Oliver Ames Claims Third South Title In Four Years

Oliver Ames boys soccer
Oliver Ames’ Matt Alvarado (right) celebrates his second half goal with Mason Galbato (left) and Cam Vella (center). (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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TAUNTON, Mass. – Coming off its biggest win of the season in the D2 South Semifinals against top-ranked Nauset, Oliver Ames head coach John Barata was admittedly a little worried how his Tigers would come out on Tuesday night against Pembroke in the sectional final.

But those worries were quickly erased as the Tigers came out firing, dictating the play throughout the first half. OA took the lead just before the halftime break and then added two more in the second half to earn a 3-0 win over the sixth-seededa Titans, giving the fourth-seeded Tigers their third D2 South crown in the last four years.

“That’s where the experience kicked in for us,” Barata said. “We knew that even after winning such a big game, it was just one game and the next big game was this one. Having won that one and losing this one, [the Nauset win] wouldn’t have meant much. So it was very important coming out firing, and we did.”

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It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the Tigers were ready to go. With 21 seniors on the roster, Oliver Ames is stacked full of playoff experience.

The Class of 2018 witnessed the Tigers win four playoff games, including the sectional final, in 2014, their freshman year

In 2015, a handful of those seniors – then sophomores – played vital roles in five postseason wins including a win in the D2 State Final. And last year, they picked up experience in two more postseason games.

Now in the program’s 16th playoff game since they were freshmen, these seniors had no trouble getting going from the start.

“It’s a great senior group, it’s a group I’ve been with since kindergarten and first grade,” Barata said. “We knew it was a special group coming through, and we’ve had similar groups and have similar groups coming, but it’s been a special bond. For me, it’s been nice to see them succeed and now hold their own title up, not with senior groups. They’ve done it on their own.”

Less than a minute in, the Tigers had two goal scoring chances. Senior Chris Lawrence’s throw somehow flew through the area without a recipient. And seconds later, senior Mason Galbato chipped a service in but senior James Gillespie’s header was saved.

Three minutes later, senior Matt Alvarado found Gillespie at the far stick but his header just went over the bar. Two minutes later, Gillespie’s low shot just missed the far post after senior Michael Nikiciuk had set him up via a low centering pass.

In the 18th minute, Lawrence launched another long throw that slipped through the keepers’ hands but Brian Flaherty cleared the loose ball off the line to prevent the Tigers from taking the lead.

Flaherty gave the Titans their best chance of the first half. OA senior keeper Jack Carroll did well to clear away a cross, but the loose ball fell to Flaherty who floated a shot off the crossbar from 25 yards out.

But the momentum didn’t shift as OA continued its pressure. Alvarado touched a ball over the top that Pembroke tried to shield back to the keeper but strong pressure from senior Nathaniel Cardoza nearly gave the Tigers the lead.

A minute before half, the Tigers cashed in on a corner kick. Senior Jack Sheldon drove the corner right to the six-yard line where Cardoza rose up and nodded his header inside the near post for a 1-0 lead.

“We felt like we should have opened the game up much earlier,” Barata said “It made it a battle and we knew it was a going to be a difficult contest but we should have opened the scoring much earlier and much more frequent. But [Pembroke] made some adjustments, then we made some adjustments [in the second half] and got control back.”

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While Pembroke picked up some of the play to begin the second half, the Tigers withstood the pressure. The best chances for the Titans came on a scramble in front off a corner kick, but OA did well to clear it.

The Tigers finally found an insurance goal in the 71st minute. Sheldon gained possession on the right flank near the corner flag. He was able to beat his defender along the line, drawing the defense out. He slid a pass right to the penalty spot where Alvarado calmly blasted a right footed shot into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

“We talked about going into a defensive formation or not, but at the end of the day, we had so many chances it just didn’t make sense to go into a cocoon and have them come at is. So we decided to not do it and it paid off. We were able to get the two at the end.”

OA put the game away for certain just two minutes later as Gillespie was rewarded for a great run with a service into the area. His shot was saved but Nikiciuk was right on the doorstep to tap it in for a 3-0 lead.

With the win, Oliver Ames boys soccer (15-2-4) advances to the D2 State Championship to take on North sectional champion Concord-Carlisle (13-2-6) on Saturday, with a location and time to be announced. It is also a rematch of the 2014 final, a 1-0 win by the Patriots.

“We look forward to playing them again, they are a fantastic team,” Barata said. “They have five state titles, they are a juggernaut in high school soccer. They are the bar that everyone tries to be. I know Ray [Pavlik] well, he’s a fantastic coach. I hope we give them a great game.”

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Gillespie’s Brace Sends OA Past Walpole in Double OT

Oliver Ames boys soccer
Oliver Ames’ Nathaniel Cardoza (4) dribbles past a Walpole defender in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames senior James Gillespie didn’t have a ton of touches on the ball during Thursday’s nights game against Walpole, but he certainly he the two most important ones.

