The Lady Tigers ended the 2020 campaign as the hottest team in the Hockomock League, earning a pair of trophies including the Hockomock Challenge Cup with a 3-1 win over Davenport division champion Canton.
After defeating King Philip on Tuesday to win the Hockomock Cup, the Tigers avenged their only loss of the entire season by taking down the Bulldogs in the Challenge Cup. The Challenge Cup was created after Canton was forced to quarantine out of an abundance of caution after playing a team that had a positive COVID test. It gave the Bulldogs, the top seed out of the Davenport, a chance to play in the postseason after having to forfeit their first round of the Hockomock Cup.
“We’re a young team and it’s also about a coach learning who can do what,” said Oliver Ames head coach Britt Sellmayer of the turnaround from the start of the season. “We’re not playing the same positions that we were the first couple of games. COVID put everybody behind but for us, it was just a little bit more because we were younger. When you have experience, when you come back you get rolling a little bit sooner. We peaked at the right time, I’m very proud of the girls for how they played at the end of the year.
“Canton got a chance to play another game, they are a great, great team that I really feel like taking two weeks off didn’t help their cause. They were on a roll themselves when they were playing. They have some super players and the coach has done a great job in his first year. But it’s tough to sit out for two weeks and come out and play a team that’s hot, and we’re playing well, and we’ve been playing every three days for the past two weeks. I think that kind of hindered them a bit. I don’t want to take anything away from them being a great team.”
The Tigers started with four straight ties, finally breaking into the win column in their fifth game with a 2-0 decision over Sharon. Canton and OA tied in their first meeting of the season, and the Bulldogs handed the Tigers their only loss (3-1) in the second meeting.
OA caught fire after that loss, winning five straight to win the Hockomock Cup, and earned its sixth straight victory with the win on Thursday evening.
“We weren’t overly excited about [playing again] at first but then we looked at what it meant for Canton,” Sellmayer said. “And I said to my seniors ‘this is it, this is a chance to play one more game’ and we talked about playing for the seniors. We made sure all the seniors played.”
Although the result wasn’t what Canton, who had just one loss in the regular season, had hoped, the Bulldogs relished in the opportunity to get back on the field. The Bulldogs hadn’t played or practiced since the final week of the regular season, getting one training session in on Wednesday evening.
“It was amazing to least get out there to have one more chance to compete…a team that was having such a great season only to be cut short by, unfortunately, unforeseen events,” said first-year Canton head coach Idris Senyonjo. “Our seniors, especially, they needed this. Of course it didn’t end how we wanted it, but they needed to finish the season. They’ve worked so hard to be able to get there.
“A big layoff is such a big difference in this spot, it means everything. Even if you only take a couple of days, but you take 10 days …that’s a long time not kicking the ball. We practiced for the first time just last night out in the cold. [OA] had a gameplan, they stuck to it and they were the better team today, so you can’t take that away from them. You just hope we could have done better on a couple of chances in the first half but that’s how the game goes. If you don’t take your chances, the other team will.”
The Tigers scored in each the first and second quarters, and tacked on a key insurance goal in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs pulled one back in the final minutes.
Before Oliver Ames opened the scoring late in the first quarter, Canton had a pair of chances to take the lead. Just nine minutes in, Gabriella Herivaux played a through ball into the area for Olivia Rodman but her chance from in close was met with a terrific stop from OA keeper Emma O’Donnell. Minutes later, Rodman returned the favor for Herivaux but her bid skipped wide at the far post.
Off a kick-in in the attacking third, Katie Gibson knocked down a service into the area. Alexa Lane was the first to pounce on the loose ball, a quick touch past the keeper from in close to give the visitors a 1-0 lead going into the second quarter.
At the midway point of the second quarter, OA senior Emma Pereira took down a clearance and used her time and space to turn and fire a rocket inside the far post from 25 yards out to double the Tigers’ advantage.
Canton opened the second half with a pair of chances to get back into it but Mia Gilmore’s free kick a minute in was just off frame, and an intercepted pass by Elisa Diletizia led to a chance but her shot was over the bar.
COVID restrictions nearly led to a goal for the Tigers in the 50th minute when Pereira’s cross was met with a good take off Carly Gibson’s shoulder but it was right at the keeper.
