from Vella and Flynn got the Tigers within five, down 13-8.
But Barnstable was able to grind out two more points and secure their 10th straight sectional title.
“I think [the underclassman] are even more committed to continue persevering and making these seniors proud,” Cunningham said. “I think they are ready to work hard to fill the big shoes that are leaving this program and I think next year will be just as exciting.”
Meanwhile, the senior class leaves behind a lasting legacy that includes bringing the program to new heights. That group includes Jordan Bosse, Ryley McNeeley, Allie Kemp, Alison Barth, Jordyn Vella, and Mary Davenport.
“This is my first group to graduate as head coach,” Cunningham said. “I saw them as freshmen, I saw the potential, and I knew they were going to be something special and they didn’t let me down in that aspect. We’re going to miss them dearly and they know they left such a prominent and positive mark on this program. They should be nothing but proud of themselves.”
Oliver Ames volleyball finishes its best season in program history with an 18-5 record, its first-ever Kelley-Rex title, and the furthest the team has gone in program history.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – It is never easy to beat a team three times in a single season, but King Philip continues to meet all challenges this year and continues to show that there is a lot more to the team than just its two superstars.
The Warriors dominated the ball, limited Oliver Ames to a handful of half chances until late in the match, and had three different players find the back of the net in a 3-1 victory on Thursday afternoon that completes a sweep of the season series with the Tigers and sends the top seed into the Div. 1 South semifinal.
“You always worry about beating a team a third time, but my worries started to diminish when I saw how hard we came out and we were just taking it to them,” said KP coach Gary Pichel.
He added, “The kids came out with so much more energy at the opening whistle than they did against Hingham, so they learned their lesson. It’s not going to be a cake walk against a 16-seed and then you get OA and of course it’s always a battle against Britt (Sellmayer) and his team. We’re just happy to be moving on.”
OA’s defense was put under pressure from the opening kick. A long ball down the left channel was kept in bounds on the end line by Chloe Layne who created a corner, which Makayla Griffin curled it to the back post where it had to be cleared off the line. A minute later, Ally Stanton took a shot from distance that OA keeper Emily Meyers palmed out for another corner. Avery Snead headed the corner on target but Olivia Carroll was able to block on the line.
In the 12th minute, Layne again showed her ability to hold the ball up under pressure and passed it to Makenzie Shandley, who teed up Stanton for a shot that was saved. Three minutes later, Stanton played provider to set up Snead, who held off her defender but then blazed a shot over the bar.
The chances kept coming in the 23rd minute when Snead showed off her quick feet to dance around a couple of defenders but then dragged her shot wide of the post.
Allison Evin, the hero of OA’s overtime win against Franklin in the first round, nearly stunned the home crowd when she forced an Abigail Hodges free kick over the line, but it was ruled out for offside.
Led by Hodges, Carroll, and Emma Pereira, the OA defense had held the KP attack at bay, until the 36th minute. A bouncing ball landed at the feet of Jenny Montville, who hit a speculative shot on the turn from 25 yards. The half-volley looped towards goal and eluded the leap of Meyers before nestling into the top corner.
OA coach Britt Sellmayer said, “She hit it and it went up and came down in the net, so it was kind of deflating.” He joked, “It’s so hard to keep Chloe off and then Avery, I was thinking if we could stop those two, but we haven’t stopped them in four years, thank god they’re going to college.”
It was almost 2-0 in the closing seconds of the first half. Jenna Hitchen raced down the left side and forced a good diving save out of Meyers and then Montville saw her brace erased by a goal line clearance from Jenna Gilman.
“We’re trying to figure each other out in that first half,” Pichel said. “I was trying to figure out what his plan was, which was obviously to mark up with at least one person on Chloe and Avery, but I thought they were more defensive at the outset. We were just all over them.”
Eight minutes after the break, KP doubled its lead. Griffin set up Hitchen, who cut inside on her right foot and forced a save out of Meyers. The keeper managed to tip the shot onto the bar, but Snead was the quickest to react to the rebound and tapped it home.
In the 60th minute, the Warriors put the game away. A corner was half-cleared out to Stanton, who hit it first time through a crowd and into the bottom corner.
Pichel said, “We’ve worked hard the whole season to get them more involved with the play. Even though Chloe and Avery do the bulk of the scoring, we get big contributions from Jenny Montville and Jenna Hitchen and Ally Stanton. That’s three other players they have to worry about other than Chloe and Avery and that’s been a big plus for us all season long.”
OA started to create more scoring chances in the closing 15 minutes, but the KP defense of Olivia Berry, Paige Varvarigos, Grace Lawler (who was given the task of man-marking OA’s leading scorer Erin Holmberg), and Griffin proved difficult to break down.
“Sometimes you underrate their defense because of Chloe and Avery,” Sellmayer explained, “but it took us 70 minutes before we started getting some corner kicks and creating some chances on them.”