Gillespie scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner in double overtime in the 94th minute of play to help the fourth-seeded Tigers avoid an upset bid by the 12th-seeded Rebels.

“You’re kind of like hiding back there and defenders don’t know you’re there sometimes,” Gillespie said of his back post positioning, the spot he was for both his goals. “The first goal, the defender didn’t know I was there. It’s a good spot to be standing in because we get a lot of crossed to the back post.”

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The Tigers nearly had the game won in regulation but Walpole struck with just over a minute to play. With just their second shot on goal of the half, Rebels senior Luccas Ferreira got just enough of a header on a long throw-in from Kevin Sullivan to tie the game.

“We knew we had to keep our heads high, we couldn’t let them come back and score another goal,” Gillespie said. “We just had to keep fighting to get that goal back.”

Oliver Ames had its chances in the first half but only converted once.

In the eighth minute, senior Matt Alvarado combined with Gillespie, who laid a pass off to Michael Nikiciuk but his bid was at the keeper.

A tactical change helped create the Tigers’ goal in the first half. Head coach John Barata switched senior Matt Campbell from the right side of the pitch to the left side. Shortly after, Campbell won possession on the wing and delivered a low cross that found its way through the area to the back post, where Gillespie tucked it in on a one-timer.

“James is brilliant at that, he’s been brilliant at framing the back post,” Barata said. “We’ve been lucky because no one can mark one guy. For example, James scored twice today but we have 14 goal scores, so we don’t have that star scorer teams can focus on. But we have guys that score.”

The lone scare of the first half came via miscommunication between the defense and keeper. A defender attempted to head the ball back to Jack Carroll, who had come out to get it himself. Senior Colin Evin recovered nicely and cleared the ball just before the goal line to preserve the one-goal lead.

OA kept the pressure up but couldn’t find the back of the net.

In the 29th minute, Alvarado slipped a through ball to Nikiciuk, who got a slight touch before the keeper, but Walpole’s goalie recovered nicely.

A minute later, senior Nathaniel Cardoza linked up with Alvarado, who cut it back to put the ball on his left foot but his shot was slightly deflected and just hit the post and stayed out.

On the ensuing corner, Walpole partially cleared the ball but Mason Galbato took the ball down on his chest and fired a low shot that just rolled wide.

The chances continued in the second half when Jack Sheldon found Alvarado two minutes in, but his left-footed strike was knocked down and saved.

Good pressure from Nikiciuk resulted in another chance in the 57th minute, as his hard run to a loose ball forced a collision between keeper and defender, but before the ball would sit for Alvarado on the rebound, a defender made a nice tackle to block the shot.

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Sheldon forced the keeper into another big save in the 67th minute. His shot from just outside the area was slightly deflected and popped up on the keeper on the bounce, but he got just enough to push it over the net.

“We knew we needed two goals against them because they might sneak one in,” Barata said. “The funny thing is the game should have been over; should have been over in the first half, should have been over after the second half. We should have had three or four to be honest. [Walpole] is a very good team but we had multiple chances. I don’t think they had five shots. We have to learn from this that this could have easily been a loss in a game that we purely dominated. We knew it’d take two goals but I just wish it came earlier.

Walpole had its best three chances of the game come in the final 10 minutes. A long throw from Sullivan bounced through the area to the far stick but Walpole’s Conor McDonough saw his golden chance sail over the bar.

The Rebels had a free kick from 25 yards out in the 75th minute, but Carroll was quick to react and made the comfortable save to his left. Four minutes later, Walpole had the equalizer.

“The boys know what they should be doing, getting the ball in the corner and be relaxed,” Barata said. “But instead the adrenaline was bouncing around, plus [Walpole] had to come at us late. We knew it’d be tough, but we just lost some focus in the last two minutes, and we didn’t clear two balls.”

After a scoreless first overtime period, the teams switched sides and OA cashed in on its first corner of the frame. Sheldon’s low cross was touched by Galbato right at the penalty spot, sending the ball to the back post for Gillespie to bury for the winner.

“The ball deflected off a teammates leg and it was open in front of me and I just ran in there and put it away before they could get to the ball,” Gillespie said.

With the win, Oliver Ames boys soccer (13-2-4) to the D2 South Semifinal to take on top-seeded Nauset (18-1-1). It’s a matchup of the past two D2 State Champions.

It will be the first time we play them ever in program history. They’re the number one team in the state, number three team in the region and number five team in the country so we’ll have our hands full. But we’re looking forward to the challenge. We go in as the underdogs so hopefully, we’ll go in fighting.

The game between OA and Nauset is scheduled for Saturday at 2:00 at Milford High School.