Canton’s Allie McCabe came up with a big stop on the goal line to deny a shot from Lane to keep the score at 2-0 at the end of the third quarter, but the score didn’t stay that long at the start of the fourth.
Oliver Ames was quick to clear a Canton corner and sophomore Jenna Gilman latched into the loose ball and used her speed to race up the right wing. Her cross into the area was cleared away by a defender but only as far as Pereira, who brought it down and laid it off to junior Lauren Sellmayer. Sellmayer took a touch to put it on her left foot and fired a perfectly placed shot off the far post and in to make it 3-0.
“Emma had a great goal, Lauren had a great goal, and Alexa’s scored two games in a row coming off the bench for us, and her work and her speed has helped with pressure,” Britt Sellmayer said. “We’re not the most skilled team but I think we’ve outworked everybody the last four games. Our work rate in the midfield, contesting every 50-50 ball. They showed a lot of heart. Canton is definitely more skilled than us but I think we had a little more work rate today and maybe our team is a little bit deeper. But we’re also fresher, those two weeks off is huge. I tip my hat to [Canton], they are a great team, and congrats on being Hockomock champs.
“We definitely connected a lot more passes today than the first two times we played Canton. We started playing better as a team, the communication came together. Plus, finding the right role for everybody. Sometimes as a coach, it takes a while to put people in the right spot where they can be successful.”
Canton continued to fight back against OA’s back four of Sophia Byron, Mary Cross, Allison Evin, and Madeleine Taylor. After coming close on a couple of chances before, Gilmore blasted a free kick from 30 yards out just under the bar to get the Bulldogs on the board.
“It’s been a rollercoaster for us, having to start late and then cut the season short, only to go back again,” Senyonjo said. “The team had a new coaching staff so they had to adjust to the new system, the way we want to play. So kudos to them, it speaks volumes the kind of kids that are here. I’m definitely looking forward to going again next year.”
Oliver Ames girls soccer finishes the season at 8-1-5 and won both the Hockomock Cup and the Challenge Cup. Canton’s record finishes at 8-3-1, though one loss was via forfeit at the start of the Hockomock Cup.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Just over a year ago, an injury forced Milford keeper Kevin Gomes to the bench at the start of double overtime in the D2 South Sectional Final against Nauset.
Up stepped Leo Oliveira, who went on to make a huge save in penalty kicks to help the Scarlet Hawks secure the sectional crown.
Fast forward to Monday night in the Hockomock Cup Final, a battle between the Kelley-Rex division Hawks and Davenport division champion Oliver Ames, and the roles were reversed.
Oliveira had to exit the game with an injury early in the fourth quarter and in stepped Gomes, who came up with a colossal save on an indirect kick from inside the area as Milford claimed the cup with a 2-1 win on the road to finish the season undefeated.
“We know they are a powerhouse, always a top team, always a state championship contender…so this game to me is like a district final,” said first-year Milford head coach Antonio Pinto. “For me, these were the two best teams in Eastern Mass. and they put on a show. It was a back-and-forth game, chances both ways, full of excitement, and I couldn’t be more proud of Milford, and couldn’t be more proud of OA for the battle they put up.”
The Hawks scored twice in the opening 10 minutes of the second half but the Tigers pulled one back before the end of the third quarter to set up the frantic finish.
A low cross from Oliver Ames’ Brady deVos in the 78th minute was first touched by a Milford defender before Gomes handled it, giving the Tigers an indirect kick inside the box near the end line on the right side, about 10 yards from goal. Colin Milliken touched the ball in play and Matthew Nikiciuk blasted a rocket from close range but Gomes stood tall and pushed the ball over the bar to keep the Hawks ahead.
“Me and Leo love each other, we practice together every day,” Gomes said. “Right when I saw he was hurt, I knew I had to do it for him. Because last year against Nauset, he did the same for me. He won it for us. He was upset from the injury but I wanted him to leave happy so I told him I got this, I was going to do it for him. I just had to be confident, calm down, and play my game.
“It was a close play but the angle they were in, there was only one way they could try and get it in and it was all power. So I had my teammates marking, lining up in front where they could and I just had to be confident and be strong when I approached it. It was the best feeling after saving that.”