Leah Johnson had a chance blocked by Berry and Varvarigos was forced to clear a Hodges free kick off the line, while the rebound was sent over the bar. A Hodges corner in the 75th minute was met by a glancing header from Camryn O’Connor, but it went narrowly wide of the far post.
The Tigers avoided the shutout in the final minute. Johnson found herself with room on the left side of the box and picked out O’Connor alone in the middle. The sophomore took a touch and fired a shot into the side netting.
“We had some chances, but we didn’t get the luck that we needed in the first half,” Sellmayer reflected. “To beat a great team like KP, you’ve got to have some luck. We worked hard but it didn’t bounce our way today.”
King Philip (20-0) advances to face No. 12 seed Needham in the semifinal, which will be played on Wednesday at Whitman-Hanson.
That was just one of many positive mantras Scott Dolan was known for, and it was the perfect way to describe Monday evening’s clash between #8 Oliver Ames and #9 Franklin.
Eighty minutes wasn’t enough to decide the physical contest between the two league rivals, with neither team willing to give an inch.
But finally, in the 89th minute, OA sophomore Allison Evin delivered the game-winner with a perfectly struck shot to the far post, just sneaking inside the far post into the side netting to give the Tigers a 1-0 emotional overtime win over the Panthers.
“I felt like we could score one goal we had a chance,” said Oliver Ames head coach Britt Sellmayer. “The last time [Franklin] gave up a goal was forever ago. They had 12 shutouts in the last 13 games and the only team that scored against them was KP and they only got two. They are just so hard to break down because they have such quality players back there.”
Dolan, a longtime OA assistant coach, passed away last week after a courageous battle with cancer at the age of 48. Whether it was at the high school, with Legacy Soccer Club, Easton Youth Soccer, or a local camp or clinic, Dolan had a strong impact on all the members of this year’s Tigers squad. Even when Dolan worked at the college level, he was always on the OA sideline for the playoffs.
“I’m just very happy for the girls, it’s been a very emotional week,” Sellmayer said. “Come tournament time, Scotty would always be here. I could say something that they’ve heard all year long but I could have Scotty tell them and they’d listen. And then he’d be there to help me with my coaching too.
“A kid could make the worst play in the world and Scotty would say ‘Hey darling, don’t worry about it, this is what you have to do.’ And make them feel like a million bucks. Just a big booming voice, just a super guy.”
Evin’s game-winner was the first goal that the Tigers scored against the Panthers this season. The two sides battled to a scoreless tie in Easton in early October while the Panthers earned a 2-0 decision in one of the final games of the season.
“We won one, we tied one, and now they’ve won one so you can’t get much more even than that,” said longtime Franklin coach Tom Geysen. “[Oliver Ames] was the better team tonight. They were able to force us into some things that we haven’t done since the beginning of the year, so kudos to them.”
Chances were few and far between throughout the 80 minutes of regulation. The Tigers had five corners and put four shots on net but all were handled by Franklin keeper Bre Atwood. OA keeper Emily Meyers was equal to the task, handling four corners and three shots on goal by the Panthers.
Sophomore Lauren Sellmayer connected with classmate Camryn O’Connor on a throw, but her cross was partially blocked. That led to a clearance from the defense but it was intercepted by Evin just outside the area. She took a touch around a defender and rifled a shot just out of the reach of Atwood’s diving attempt to give the Tigers a win.
“That was [a big girl soccer goal],” Sellmayer said. “[Evin] cramped up and I was sitting her for a little bit but in overtime, we just went with it. There were moments Allison wasn’t giving us a lot of defense but she couldn’t move. It was a trade-off so we went for it.”
The limited number of chances had a lot to do with strong defense from both sides. Even when it looked like there might be a chance for a shot, a defender would often intervene.
Evin and O’Connor linked up in the 10th minute with the latter giving the hosts their first shot on goal. Atwood tipped away a corner kick from Abby Hodges in the 28th minute and came up big again in the 35th minute when OA’s Emma Pereira lofted a ball over the defense but Franklin’s Sabrina Addi help shield the ball and the keeper was there before Erin Holmberg could pounce.
Franklin’s Riley Fitzpatrick got in behind the defense in the 9th minute but Pereira was quick to get back and win possession back. Sydney St. Marie sent a shot just wide of the net in the 21st minute, and Erin Quaile’s bid from distance was handled easily in the 32nd minute.
Panther freshman Norah Anderson made a terrific recovery in the 58th minute, getting back in time to take away a shot from Holmberg from inside the area. On the other end, Franklin’s Sam Powderly smashed a shot wide of the post after taking down a clearance.
The Tigers were close to a winner in regulation when Katie Gibson linked up with Holmberg at the far post but her point-blank chance was saved by Atwood to keep the game scoreless and force overtime.
“We talked about it halftime but we weren’t able to do it…we needed to play the ball wide over the defender, and the forwards who made the initial pass need to make a run,” Geysen said. “But we never got the ball up in the air and make them change them what they were doing.”
