But without two of its top players (Colin Milliken and Anthony DaCosta, both out with minor injuries) and a strong King Philip squad with a similar mission standing in its way, the Tigers knew it wouldn’t be an easy task.
Behind a pair of second half goals, Oliver Ames emerged with a win to finish the season on a high note, taking a 2-0 decision over the Warriors to finish the season at 13-3-0.
“It’s always positive to get a result, we played well in the last two games, it’s just the results didn’t go our way,” said Oliver Ames head coach John Barata. “So it’s nice to have a complete game where you actually play well, do pretty good things, and then get the win. Credit to KP, that’s a wonderful team that Mike [O’Neill] has done a great job with.”
After an even first half, the Tigers were able to capitalize on a free kick 10 minutes into the second half and grabbed a second goal just minutes later to take control of the game.
Junior Keanu Lakay drew a foul just outside the area while cutting into the center of the pitch to give the hosts a free kick from 25-yards out. Junior Matthew Nikiciuk fired a low shot to the right of the wall, with the ball skipping off the slick turf and finding the corner at the far post to give OA a 1-0 lead in the 41st minute.
The momentum stayed with the Tigers and the hosts quickly grabbed a second goal. Junior Dillon Cupples played a ball wide to classmate Kevin Louhis, who took a few touches before using a cheeky chip to find Cupples in behind the defense.
The King Philip defense swarmed to the ball but Cupples took a touch to put the ball back on his right foot and he fired a low shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-0 in the 43rd minute.
“It was a relatively even match in the first half, and into the second half too,” said King Philip coach Mike O’Neill. “We gave a bad foul away in a very bad spot, we know not to do that so it was a mental lapse on our part. But credit to OA, that was a terrific finish. Grant Orzell is a very good goalie and it’s hard to beat him off a free kick, and that shot was buried.
“And that next five minutes, as they say, they had their tail up and they were recalling coming at us. They were winning 50-50s, and that was more a scrum than anything but they were quicker to the ball and they finished so all the credit to OA. It’s a terrificly coached team, Coach John has done a great job this year.”
Both sides had strong possession in their own thirds throughout the first half but chances were at a premium with both defenses playing well.
OA had the opening chance of the game when Cupples played senior Matthew Nosalek wide, who then whipped a cross into the area but senior Nicholas Farley flashed a header wide in the 5th minute. Louhis registered the first shot on goal in the 17th minute but his low bid was handled by KP keeper Aidan Lindmark.
King Philip had its best chance come in the 27th minute as sophomore Caleb Casseta-Waxman connected with senior Brian McCarthy. McCarthy ripped a shot from 20 yards out that forced OA keeper Drew Nickla to make a leaping one-handed save over the bar.
“That was grep prep game for us because they move the ball nicely, they are aggressive, they are strong,” Barata said of KP. “We’ll see teams like that in the playoffs so for us it was the best preparation, and then to get a result was a nice positive to finish the regular season.
“The postseason is all about getting guys to show up and play, and also who’s going to step up for you. So today was a good indication that we have guys who are able to step up and willing. We were missing two of our best players, two of our leading scorers so it was nice to see us bounce back and play a good brand of soccer even without them on the pitch. And we got to play our seniors for the majority of the game, so it was to go into the postseason with a positive vibe.”
King Philip’s best chances came in the final 10 minutes of the game. In the 70th minute, Evan McEvoy fired a shot that required Nickla to handle on the bounce off the slick turf, and a minute later, McEvoy set up Owen Teixeira but his bid was over the bar.
The Warriors now find themselves in the same situation as Oliver Ames. King Philip heads into the regular season finale on home against Feehan with a two-game skid but a chance to get back on track before the playoffs.
“In many ways I think we’re fortunate because we play OA and Feehan, so we’re playing really good competition going into the tournament which I think helps keep us sharp,” O’Neill said. “But we’ve talked about it as a team, and we have to understand that we need a certain mentality going into tournament play. There’s such a small margin between good teams, and it usually comes down to one moment here or there. But I’m happy we have Feehan on Wednesday because its another good team to help us get ready.”