The ensuing corner bounced around the box twice but was finally cleared away. OA had another attacking free kick a minute later but the service sailed wide. Chris Tocci came up with key clearances in the final seconds as OA continued to press.
“It was a great game, a lot of fun,” said OA head coach John Barata. “Just one or two things separate the teams in a game like this. We hit the crossbar, they cleared a ball off the goal line and the game changes completely if those go in. Two nice goals [from Milford] but not goals we’ve given up all year. The challenge for us is the way it happened. The loss isn’t bad because it was a fantastic game, definitely a state final atmosphere, and we’ve been in them before so we know, and that team is excellent.
“The boys are a little more disappointed because of the errors. It wasn’t that they were dominated…sometimes it’s better to lose a game being dominated and not one that at times, you were on the front foot and better. But they have special players…their two best players put the two daggers in.”
After a scoreless opening 40 minutes, the Hawks took the lead less than five minutes into the second half. Senior Leo Coelho helped the Hawks transition into offense by splitting a pair of defenders and feeding a pass to Lucas Da Silva, who took a touch and was fouled five yards outside the box.
Coelho took the free kick, bending a left-footed shot towards the far post and just under the bar and out of the reach of OA keeper Drew Nickla.
Just six minutes later, the visitors tacked on another goal. A big clearance from Julio Dasilva was tracked down by Lucas Da Silva, and he was able to beat a defender along the right sideline before launching a high arching ball that eluded the keeper and fell just under the bar into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
“Two phenomenal goals from two phenomenal players,” Pinto said. “They can flip a switch and turn the game around in a second. If Leo gets half a chance, he can make it a goal. And Lucas scored from no angle, he didn’t have any options inside so just chipped it.”
Nickla came up with a big stop on a Coelho free kick in the 54th minute and the Tigers came back down and found the back of the net on the other end. After being dispossessed, OA senior Kevin Louhis tracked back to steal the ball back. He took one touch forward before unleashing a rocket that found the top left corner from 35 yards out to make it 2-1 in the 58th minute.
Although neither team scored in the first half, there were still chances from both sides. Milliken unleashed a blast in the 7th minute that was swallowed up by Oliveira. And minutes later, Milliken put another shot on goal that was denied and Dillon Cupples had a bid on goal but Avi Seri was there for the Hawks to clear it off the line.
Just seconds later, Nikiciuk rifled a free kick from 40 yards out that hit off the crossbar and stayed out.
“We knew they’d be a top team…we said if we could give them a game we’d be happy and I think we did more than give them a game but we’re not happy [with the result],” Barata said. “It’s sad for the seniors but ultimately, if you have to end this year…when we look back, we went 12-1, won the division, and played the team who was probably picked to win it all this year. And we had a chance to play, what a blessing.”
Milford boys soccer finishes the season without a loss at 10-0-3, with two of the draws coming on cancellations. Oliver Ames finishes the season at 12-1.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Not all scoreless ties are the same. Sometimes, offenses are limited and it becomes a midfield stalemate. Other times, there are chances galore and at the final whistle you are left wondering how it was possible no one found the back of the net.
Sunday morning’s game at Muscato Stadium was definitely the latter.
In a battle for first place in the Davenport division, Oliver Ames and Canton finished 0-0 thanks in large part to the stellar play of the two goalies, Canton’s Riley O’Connor and OA’s Peyton Phillips, and two resilient defenses making critical last-ditch stops.
“It was kind of the battle of the goalies,” said Canton coach Chrissy O’Connor. “They both did such a great job. I thought my defense played a great game today, unfortunately we just weren’t able to put it in the net. I’m not unhappy, it was a good battle back and forth.”
The goalies wasted no time in making their presences known, as the first quarter was end-to-end and featured chance after chance for both teams.
OA jumped out to a quick start, using its speed to cause problems for the Canton back line. Just two minutes in, Georgia Costello teed up Haley Gilman right in front of goal but O’Connor made the stop. Less than a minute later, Emily Han made a strong play to stop the Bulldogs from breaking and then turned it into a break for Costello, who was denied again by O’Connor’s pads.