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King Philip Advances With Shutout Win Over OA

King Philip girls soccer
Oliver Ames’ Emma Pereira and King Philip’s Makayla Griffin battle for a 50-50 ball in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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WRENTHAM, Mass. – King Philip’s playoff contest against Oliver Ames started off nearly identical to when it hosted the Tigers in their first regular season matchup in mid-September.

Both times, the Warriors netted the opener in the fifth to take an early lead. But the first time around, the Tigers rallied for a pair of goals before halftime and walked away from Macktaz Field with a win – the only team to beat KP so far this season.

The fifth-seeded Warriors weren’t going to let history repeat itself this time.

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King Philip kept up the pressure after the fifth minute opener, adding a second in the 27th minute and buried an insurance tally in the 78th minute to pick up a 3-0 win over #12 Oliver Ames.

“The first game, we were all over them but their goalie [Regan Benton] is a phenomenal keeper, just phenomenal. That was what we were primarily worried about tonight as well,” said King Philip head coach Gary Pichel said. “The second game, when we went to OA we gave them a good game and won 3-0, and we were hoping to do the same tonight. But you never know in the playoffs, anything can happen.”

The Warriors cashed in on their first shot on goal of the game, taking the lead in the fifth minute. With possession on the right wing, senior Julian Massarone created some space before hitting a low cross to the near post. Sophomore Avery Snead made the run, getting a touch a step ahead of the defense, one-timing her shot in at the near post to make it 1-0.

“It was huge, it was what we were hoping for,” Pichel said of the early strike. “Because if you give them even a little inch, then things go sour for you really fast against Oliver Ames. They’ve been the cream of the crop for many, many years.”

In the first meeting, Oliver Ames cashed in on a pair of corner kicks to take the lead before half. This time around, the Warriors didn’t allow the Tigers a single corner in the first half, and kept the majority of the play in its attacking third.

In the 12th minute, KP’s Makayla Griffin played Snead in behind the defense and she ripped a left footed shot but Benton made the comfortable stop the near post. Seven minutes later, Ally Stanton put a perfectly weighted cross right onto the six-yard line that Snead met with her head, but her bid was just over the bar.

OA’s first chance came in the 20th minute, earning a free kick a couple yards outside the box. But Maggie Ault’s bid went over the bar without testing KP Keeper Emma Durant.

Snead grabbed her second of the game with one of the better shots of the season. Junior Abby Baker played Snead in the middle of the field, the sophomore took a couple of touches towards goal and ripped a shot upper corner at the near post from 25 yards out to make it 2-0.

“If [Oliver Ames] gets any momentum, they are all over you,” Pichel said. “But we kept the pressure [to get the second goal]. We kept the pressure on up top, and between Makayla Griffin and Ally Stanton on the outsides — they were causing all sorts havoc — and then, of course, you have Chloe [Layne] dancing around in the middle and Avery striking balls in.”

Snead nearly had a first half hat trick a minute later when Griffin linked up with Snead again, and Snead drove a low shot to the bottom corner, but Benton made a tremendous diving one-handed save to push the bid aside.

OA had a chance to cut the deficit in half just two minutes later, with Ault and Abigail Hodges causing havoc in KP’s box. Ault had a chance pushed aside by a defender with Hodges latching onto the loose ball with a shot that looked destined for the goal, but a KP defender did well to block the shot.

Just before the half, Stanton had a chance from in close after Snead flicked on a free kick from Emma Corcoran, but Benton did well to close the angle and force the shot high.

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The second half evened out in terms of possession, but both sides side had chances. Benton made a comfortable stop on Layne’s bid from atop the area in the 50th minute; OA’s defense got a deflection on Layne’s close-range bid in the 51st minute after Massarone got a touch to Corcoran’s service; and Stanton hit the post off a corner kick in the 62nd minute.

As OA began to push numbers forward, King Philip’s backline stood tall. The Warriors didn’t allow the Tigers many spells of possession in the final third and Durant was forced into just one save.

“I thought our backline was super strong,” Pichel said. “Faye Veilleux as a stopper really botched things up for them when they were trying to come down the middle, so that was a big deal for us. And our keeper didn’t have an awful lot of work which was nice.”

With numbers forward for the Tigers, the Warriors went on the counter-attack. Snead carried possession across for midfield before sliding a pass to Layne in single coverage. She touched the ball onto her left foot and ripped a low shot into the corner to ice the game in the 78th minute.

King Philip girls soccer (17-1-2) advances in the D1 South tournament to visit #4 Bridgewater-Raynham (16-1-1) on Tuesday at 6:00. The Trojans’ tie and loss came against Bishop Feehan. King Philip defeated Feehan in the season-opener in September.

Oliver Ames finishes the season 11-8.