A nice give-and-go between Quaile and Carly Alston resulted in the former putting a shot on target to start the overtime period, but that would be it in the attacking end for Franklin.
Two minutes later, OA almost had a winner when a ball was played into the area that eluded Atwood, causing a little scrum in front of the net but Anna Balkus and Bridgette Ginley helped clear the line and keep it out.
After starting the season with one win in its first four games, Franklin lost just once in its final 13 games. And in the span, the Panthers allowed just three goals.
“We started 1-3 and I wasn’t sure how the rest of the season would go,” Geysen said. “We made the change to put Anna [Balkus] in the back and that changed the whole defensive scheme for us. That’s when we started to play better. If you play well defensively, you’re in every game. We only gave up two goals twice, the first was an early game to Canton and the second one was KP, and they’ll score two on anybody.”
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames head coach John Barata admits there aren’t many positives to falling behind early in a tournament game, but there was one thing the Tigers learned about themselves on Sunday afternoon.
“It showed our ability to come back,” Barata said.
The fourth-seeded Tigers fell behind twice in the opening half against visiting Greater New Bedford but answered each time, and then some, on their way to a dominant 6-2 win over the 13th-seeded Bears.
“If it happens again, we won’t be panicked,” Barata said of the lesson learned from the win. “Ideally, we won’t want to go down but if we are, it was good it was early in the game because you have plenty of time and you don’t have to change your plan. We didn’t change our game plan.”
The visitors stunned the Tigers by taking the lead less than three minutes into the game. A long ball over the top from GNBVT defender Alexander Vieira Silva Macedo fell in behind the OA defense, drawing the keeper off the line. Landon Amaral won the race to the ball though, nodding a header past the keeper and into the open net.
But as Barata noted, the Tigers didn’t change their plan and their offense answered. The hosts knocked on the door plenty of times before breaking through. Kevin Louhis forced the keeper into a terrific diving game in the 5th minute, and Colin Milliken had his curling shot handled in the 7th minute.
The pressure paid off in the 16th minute as Milliken intercepted a pass from the Bears just over midfield. After a touch forward, the junior midfielder played a perfect through ball between the GNBVT defense that Louhis to run onto and finished at the far post to make it 1-1.
Despite the hosts having the majority of play, the Bears took another lead. Another ball over the top found space in behind the defense, Amaral took the service down and tucked in a low shot to put GNBVT back in front, up 2-1 in the 24th minute.
“We got a little panicky early and we didn’t play our brand,” Barata said. “Credit to [Greater New Bedford], they came prepared to play that long ball. They didn’t have a lot of shots, they used that long ball. Once we tightened up the backline, everything was better for us.”
Similar to their response after going down the first time, Oliver Ames was back on the offensive nearly immediately. Junior Brady deVos’ long shot was deflected that gave Louhis a chance with a header in the area but it was right at the keeper in the 26th minute.
OA pulled level four minutes later as right back Harry Ahearn connected with Dillon Cupples near the top of the box. Cupples had his bid blocked by a defender but the ball fell right to Jimmy Keane, who latched onto it with a low blast into the back of the net to make it 2-2 in the 30th minute.
This time the Tigers took advantage of their momentum, earning a free kick from 25 yards out. Junior Matthew Nikiciuk blasted a right footed past the wall and into the far corner to give the hosts their first lead of the game, up 3-2, in the 31st minute.
“I hope the guys felt reassured they could come back,” Barata said. “Once we got the lead, we definitely we weren’t going to give it back. The key was the get the goals and then be disciplined enough to not give another one back.”
The second half was all Tigers, who put on a clinic in the final third over the course of 40 minutes. Peppering the net with 10 shots on goal, OA cashed in for three more goals.
But before the OA offense could get in full gear, the defense came up with a big stop. Dominek Borden flicked a header off a throw in that eluded the keeper but defender Jonathan Freeman made the stop with a header before the ball could cross.
Cupples doubled the hosts’ lead in the 59th minute. After having his pass blocked by a defender, the ball popped up and Cupples blasted a wicked volley from 25 yards out that dipped under the crossbar for a 4-2 lead in the 58th minute.
Two minutes later, Louhis played Anthony DaCosta in with a through ball. DaCosta took a touch to cut the ball back onto his right foot and blasted a shot near post top shelf that gave OA a 5-2 lead.
The Tigers’ grabbed their third goal in a six-minute span when Mathias Taylor blasted a shot from a step inside the box that was saved, only for Louhis to race in and bury the rebound.
“It’s a great time of year to have these chances and have the ball go into the back of the net,” Barata said. “Hopefully we have many more to come. Greater New Bedford did a great job, we knew it would be a tough game. Sometimes that first [playoff] can almost be the toughest. It’s not always the toughest, I can’t really explain it, but you want to get that first one. Our journey is tough, we’re in for a battle next time out with either Somerset-Berkley or North Attleboro.”
Oliver Ames boys soccer (14-3-0) will host the winner of #5 Somerset-Berkley and #13 North Attleboro with a date and time still to be determined.