A minute later and the visitors had their first great chance. Ellie Bohane got behind the OA defense and was clean through on goal only for Phillips to stop not only the first shot but also the rebound. Julia Maclaine then picked out Lexi Gennis on the doorstep but O’Connor read the tip and kicked it to safety.
Canton had two good chances in the final two minutes of the quarter. First, great stick work by Maria Femia sent Meghan LaBelle on a breakaway that Phillips stopped and then Bohane sent Erin Lane clear of the defense only for the goalie to stand tall again.
“She just started playing goalie last year,” Lawrence said of Phillips, who is in her first year as the starter. “She’s really come alive this year and she’s been amazing. She’s got the size, intensity, and athleticism, and that’s built her confidence this season. She’s showing it now.”
Everyone took a much-needed breath during the first break and things settled down for the first half of the second quarter before a flurry of chances to close out the half.
Sofia Anestam showed off her skills, dancing around a pair of Canton defenders before forcing a save out of O’Connor. Two minutes later, Costello slipped a pass through to Anestam on the break but again the goalie was equal to it.
In the closing seconds of the first half, Canton had another break. Lizzie Tassinari started it with a steal in the defensive zone and an accurate outlet pass down the wing to LaBelle, who in turn slid a pass to spring Femia clean through on goal. Phillips aggressively came out and made a sliding block to prevent the goal.
“I’m going to cringe watching those again,” said O’Connor about the chances missed in the first half. “We definitely had those chances, but it’s how to capitalize without putting it right at the goalie’s pads.”
Femia injured her ankle on that play and Canton’s leading scorer was forced to the sidelines for the remainder of the game.
It would have been difficult to follow up that action after the break and chances were harder to come by in the second half. Most of the third and fourth quarters was played in the OA attacking third with the Tigers pressing for the go-ahead score but thwarted by the trio of Allie Gefteas, Carly Fitzgerald, and Tassinari.
“I really felt like Lizzie had probably her best game of the season,” O’Connor said. “You know, these big games is where you see who is ready to really play and she clearly was.”
When OA did get through, O’Connor was still there to make the save. Maggie Woods pushed forward three minutes before the end of the third and her diagonal pass just missed the stick of Maclaine at the back post.
In the final seconds of the quarter, Han again started a break for the Tigers with a pass to Erin Cottam, who was able to hit Costello wide open a few yards from goal. O’Connor was well-positioned and managed to get a foot to the shot, denying another great chance for the hosts.
“Not only her skill but her intensity and her mental toughness, she won’t give up on anything,” Lawrence said of Han, who missed the bulk of 2019 with a broken leg. “She’s the mental anchor back there. Abbey Boyce too, she’s so fast, she’s a very smart player. The two of them are very dynamic.”
Without Femia up top, Canton was finding it hard to sustain attacks and OA continued to press in the final 15 minutes. Woods again found space and fired a pass across the face of goal, but Fitzgerald cleared at the far post. With a minute to play Cottam got free in the middle and forced yet another save out of O’Connor, who made sure the game stayed tied to the end.
“Just keep playing your game and it’s going to fall, it’s going to fall,” said Lawrence about the message to the team in the fourth quarter. “Erin and Georgia kind of alternate the top spot but I put both of them in towards the end because they’re so fast and scrappy around the net. They had the great combination that the goalie got a toe on.”
Oliver Ames (6-0-2) will take on Stoughton this week knowing that two wins will earn the Tigers a Davenport title in their first year back in the division. Canton (6-1-1) is one point behind OA entering the final week and will take on Foxboro hoping to catch the Tigers and win back-to-back league titles.
“We’re not taking Stoughton lightly,” said Lawrence. “We’ve got two games left. We’ll come out tomorrow and have a good practice and finish strong.”
CANTON, Mass. – For 60 minutes, the Canton and Oliver Ames field hockey teams battled back-and-forth, racing up-and-down the field matching each other stride for stride, shot for shot, and stop for the stop.
The only difference came with just over 10 minutes to go off the stick of Tiger senior Haley Gilman, who scored the lone goal of the game to give unbeaten Oliver Ames a 1-0 win over previously undefeated Canton in a battle for Davenport supremacy.
Both defenses shined, constantly thwarting chances and limiting the opposition from ever sustaining a consistent pressure on net, which wasn’t a total surprise as the teams entered the contest with two of the best defenses in the Hockomock League. Canton had allowed just one goal going into the game and OA had surrendered just four goals.