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Tavares Scores OT Winner Lifting Taunton Past OA

Taunton field hockey
Taunton freshman Alana Tavares (10) provided the historic goal three minutes into overtime to give the Tigers a win in their first playoff game in 27 years. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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TAUNTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames won both meeting with Taunton during the regular season. but Taunton turned the tables in the postseason to even the the season series. First, Taunton won the coin toss on Tuesday (it was actually names picked out of a hat) so that Thursday night’s Div. 1 South playoff game, the first for Taunton in 27 years, would be at Aleixo Stadium.

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Cheered on by a large, partisan crowd, freshman Alana Tavares scored her second goal in as many games (and second of the season) three minutes into the seven-on-seven overtime to break a scoreless deadlock and hand Taunton its first postseason win in program history.

“We came out with energy that I’ve never seen before,” said Taunton head coach Liz Hathaway. “They just wanted it. I think they wanted it more.”

OA coach Abby Tepper echoed Hathaway’s sentiments, giving credit to the desire and urgency of the hosts. “The fact that they were home,” she said, “they had the adrenaline, the crowd, the first time in 27 years, I mean that’s got to get them going and it did.”

The first attack of the overtime period went to OA, but the Taunton defense made the stop and quickly transitioned down the other end of the field. Senior Liana Duartebullied her way past three OA defenders to create the scoring chance and on the third rebound Tavares was on hand to knock in the loose ball.

“That kid is definitely a spark plug,” Hathaway said of Duarte. “She has the biggest heart and talk about wanting it…she definitely wants it.”

Taunton assistant Mike Fox, who took over for Hathaway after the birth of her child during the season, added, “Graduation is coming in June and…three very vital seniors in the program are leaving us to go forward in college and it was a nice opportunity to maybe have a freshman take that torch and start carrying it.”

OA senior goalie Caitlin Grant nearly kept out Taunton in overtime, sliding out and using her whole body to stop not only Duarte’s initial shot but also the first rebound. In fact, OA would not have even gotten to the overtime, if Grant had not come through with a kick save in the final seconds of regulation to deny Diana Brens off a Tavares assist.

Tepper said, “I told her before the game, ‘You’re a top goalie in the league and you need to play like that. Play on your toes, be ready,’ and she was ready. She had two saves before the goal went in, so not her fault at all. We just didn’t clear it off the pads quick enough.”

What made the victory even more impressive for Taunton is that the Tigers were playing without leading scorer Kya Enos. The senior forward was sidelined with a concussion and forced to miss the playoff game, but for Hathaway and Fox this was a sign of the team’s depth.

“That just goes to show how much they all want it and how much of a team sport this is, not just heavily relying on one player,” said Hathaway. Fox noted, “We spoke about how we could use her injury as a scapegoat and play down or as a springboard and play better and we saw how the girls used it for 60-plus minutes.”

It was a game that featured back-and-forth action, but few clear-cut chances for either team. In the first half, neither team was able to put a shot on target and the two goalies only combined for three saves in regulation.

In the 17th minute, Sarah Stevens set up Hannah Stryke, but the freshman’s first-time shot was just wide of the post. Ten minutes later, Taunton nearly created an opening goal with a straightaway shot by Cierra Bartel off a Brens pass that also went wide.

Defensively, both teams looked strong, despite the youth that both teams had out on the field. Taunton had sophomores Kathryn Robinson, Jocelyn Pagliuca, and Rylie Murphy at the back, while OA had freshmen Emily Han and Brynna Courneen making stops in the defensive unit.

Off a second half corner, Murphy blasted a shot that Grant blocked aside and off the post, but the official’s whistle called off the effort. Six minutes later, Taunton again had a good chance when Lauren Torres crossed for Brens but the senior was unable to get a touch to the pass.

The visitors were next to create chances with Maggie Woods got to a loose ball right in front but the shot missed wide and then Woods was fed by Stevens in front but her shot was kicked aside by Taunton goalie Emma Sheehan.

Jillian Pagliuca fired a long-range shot at the OA goal and Hannah Blackwell was open on the post but was unable to make contact and knock it in during the final, frenetic moments of regulation.

“I think they beat us to 50-50 balls and, as you can tell they wanted it more,” said Tepper, as the Taunton team and its fans celebrated after the game. “I think we were playing on our heels a little bit, we were reluctant, and they were aggressive.”

In the end, it was Tavares, who scored 64 goals for the lacrosse team as an eighth grader, that came through in the clutch with the winning touch. It was just her second career field hockey goal, but it was a memorable one, sending Taunton into the second round for the first time.

“They’ve got to execute and they did,” said Fox, “but it doesn’t hurt to have home-field advantage and I think you can feel the energy especially when we got to overtime. The girls are pumped up, they’re in front of the student body, they’re in front of their families and friends, and it was a pretty special night.”

Taunton (11-7-1, 8-7-1), the No. 16 seed, will advance to face undefeated top seed Somerset-Berkeley on Saturday afternoon at 3:00. Oliver Ames finishes the season at (9-7-3, 8-6-2).

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