That’s not to say there weren’t chances both ways, including breakaways and point-blank chances in front of net. But Canton senior goalie Riley O’Connor and OA senior keeper Peyton Phillips both had strong games in the cage to keep the game tight.
“It felt like whoever scored first was going to win,” said Oliver Ames head coach Sharon Lawrence. “It was about being in the right place at the right time, [Canton] had some of the same chances as we did. We talked at the end of the third quarter about how we were doing all of the right things, we were making good passes, we just had to keep up our passing and speed and eventually, it will fall. We just had to keep playing our game.”
The fourth quarter started with chances for both sides, with the visiting Tigers putting the pressure on early. Gilman connected with Maggie Woods on the sideline but her centering pass to Georgia Costello was thwarted by good defense from Canton’s Meghan LaBelle. A minute later, Woods set up senior Sofia Anestam for a low shot that was kicked aside by O’Connor.
Canton had a chance to break the deadlock two minutes later, a pass finding space behind OA’s high-line defensively. Bulldogs senior Maria Femia latched onto the ball and raced into goal along the right side but her shot was wide at the near post as Phillips came flying off her line with a feet-first tackle attempt.
The Tigers came back down the other way and finally found the back of the net with 10:25 to play. Woods once again connected with Costello, who delivered a service into the area. O’Connor once again came up with a terrific point-blank stop but Gilman stayed with it and tucked the rebound bid into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
“I thought it was a great game for both sides,” said Canton head coach Chrissy O’Connor. “Both teams had great opportunities. For us, we had some chances in the circle we just made some bad decisions. I was hoping we’d be a little more up for the home game [against OA], we did play a little flatter than we usually do on offense. I thought our defense did a solid job. We just needed a little bit more on offense.
“We just have to capitalize on our chances. We were able to get behind the defense and we got in there, maybe we need two people so we can make that extra pass. We’ve had these opportunities before that usually turn into a goal, just didn’t happen today.”
Canton continued to push for the equalizer over the final minutes but OA’s defense and Phillips stood tall. Femia and Sarah Cunningham had a two-on-one chance broken up by Emily Han, and a minute later, OA defender Abbey Boyce had a key interception and clear. Phillips made a positional pad stop on a one-timer from Cunningham in front after a cross from LaBelle.
“Our defense this year has been so good,” Lawrence said. “With it being 7-on-7 this year, there’s so much space on the field so we’re trying to preserve our energy and move as a unit, using kind of a zone as a defense. We have a lot of speed this year, especially on defense which helps.”
With just over a minute to go, the Bulldogs had another breakaway bid with Femia racing in but once again Phillips came charging off her line with a slide stop, getting just enough of the shot to keep it wide and the Tigers cleared to secure the win.
“We coach Peyton to charge when she needs to and cut down that angle so it’s not an easy shot,” Lawrence said. “We never want her to be a sitting duck in there. So the more aggressive she is, the scarier it is for the offense.”
Both defenses were strong from the get-go. With little chances through the first half, the Tigers nearly found the back of the net just before the end of the first quarter. Woods linked up with Costello for a good chance in the area but Canton’s Allie Gefteas intervened to prevent a chance on goal.
OA continued to push in the second quarter and might have had a couple more shots on goal if not for some great defensive work from Canton’s Lizzie Tassinari. Just before the halftime break, Canton was inches away from the lead when Femia set up Samantha Vrabel in front but Phillips made the point-blank stop.
“I thought both defenses were solid,” O’Connor said. “Having no corners is probably the biggest killer for our offense, for our game. We were in the circle, and if there’s a foul you go back out. Usually we’d have 10 to 12 corners, and we probably turn that into something. That’s probably been the biggest challenge with the modifications.”
Oliver Ames (6-0-1) remains undefeated with the win and moves into first place in the Davenport division with a one-point lead over Canton (6-1). The two teams will meet again on Thursday in a rematch that will have major implications on the Davenport division title.
“It’s our goal, we want to win it all,” Lawrence said. “We don’t focus on it before the games, but we knew this was the biggest week for us coming in. But right now it’s just taking it one game at a time.”